Iowa Basketball Preview: #123
Overall Rank: #123
Conference Rank: #11 Big Ten Conference
2008-09: 15-17, 5-13
2008-09 postseason: none
Coach: Todd Lickliter (28-36 at Iowa, 159-97 overall)
If it was not for injuries and academic issues, Iowa could have been a legitimate contender for an NCAA Tournament berth. At one point the team was 9-2 with a win over Kansas State and respectable losses to West Virginia and Boston College. But then the injury bug hit and that was that. And now in what should be the culmination of Coach Todd Lickliter’s program building, the plan is in ruins after a few major transfers.
Key Losses: G Jermain Davis, G Jake Kelly, G Jeff Peterson, F Cyrus Tate
The lack of depth all over the floor should give the newcomers plenty of opportunity to see significant playing time. Brennan Cougill and junior college transfer Devon Archie should immediately bolster the frontcourt. At 6-9 and 260 pounds, Cougill has the body to battle in the paint against most Big Ten opponents. He will need to get stronger, but at least he can clog the paint as a freshman. Archie is ready to contribute right away after spending two years at Vincennes Community College. The unexpected departures of point guards Jeff Peterson and Jake Kelly will put a lot of pressure on Cully Payne, Eric May and John Lickliter to contribute out of the backcourt.
Matt Gatens would have been the third choice behind Peterson and Kelly to run the show, but he is a capable ball handler who dished out 2.2 assists per game last year. Ideally Gatens would be a shooting guard since he connected on over 40 percent of his attempts from long range last year but, at least at the beginning of the season, he will probably be asked to do a majority of the ball handling. And that should be fine assuming Anthony Tucker has his academic issues sorted out and can return to his early form of the 2008-2009 campaign. Tucker averaged 10.4 points per game during the first 14 contests of the season before being forced to sit out the rest of the year. He has proven to be a superb outside shooter and even if Gatens does not get as many open looks as usual, Iowa will still hit the long ball thanks to Tucker.
The frontcourt lacked bodies last year and when the now departed Cyrus Tate went down with an injury, it forced some youngsters into action. Aaron Fuller and Jarryd Cole were the main beneficiaries of Tate’s injury and their increased playing time last year can only lead to better play this year. Fuller is only a sophomore and Cole a junior, so both have their best days ahead of them. Yet, both will be pushed by the newcomers due to their lack of scoring prowess. If the frontcourt can actually find somebody who can score, it will make the outside shooting much more efficient.
Who to Watch:
And it is not just Tucker and Gatens who can shoot. Devan Bawinkel, who is likely to start on the wing, connected on 1.6 three-pointers per game. Bawinkel’s skill set make him a better shooter off the bench than a starter, mostly due to his lack of rebounding, but he can be a much needed offensive spark whether he starts or not.
This team has a lot of questions, but if they can stay healthy, the starting five is not that bad. All three starting guards can shoot efficiently, but they just need somebody to create open looks for them. That could come from a big man who develops into a consistent scoring threat or it could from Gatens or Payne running the point, but it has to come from somewhere or Iowa will find it very difficult to get open shots and even more difficult to climb out of the Big Ten basement.
Projected Post-season Tournament: CBI/CIT
Projected Starting Five:
Matt Gatens, Sophomore, Guard, 10.8 points per game
Anthony Tucker, Sophomore, Guard, 10.4 points per game
Devan Bawinkel, Senior, Guard, 4.8 points per game
Aaron Fuller, Sophomore, Forward, 4.0 points per game
Jarryd Cole, Junior, Forward, 3.7 points per game