IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - NCAA Tournament appearances are no longer viewed as pleasant surprises at Iowa.
The Hawkeyes are now expected to play deep into March, and they could again this season if senior Jarrod Uthoff fulfills his potential.
Iowa, which has made back-to-back tournaments following an eight-year drought, return four starters from the team that won 22 games a year ago and went 12-6 in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes have a major hole to fill following the graduation of star Aaron White, and losing Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year Gabe Olaseni hurt as well.
But Uthoff is arguably the most talented player seventh-year coach Fran McCaffery has had at Iowa.
Uthoff averaged 12.4 points, 6.4 rebounds a game with 56 blocks and 38 steals last season, and he’ll be among the top candidates for Big Ten Player of the Year if he continues to improve.
“I would expect him to be very aggressive. I want him to be aggressive,” McCaffery said.
Here are some of things to look for from Iowa this season:
30 FOR WOODY? McCaffery raised eyebrows when he said that senior center Adam Woodbury is capable of playing 30-35 minutes a game this season. Woodbury, a 7-foot-1 senior, has averaged just 18 minutes in three years as a starter. But the loss of Olaseni has left Iowa searching for answers in the post, and a big season out of Woodbury would help. Woodbury averaged 6.6 points and 5.1 rebounds last season.
“I could have played 30-plus minutes last year. I was in good enough shape. It just wasn’t asked of me. The only thing I have to do is stay out of foul trouble,” Woodbury said.
MAGIC MIKE: The Hawkeyes have a ton of experience in the backcourt, led by senior point guard Mike Gesell. Hampered by a shoulder injury, Gesell’s 3-point shooting percentage dipped to a ghastly .267 in 2014-15. But Gesell is healthy again. Veteran Anthony Clemmons will join Gesell in the starting backcourt after leading the Hawkeyes with a .373 3-point shooting percentage.
JOK-ING AROUND: Junior swingman Peter Jok could be poised for a breakout season. Jok, once among the nation’s top recruits before a knee injury scared many school away, shot 90 percent from the line and 42 percent on 3s last February. “By the end of the year he was one of our best players, and a guy that would make big shots late,” McCaffery said.
UHL LIKE THIS KID: Iowa will be counting on sophomore Dominique Uhl to play a much larger role this season. The 6-foot-9 Uhl played just 10 minutes a game last year off the bench, but he could double that in 2015-16. Expect junior college power forward Dale Jones to give the Hawkeyes size and depth off the bench as well.
WHO ARE THESE GUYS: Iowa is in the strange position of being loaded with both seniors and newcomers. The Hawkeyes have seven freshmen including Brady Ellingson, a promising shooting guard who redshirted last year because of nagging injuries. Iowa’s top six players are set, but reserve minutes will be available at every position for newcomers.
“There’s a lot of minutes to be had. We’ll see which one of those guys learns the system quickest,” McCaffery said.
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