With Jack Nunge out for the season, there are a few Iowa basketball fans willing to throw in the towel for next season, but this season isn’t over.
Believe me, I totally get it. Jack Nunge was expected to be a breakout player in his redshirt sophomore season and help the Iowa basketball team return to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year before he suffered a season-ending knee injury. We’re also seeing Jordan Bohannon attempt a comeback from the hip surgery he had just six months ago, and our top-rated recruit in the class of 2019 is dealing with lingering effects from cancer he overcame year earlier. It’s easy to see why folks are down on this Iowa basketball team.
Again, I get it.
But there are also reasons to be positive about this team, even in light of what happened against DePaul, which for the sake of this article, we are going to pretend like was a blip that hopefully won’t happen again.
Despite losing one player to the NBA, the Iowa basketball team has another guy who is likely making his way there in the next year or two in Joe Wieskamp. In college basketball, anytime you have an NBA guy on your roster, you’ve got a fighting chance. Heck, Peter Jok carried a team of freshmen and sophomores to a 19-win season that included the NIT.
Wieskamp might not be a better shooter than Jok, but he has the potential to be a better overall player, and unlike the 2016-2017 squad, this team also has significantly more experience starting with big men Luka Garza and Ryan Kriener.
Offensively, Garza has been a beast this season as the main option in the paint. As of right now, he is averaging 22.2 points per game on 59% shooting and pulling in 10.2 rebounds per game. Those numbers are good for 18th and 25th best in the nation, not just the Big Ten. Meanwhile, Kriener has also been posting a solid stat line of his own in his final season in Iowa City.
In the backcourt, Connor McCaffery looks like an improved and more confident shooter who is doing a wonderful job of distributing the ball and behind him, Joe Toussaint has brought something similar to the Iowa basketball squad that Tyler Goodson brought to the football team: explosive athleticness.
And replacing Isaiah Moss is CJ Fredrick, who has looked every bit as good of a shooter as we hoped so far through five games. He’s hit 60% of his 3 point attempts and 58% of his shots overall.
From an advanced analytics standpoint, the Iowa basketball team is playing well, they’ve just run into a bit of bad luck, specifically against DePaul. Their offense is rated the 6th best in the nation, and while their defense hasn’t looked the best at times, it’s right along the lines of last year’s team (111th last year to 115th this year).
And this is without a fully healthy Jordan Bohannon and with a struggling Joe Wieskamp, who is shooting 29.4% from behind the arc.
While a lot can change between now and the end of the season, KenPom has them projected to be 16-14 with a significant amount of close games in the mix. If Jordan Bohannon doesn’t redshirt, then the Iowa basketball team will have the perfect guy to make sure those close games fall in Iowa’s favor.
That being said, I get the concern for this team, and I understand that some of last year’s frustrations (i.e. defense) are carrying over into this year, but this team’s season isn’t over yet. Let’s see how the Las Vegas Invitational plays out first. Maybe we will be shocked by this team like we were last year around this time.