1. What can we expect from Jordan Bohannon this season?
It’s still a little early to answer that question. Bohannon, who underwent hip surgery in May, has not yet made a firm decision about whether or not he will play the full season or if he will take a redshirt season. He can play in as many as 10 games this season and still redshirt, preserving another year of eligibility. The senior guard played 15 minutes in Iowa’s exhibition victory over Lindsey Wilson College on Monday and appeared to be moving well. He made the first 3-point field goal he attempted but appeared to pass up a few more shots that he normally would take, finishing 1 for 3 from the field.
2. With Bohannon coming off the bench for now, what is Iowa’s projected starting lineup?
Luka Garza and Jack Nunge start at the two frontcourt spots with Joe Wieskamp at small forward and CJ Fredrick and Connor McCaffery in the backcourt. It's a given that Wieskamp and Garza will carry a large share of the scoring load but Fredrick and Nunge, who both redshirted last season, looked very good against Lindsey Wilson. McCaffery, who had 11 assists in that game, seems to be the glue that brings it all together. That group functioned very well together in the exhibition game and should remain intact for now.
3. Who else factors into the rotation?
Ryan Kriener and Cordell Pemsl, who will be suspended for one more game, give the Hawkeyes more seasoned frontcourt depth than any team in the Big Ten. Patrick McCaffery backs up Wieskamp and should get at least 15 minutes a game, providing some instant offense off the bench. Bakari Evelyn and freshman Joe Toussaint along with Bohannon (for now) provide depth in the backcourt. Their playing time could fluctuate depending on the opponent and the type of game. The more Bohannon plays, the less we are likely to see of Toussaint and/or Evelyn. Riley Till also could see action in the frontcourt in some games.
4. Which returning players can we expect to take the biggest leaps forward in terms of their role?
The most obvious one is Fredrick, who made 6 of 7 shots from the field and scored 18 points in the exhibition. He also figures to be the team’s best perimeter defender. Nunge is noticeably stronger and could very well lead the team in rebounding.
5. What is the Hawkeyes’ biggest asset?
Their depth and Fran McCaffery’s willingness use it. Very few teams can go 10 or 11 deep with relatively little drop-off. The Hawkeyes have plenty of perimeter shooters, more quality scoring options around the basket than almost anyone else and have an unselfish approach that will allow them to utilize all those weapons. Their passing against an admittedly weak opponent in Lindsey Wilson was superb as they recorded 26 assists with only seven turnovers.
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6. What is their biggest question mark?
As in most recent seasons, it’s defense. There is reason to suspect that it will be improved this season, especially on the perimeter with the additions of Fredrick, Toussaint and Evelyn. Garza seems to be moving his feet better on defense and Nunge, Kriener and Pemsl all provide some physicality in the post. The defense is almost certain to be better, which isn’t really saying much.
7. Is the Iowa schedule really that much tougher, as Fran McCaffery keeps saying?
Absolutely. During a 24-day stretch from Nov. 28 to Dec. 21, the Hawkeyes play seven straight games against teams that won 20-plus games a year ago, facing national runner-up Texas Tech, Creighton or San Diego State, Syracuse, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa State and Cincinnati. The only home game in that stretch is the one against Minnesota. It may be the most ambitious pre-January gauntlet ever faced by an Iowa team.
8. What does the Big Ten race look like?
Michigan State is the national preseason No. 1 and the obvious favorite, even after losing to Kentucky in its season opener Tuesday. Maryland, Purdue, Ohio State and possibly Michigan or Wisconsin are expected to follow in the standings. Some of us think Illinois has a shot at cracking the top five, although the Illini didn’t look good in their opener. While almost everyone is conceding the Big Ten title to Michigan State, don’t be shocked if Maryland makes a serious push. The Terrapins have the second best point guard in the league in Anthon Cowan, a potential lottery pick in sophomore Jalen Smith and a lot of shooters and they have added three freshmen big men to replace the departed Bruno Fernando. They’re loaded and unlike Michigan State right now, they’re healthy.
9. Where does Iowa factor into the race?
If Bohannon plays and Fredrick and Nunge are as good as advertised, it’s not out of the question that the Hawkeyes could crack the top five. They definitely have a good shot at another NCAA berth if those things happen.
10. What happens if Bohannon doesn’t play?
The Hawkeyes could still be very good. Not having Bohannon obviously would place added pressure on others — including Wieskamp, Fredrick, Evelyn and Patrick McCaffery — to score from the 3-point line, but it won't hurt the defense. This team will score plenty of points, just like always. The key, as it usually has been, will be its ability to stop other teams from scoring.