IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Iowa won 10 conference games in the Big Ten this season despite starting its youngest team in decades.
That’s among the many reasons Hawkeyes fans are buzzing about the future.
Iowa (19-15) wrapped up its season Sunday with a 94-92 overtime loss to TCU in the second round of the NIT. Sure, it was a disappointment for the Hawkeyes - but the fact that Iowa drew a sellout crowd was an indication of how excited its fan base is about what might be in store down the line.
“They didn’t just cheer when we made a run. They cheered the whole game, every time we did something well, when we got behind, and that’s what you need. You need that energy level then, and that’s what I’m so thankful for,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said.
The Hawkeyes entered this season knowing they had an elite shooter in senior Peter Jok, who wound up leading the Big Ten in scoring.
The rest of the roster was up in the air - but Iowa found some clarity at a number of crucial spots.
Point guard Jordan Bohannon likely locked up a spot in McCaffery’s rotation for years to come after a sensational freshman season.
The Iowa native hit a team-high 89 3-pointers, seven in the loss to the Horned Frogs, and his progress as the season wore on gave the Hawkeyes hope that they may have landed a special player.
Bohannon averaged 22.7 points and 11.3 assists in Iowa’s three postseason games.
Fellow freshman Tyler Cook, the highest-ranked recruit McCaffery has ever signed, finished with 12.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game and made his last 18 shots of the season. Perhaps the most promising thing about Cook is that even with all he accomplished in his first season, his ceiling remains much higher.
Redshirt freshman guard Isaiah Moss earned a starting nod, and rookie big men Cordell Pemsl and Ryan Kriener showed they have the ability to play in the Big Ten. Pemsl averaged 8.9 points while shooting 61.5 percent from the floor.
Nicholas Baer won the Big Ten’s Sixth Man of the Year award, and with another offseason in the weight room he could push for a starting role.
The biggest question for the Hawkeyes in the months to come will be about how to keep all those promising youngsters happy.
Bohannon’s ascension came at the expense of Christian Williams, a sophomore last season, and Moss’ improvement relegated Brady Ellingson to a reserve role.
Pemsl and Kriener look as though they could be four-year contributors at the very least. But Iowa’s two incoming recruits, Luke Garza and Jack Nunge, are both big men - and McCaffery has said he expects both of them to play as freshmen.
Offseasons are typically quiet for the Hawkeyes, who re-emerged as a Big Ten contender largely by leaning on prep recruits who develop at their own pace.
That might not be the case this spring for a team that used 12 players in the first five minutes of a Big Ten game last season.
Iowa will also need to improve defensively in 2017-18, although most teams as young as the Hawkeyes can typically look as discombobulated as they did at times.
Iowa will sorely miss Jok, whose ability to turn shaky possessions into successful ones with a contested jumper won’t easily be replaced.
But the Hawkeyes head into a crucial offseason in position to push the Big Ten’s leaders and for an NCAA Tournament berth as early as next season.
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