Between Megan Gustafson, Hannah Stewart, and Tania Davis, Iowa lost an average of 49.2 points, 22.8 rebounds, and 8.5 assists per game to graduation. That’s… a lot of production, not to mention the loss of veteran leadership the three provided.
But all is not lost. This year’s Iowa team returns two starters and a couple other significant contributors from last year’s Elite Eight team. Let’s take a look at Iowa’s returning players and the roles they’ll fill with this year’s team.
G Kathleen Doyle (Senior): 12.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 5.9 apg, 30.5% 3FG
Any discussion of Iowa this year has to start with Kathleen Doyle. Despite missing seven games due to injury, Doyle was still a First Team All-Big Ten performer according to the league’s coaches last season, and she is expected to be one this year, too.
The best part of Doyle’s game is her defense. If Iowa is playing man-to-man, she usually guards the opposing team’s best guard, and does a great job of limiting that player’s scoring opportunities. She’s also aggressively pursues passing lanes, leading Iowa in steals the past two seasons.
Offensively, Doyle is Iowa’s best penetrating guard. She’s also a streaky shooter that isn’t afraid to take big threes late in games.
Role: All-around star. As good as Doyle has been the past couple seasons, she’ll have to be even better this year for Iowa to make the NCAA Tournament.
G Makenzie Meyer (Senior): 9.2 ppg, 2.3rpg, 4.2apg, 35.4% 3FG
Meyer has been known as a sharpshooter for the entirety of her college career. Last season, though, she struggled from three for much of the beginning half of the season. But in the second half of the year, she started to catch fire. Meyer was a consistent threat from three in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments, and that helped Iowa have the success it did in both events.
Aside from shooting, Meyer is a capable defender, and really good at getting behind defenses on the fast break. She should benefit significantly from Iowa’s switch to a faster tempo with more focus on shooting three-pointers.
Role: Scoring guard. Meyer has been a starter for much of her college career, but she’s never been the team’s first or second scoring option. For Iowa to achieve its goals this year, Meyer will need to fill up the stat sheet.
G Alexis Sevillian (RS Junior): 4.8ppg, 1.7rpg, 2.2apg, 31.1% 3FG
During the first half of her freshman season two years ago, Sevillian looked like a revelation. She averaged more than ten points per game off the bench, and was knocking down threes at a high rate. Then, in conference play, she seemed to run out of gas. Her threes stopped falling, scoring became tougher, and she struggled with turnovers. Last season was more of the same. Sevillian hit some big threes, but otherwise struggled to have a significant impact in most games.
This year more than ever, the Hawkeyes need Sevillian to return to her early freshman year form. Iowa needs scorers to replace the lost production of Davis, Gustafson, and Stewart, and Sevillian is a natural fit to do that. But to truly break out again, she’ll have to be more assertive. She'll need to keep trying to find her shot in games even when the first one or two don’t fall.
Role: Starting guard or sixth woman. Sevillian will likely be a starter at the beginning of the year, but her hot start during her freshman year came as Iowa’s sixth woman. If Iowa’s freshman class develops well this season, Sevillian might return to that sixth woman role to be an offensive spark off the bench when opposing defenses are tired.
F Amanda Ollinger (Senior): 2.4ppg, 2.7rpg, 0.9apg, 33.2% 3FG
Ollinger has been a role player off the bench for the entirety of her Iowa career. Last season, she often spelled Hannah Stewart at the 4 position, where she focused on playing good defense and grabbing as many rebounds as possible. At 6’1" Ollinger looks like she could be a post, but she plays more like a small forward or stretch-4.
This season, Ollinger will enter Iowa’s starting lineup as a starter, and possibly the most important starter in Iowa’s lineup. The switch away from two posts should increase Iowa’s tempo and three-point shooting, but it also leaves the Hawks more vulnerable on the glass. Ollinger is the team’s best rebounder, and can go a long way in making sure the team’s rebounding deficiencies aren’t too glaring.
Role: Starter and leading rebounder. Ollinger will play more minutes this year than she ever has, starting at the 4 position, but could move over to the 5 when Monika Czinano needs a rest.
C Monika Czinano (Sophomore): 1.9ppg, 0.9apg
Last season Czinano spelled Megan Gustafson as Iowa’s backup post player. She did just fine in the role, though it was difficult to truly assess her as a player because of the limited minutes she played.
Playing time won’t be an issue for her this season. Czinano is the only true post player on the roster who will see any meaningful minutes. As such, she will need to offer an offensive threat in the low-post, while also playing strong defense without getting into foul trouble. Oh, and she’ll have to do all that while constantly being compared to the best player in Iowa history. That’s no easy task.
Czinano did get off to a tremendous start this year, though. In Iowa’s exhibition, she scored 27 points on 13-13 shooting from the field. She’ll face much better competition going forward, but the early results were still encouraging to say the least.
Role: Post starter. Czinano isn’t Megan Gustafson. No one should expect her to be. But she will need to contribute significantly on both ends of the floor for Iowa to make the NCAA Tournament.
G Tomi Taiwo (Sophomore): 1.4ppg, 0.8rpg, 44.4% 3FG (9 attempts)
Taiwo didn’t play a lot as a freshman, though she did start getting a few minutes in games late in the Big Ten season to spell other starters. When playing, she proved to be a capable shooter, with a good mix of height and athleticism. She did make her share of mistakes too, though, which is typical of a freshman.
The big question for Taiwo will be how much she has improved since last year. Iowa returns three guards who will log plenty of minutes at positions 1-3. Freshman Kate Martin and Gabbie Marshall also look like they will see time at those positions. If Taiwo wants to make her way into the rotation, she will need to provide something the other guards can’t, while cutting down on the mistakes of last season.
Role: Depth guard. In Iowa’s scrimmage game, Taiwo was the sixth guard into the game after Doyle, Meyer, Sevillian, Martin, and Marshall. If she stays as the sixth guard this year, she’ll likely play some in the non-conference, but might not see the floor much in conference play barring injury.
G Zion Sanders (Junior): 1.2ppg, 0.7rpg, 40% from 3FG (10 attempts)
Two years ago, guard depth at Iowa was a lot thinner than it is now. That year, injuries forced Sanders into playing some significant minutes off the bench before she was ready. She did okay in the role, but lacked the confidence to shoot or contribute much offensively. Last season, Sanders looked much improved in non-conference play, hitting a few three-pointers and playing some minutes off the bench. Then Big Ten play came and her minutes disappeared.
Frankly, her playing time prospects don’t look a whole lot better this season. Despite the possibility of a four-guard lineup this year, Iowa seems to have at least six guards in front of Sanders on the depth chart. Unless injuries happen to the guards in front of her, Sanders is unlikely to play many meaningful minutes this season.
Role: Veteran depth. If injuries do happen, Sanders’ experience will be helpful. She’s played in plenty of big games already in her career.
G/F Logan Cook (Sophomore): 0.8ppg, 0.8rpg, 57.1% from 3FG (7 attempts)
Like Taiwo, Logan Cook played sparingly as a freshman. She showed signs of having an impressive shot from three, but also struggled with turnovers just as Taiwo did. Unfortunately for Cook, she looks even further behind on the depth chart than Taiwo, which is unfortunate, because at 6’1" her height could be helpful for rebounding and on defense.
Role: Depth guard/forward. Cook’s height and athleticism makes her versatile enough to play multiple positions. If she continues to develop, she might find a role in Iowa’s rotation before her Hawkeye career is done. That seems unlikely to come this season, however.
C Paula Valino Ramos (Junior):
Ramos hasn’t seen the floor much in her first two seasons with the team, and it doesn’t appear she will much this season either unless there are significant injuries.
Role: Depth post.
In sum, Doyle, Meyer, Sevillian, Ollinger, and Czinano will likely be Iowa’s starting five to open the season. Iowa will rely on those five for a significant amount of minutes and production throughout the season. Iowa’s other returning players will have to fight hard if they want to break into the rotation.