Iowa guard Isaiah Moss scored eight points in a 74-53 loss to the Wolverines. Chad Leistikow, Hawk Central
With the news that Isaiah Moss is transferring from the Iowa basketball program, there are a lot more hoops thoughts running through my head than usual on a Thursday night in May.
Let’s address some of them...
If you’re counting, that’s four player departures from Fran McCaffery’s program since the team's second-round NCAA Tournament loss to Tennessee. And only one of them — senior Nicholas Baer via graduation — was 100% expected.
The other three were all juniors. Between leading scorer Tyler Cook (full speed ahead toward a pro career), Maishe Dailey (transferring to Akron) and Moss plus Baer, the Hawkeyes are losing 42% of their floor minutes from a 23-12 team.
Suddenly, Iowa is down to 10 scholarship players — which means three open scholarships.
Do the math and it adds up to … McCaffery needing to move aggressively in the graduate-transfer market. He’s never taken one in nine years at Iowa. I'm not suggesting he needs to panic and grab three; but if he could lock up one, especially in the backcourt, that'd be a wise move.
By the way, that's five total departures if you count the move of assistant coach Andrew Francis to California. And I do count that as a significant loss.
With so much attrition, should fans be worried about a systemic issue with the program?
I’ll give a two-part answer.
No to the first part, which is the bigger part. McCaffery has an excellent track record at retaining players. This happens to be a year when three guys left early for different reasons.
Cook was largely expected, as his eyes had been fixated on the NBA for more than a year. Dailey was understandable, as he wanted a chance to play his final year closer to home. And Moss … well, that leads to the second part of the answer.
Which is yes.
While McCaffery was forced to trim his rotation this past year because of injuries, he still left Moss (and others) on the bench for exceedingly long stretches at times. A three-year starter who shot 39.1% from 3-point range for his career had to get frustrated being left on the bench during crunch-time moments.
There are good intentions in trying to spread out minutes, but the best players should always play the most minutes — and the most important minutes. And Moss was one of Iowa’s five best players.
The Hawkeyes will miss Moss most in his ability to create his own offense.
I always thought he should have been a more widely used asset when the shot clock was winding down. Moss’ ability to space the floor will be tough to replace.
Come on down, D.J. Harvey.
The 6-foot-6 wing who is transferring from Notre Dame was in Iowa City on Thursday night to take a hard look at the Hawkeyes. He’s expected to choose between Iowa and Vanderbilt, according to Stadium’s Jeff Goodman. Harvey was the nation’s No. 49 prospect out of high school in the class of 2017, according to 247Sports, and he averaged 10.7 points per game as a sophomore in South Bend.
Although Harvey would have to sit out a year, Iowa certainly has plenty of room. It would be a welcome offseason boost.
By the way, if Joe Wieskamp decides to turn pro, then … we all might want to sign off social media for at least a week. He's testing the NBA waters, in case you had forgotten.
But let’s assume he comes back for his sophomore year.
Then what about the 2019-20 season?
As mentioned, the scholarship count is low. And so is Iowa’s margin for error.
The Big Three becomes Jordan Bohannon, Wieskamp and Luka Garza.
That’s point guard, wing man and big man. If any one of them departs or suffers a serious setback ... it could be a long year.
Remember, if Bohannon hadn't been insanely hot down the stretch of four games (against Indiana twice, at Penn State and against Northwestern), the Hawkeyes would have been 6-14 in the Big Ten instead of 10-10. He has to be 100% humming for Iowa to contend for a repeat trip to the NCAA Tournament.
The Big Three will have to carry the Hawkeyes. If healthy, the trio should gobble up at least 100 of Iowa’s 200 minutes per game. (Yes, that's an average of 33.3 each — but it's more than doable. And probably necessary.)
A starting lineup of Bohannon (at the 1), CJ Fredrick (at the 2), Wieskamp (3), Ryan Kriener or Jack Nunge or Cordell Pemsl (4) and Garza (5) still looks pretty good to me.
I’ve been hearing great things about Fredrick, a sharpshooting 6-3 guard who wisely redshirted. His emergence in practice might’ve been another reason Moss scattered.
And it’s easy to forget about Pemsl (who should hear about his medical-redshirt appeal soon) and Nunge, especially, who bulked up to 250 pounds on his 6-11 frame.
Add the aforementioned seven to backup guard Connor McCaffery and perhaps 8-10 minutes a game from incoming freshman point guard Joe Touissant, and Iowa would still have a decent top nine — and maintain the ability to let Patrick McCaffery take a redshirt season to build more strength.
All this attrition might benefit Kriener the most. I've always liked the 6-9 power forward's game, but he's never really gotten a full opportunity behind Cook and others.
Now's his chance.
Across the board, the minutes are no doubt there for the taking.
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 24 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.
Fran McCaffery reacts to an 83-77 overtime loss to Tennessee in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Chad Leistikow, Hawk Central