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Big Ten Basketball Previews: Iowa

Iowa fans are ready to stop playing defense and start playing offense

Iowa v Wisconsin
Coach Fran on his happiest day
Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

2022 In Review

Iowa had a pretty good season, all things considered. Replacing a ton from 2021, including Luka Garza, they were picked to finish ninth in the B1G. Instead, Keegan Murray emerged as a superstar and they finished tied for fourth in the conference, won the conference tourney, and then...fizzled out in the first round against Richmond.

Once again, they are replacing a superstar as Keegan went to the NBA. They also lost longtime sharpshooter Jordan Bohannon to eligibility, as well as Joe Toussaint to West Virginia. Who do they have coming back? Read on...


PG Ahron Ulis, 6’3’’ Junior: The starting backcourt is a bit unclear for the Hawkeyes, but we will give Ulis the nod as the most point guardish of experienced guards on the team. He spelled Jordan Bohannon last year, but was not particularly effective on the offensive end. He only shot 34% from two and only attempted twelve threes, so his skillset there is unclear. His assist numbers were good, his turnover numbers just all right, and that lack of production has made some think he will come off the bench again.

SG Tony Perkins, 6’4’’ Junior: Perkins is pretty well set in the lineup, and started 15 games last season. He forced his way into the starting lineup mostly by being a little bulldog on both sides of the ball. His slash line of 48/32/80 was all right, and Iowa would like to see all those numbers improve. But he gives them a defensive presence and, hey, have you heard about the troubles Iowa has defending the ball?

stewmonkey13: Tony Perkins was a real spark last year and is an actual plus defender on the perimeter. His offensive game is pretty well rounded, but he’s not particularly great at any one thing. If he can develop a consistent deep ball he’ll make this offense hum, but right now he’s mostly a capable slashing combo guard.

F Kris Murray, 6’8’’ Junior: Last Keegan Murray went from lightly productive freshman to uber-productive sophomore and went fourth overall in the NBA draft. Now all Iowa needs is his identical twin to match his production. This the same situation Wisconsin faces, and it is pretty amazing that we have two teams replacing lottery picks with their identical twins. In any event, Kris posted pretty strong numbers last year in a supporting role, including shooting 39% from three and 55% from two while being a strong rebounder and shot blocker. It’s not hyperbole to think he may be nearly as good as Keegan this season, which would jump Iowa several spots.

stewmonkey13: Kris Murray will step in and be excellent replacing a bunch of his twin’s production.

F Patrick McCaffery, 6’9’’ Junior: McCaffery Kid #1 figures to play a lot of minutes this season and is another candidate for improvement. A former four star recruit, he started 31 games for Iowa last season and while he wasn’t bad at anything, he also wasn’t particularly good at anything, either. If he can become more physical and be a more consistent shooter, Iowa will have a really nice combo of him and Murray that would be difficult to defend.

stewmonkey13: Patrick McCaffery will be solid and a generally good garbage man who gets a bunch of points on putbacks and back cuts and wide open 3s.

F Filip Rebraca, 6’9’’ Senior: Rebraca was a transfer from North Dakota who came in last season to replace Luka Garza. He was more of the anti-Garza, because he didn’t score much and kept most of his production centered around rebounding and defense. While they will still rely on him there, he will probably try to carve out a few more shots. He only went 1-6 from three last season, but shot 37% his last season at North Dakota.

stewmonkey13: Filip Rebraca is a halfway decent post scorer but is generally a subpar defender.


G Connor McCaffery, 6’5’’ Senior: McCaffery Kid #2 rolls in for his sixth year, and will likely be a utility sixth man but possibly put a lot of minutes in at point guard if Ulis doesn’t work out. He’s never really been an offensive option outside of dishing a few assists here and there, but he does grab up all the intangibles like Toughness and Attitude. Also, apparently he’s a good inbounder. This is his first season where he didn’t play baseball in the offseason, so there may be some upside in his game from that.

stewmonkey13: Connor McCaffery is STILL around, somehow. He’s gonna make EVERYONE angry.

F Payton Sandfort, 6’7’’ Sophomore: Sandfort comes back for his second season and seems likely to push for a lot of minutes. His slash line of 51/37/94 is pretty impressive for a freshman, and at 6’7’’ he’ll be a tough cover.

stewmonkey13: Look for a bit of a breakout year for Payton Sandfort. He’s got a really great shot and is a better overall player than you may expect.

C Josh Ogundele, 6’11’’ Junior: Hitting the “guys who barely played last season” portion of the bench, Ogundele should be in the mix to backup Rebraca. He briefly entered the transfer portal, but took his name out and will give it another go. He’s bigger than Rebraca and a scarier presence protecting the rim.

stewmonkey13: Big Josh Ogundele is not afraid of anything and has shown some flashes, but he stop didn’t quite have much polish on his game. Maybe he can take another step forward and provide some much needed quality monies in the post.

C Riley Mulvey, 6’11’’ Sophomore: Another option in the post, Mulvey was a reclassified freshman last year and didn’t appear much. He profiles as an athletic big man who can run and has some stretch to his game. Last season he looked like a really young freshman. We’ll see if he’s ready to play this year.

stewmonkey13: Not sure if we can expect anything from Riley Mulvey, but he’s potentially another post player.

PG Dasonte Bowen, 6’3’’ Freshman: The first of two freshmen for Iowa, Bowen checks in at 141st on the 247. He was a four star prospect on ESPN, so there is some variance here. He has some length for a point guard, and has enough ability that he might get some decent minutes as a freshman.

stewmonkey13: Look for Dasonte Bowen to play significant minutes as a freshman PG with a pretty good recruiting profile.

SG Josh Dix, 6’4’’ Freshman: Dix is the other member of the freshman class, and clocked in at 157 on the composite. He suffered a serious injury during his senior year in high school and has been recovering. It’s unlikely he will play a big part this year.


stewmonkey13: They’ll be pretty good yet also somehow disappointing. Iowa will be marginally better on defense but will also be worse at 3s, as a team.

Kind of...: Last time Iowa won the Big Ten, Jimmy Carter was President and Lute Olson was the coach. In 10 years, people are going to be like “Luka Garza and Keegan Murray were on the same team, and they lost in the second round?!?!” Fran McCaffery is the only coach who has taken four different schools to the NCAA tournament...and never made the Sweet 16. No coach has made more NCAA tournament appearances coaching a P5 team and failed to make the Sweet 16 than Fran McCaffery. The last time Iowa played a Sweet 16 game, their leading scorer was J.R. Koch. His son has committed to Iowa.

Green Akers: Melding these lines of thought, Iowa feels like a program that consistently has good parts, and a whole that is considerably less than the sum thereof. I agree Other Murray won’t be thought of that way for long; Sandfort feels like Iowa’s most important player in the sense that with the drop off in shooting last year, stuff got gummed up a lot. Nobody else jumps out as that 38-40% difference-maker from deep.

MaximumSam: I like a lot of pieces Iowa has. They aren’t particularly old, with only a couple seniors, but they aren’t really young, either. Obviously, they will be depending on several players taking a strong step, but that’s a pretty safe bet under Coach Fran. Iowa will, once again, roll out a really good offense with lots of scoring from inside and out. The eternal question will be whether they can play enough defense to do anything in March. The answer is probably not, because they never have.

Other Takes

Hawkeye Insider: This team has a chance to be better with the versatility and overall athleticism on the team. There is a lot of length with a combination of quick guards in the backcourt. Iowa can play around with different lineups that can make switching easier and defending guys on the perimeter along with those on the interior. I do think this team will take a step backwards offensively, but the defense should see an uptick.

Daily Hoosier: McCaffery has had two of the better player development stories in the Big Ten over the last decade with the emergence of Keegan Murray and Luka Garza under his tutelage. It isn’t difficult to imagine Keegan’s brother Kris will be ready to make major strides this season, along with McCaffery’s son Patrick. Indiana fans don’t need to be reminded of Kris’ season-high 29 points against the Hoosiers in Iowa City. The ability to step into his brother’s shoes is clearly there. Tony Perkins is also an underrated point guard who is trending in the right direction. He averaged 11.4 points over the last nine games, and 4.0 assists over the last six.

Inside The Hall: Iowa has the talent to return to the NCAA tournament again and should be a potent offensive team. The questions at point guard are legitimate, but Murray, McCaffery and Rebraca is a nice trio in the frontcourt. Perkins thrived after being inserted into the starting lineup last season and should be one of the team’s leading scorers in his third season. If Ulis and Bowen can produce adequately at point guard, Iowa could again be in the thick of things in what appears to be a wide-open Big Ten race.

BTPowerhouse: Fran McCaffery has produced a consistent product at Iowa. The only problem with that is it’s one that has yet to learn how to consistently play defense and that continues to plague the team year after year. More than a decade into his tenure in Iowa City and McCaffery still has yet to make it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament and while there’s potential with his team once again, the end result will likely be the same.

Land Grant Holy Land: Iowa has the potential to be very good, but as mentioned above, their success could very well be tied to how much of a jump Kris Murray takes. They are good enough to win some games and be an NCAA Tournament team no matter what, but if he becomes a star and an All-Big Ten type player, that could take the Hawkeyes to the next tier in the conference.

They will need their guards to step up as well, namely Tony Perkins. With the loss of Bohannon and Joe Toussaint, Perkins will need to be able to lay heavy minutes at the guard position. Murray, the McCaffery’s and Filip Rebraca are all guys who can hold down the minutes at forward.