Iowa Experience Could Be Factor In What Could Be An Unpredictable Season

John Bohnenkamp

Luka Garza's return for his senior season at Iowa means the Hawkeyes have all five starters returning from last season's 20-win team.

Actually, coach Fran McCaffery said on Sunday after Garza's announcement, there's more than that.

"I’ve never had a team with seven starters returning, which sounds like a ridiculous statement, but it happens to be the truth," McCaffery said.

He's right.

The five starters from last season — Garza, CJ Fredrick, Joe Wieskamp, Joe Toussaint and Connor McCaffery — return. But so does fifth-year senior Jordan Bohannon, who has 102 starts in his career. And forward Jack Nunge had 14 starts in the 2017-18 season as a true freshman.

That's a deep, experienced roster, and the numbers back it up.

The Hawkeyes will have a starting lineup that has accumulated 311 starts, the most of any of the Big Ten teams that are considered NCAA Tournament contenders.

Iowa's lineup has also 10,162 minutes, second-most in the Big Ten behind Wisconsin’s probable starting lineup of 10,587 minutes.

It's a main reason why the Hawkeyes are considered to be one of the favorites in not just the Big Ten race, but the national title chase as well.

A look at Iowa’s probable starting lineup:

  • Garza (96 games, 87 starts, 2,462 minutes)
  • Bohannon (112 games, 102 starts, 3,392 minutes)
  • Wieskamp (66 games, 66 starts, 1,977 minutes)
  • Fredrick (25 games, 25 starts, 714 minutes)
  • Connor McCaffery (69 games, 31 starts, 1,617 minutes)

Iowa has eight returners from last season's team. Adding in Nunge, Toussaint (who started 20 games as a freshman last season) and forward Patrick McCaffery, the Hawkeyes' roster has 439 games of experience, with 350 starts and 11,347 minutes. Nunge and McCaffery missed almost the entire 2019-20 season because of injury or illness.

The Hawkeyes have five incoming players — guards Ahron Ulis and Tony Perkins, center Josh Ogundele, and forwards Keegan and Kris Murray.

All of this could be important, Fran McCaffery said, for however the 2020-21 season looks.

The COVID-19 pandemic could create any number of scheduling scenarios. Maybe teams play in a bubble-type format like the NBA, WNBA and NHL. Maybe there will be a conference-only schedule. Maybe it's a condensed schedule that starts later than originally planned.

There are few unknowns with this Iowa team. That, McCaffery said, could be a key in a season ahead that already has so many unknowns.

"The less variables you have, and the more consistency that you have with that roster, I think, gives you a reason for optimism, regardless of what the season looks like," he said.