As we continue through the I-teams in in our Big Ten men’s basketball 2021-22 previews, we head out to Iowa City (which is not the capitol of Iowa, despite what Tim Brando says) and check in on another one of the best teams from the last few seasons in the conference.
The Hawkeyes lost two of their best players following last season, so it will be interesting to see how coach Fran McCaffery will get his team to rebound.
Head coach: Fran McCaffery (12th season)
2020-21 record: 22-9 (14-6 Big Ten)
Season finish: NCAA Tournament round of 32
What comes back: Iowa will look completely different this season without star player Luka Garza and the Robin to his Batman, Joe Wieskamp. Super senior Jordan Bohannon is back for his 12th season with Iowa and sophomore Keegan Murray will look to make a huge leap for the Hawkeyes in 2021-22.
Returning to the Hawkeyes is also Patrick and Connor McCaffery, the sons of head coach Fran, who both need to step into roles that they have not yet had to fill with Iowa. From the transfer portal, forward Filip Rebraca is joining the Hawkeyes from North Dakota. Rebraca averaged 16.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game while shooting 37% from beyond the three-point line.
If Rebraca can come in and coexist with the likes of the McCafferys, Keegan Murray, and Joe Toussaint, who also returns, the Hawkeyes can have a solid rotation of starting guys. However, depth could still very much be a question mark for the Hawks.
What was lost: As mentioned above, just between Garza and Wieskamp alone, the Hawkeyes are losing 38.9 points and 15.3 rebounds per game. Garza averaged 24.1 points and 8.7 rebounds and Wieskamp averaged 14.8 and 6.6. Iowa also lost sharpshooter CJ Fredrick to Kentucky, Jack Nunge to Xavier, and Michael Baer to Siena.
This is a total of over half of their offensive production from last season, and losing a guy like Garza — who was one of the best players in the country — will be impossible to replace. Like Illinois and Ayo Dosunmu, Iowa will need multiple players to step up and help replace that production, since it is not realistic to expect it to come from just one guy.
Against Ohio State in the Chris Holtmann era: Iowa is 3-4 against the Buckeyes since Holtmann took over in Columbus. Like Illinois, these two teams have had some fun battles over the past four seasons, and in 2021, had one of the best offensive matchups of the entire college basketball season.
Even though Ohio State has the overall advantage during the Holtmann era, Iowa is 2-1 in the past two seasons against the Buckeyes and they dominated the last meeting between the two programs, winning 73-57 on Feb. 28 earlier this year.
Season prediction: Iowa will be one of the more difficult teams to assess in the Big Ten heading into this season. They do return a lot of unproven talent, but also lose some of the most proven talent in the conference with Garza and Wieskamp off to the NBA and three others gone via the transfer portal.
Murray is one of the bright young players in the conference and Rebraca will fill a role that the Hawkeyes desperately need, but Iowa’s success this season will be highly dependent on what they can get from the bench throughout the year.
The Big Ten is a gauntlet of a men’s basketball conference and this season will be no different. Teams like Michigan, Ohio State, and Maryland will have the benefit of depth, and for the teams that might not have their bench solidified come B1G season, it will undoubtedly be a problem.
Iowa is also another one of the unfortunate conference teams that had a disappointing end to their 2021 postseason, so they will look to use that as motivation to guide them into the new campaign.
Next up: Maryland Terrapins