Iowa coach Fran McCaffery likely to keep deep rotation

Mark Emmert

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery has been using 11 players lately, and he’s unlikely to change that philosophy as the season winds down, he indicated Thursday.

The Hawkeyes (14-12, 6-7 Big Ten Conference) have a week between games after falling 77-66 at Michigan State last Saturday. They host Illinois (14-12, 4-9) at 1 p.m. Saturday, with five regular-season games left.

McCaffery told reporters that he’s given much thought to trimming his rotation, but that ultimately it comes down to what’s fair to his players.

Iowa forward Cordell Pemsl has been a pleasant surprise in his first year in Iowa City.

“It’s not going to be, ‘OK, well I need to shorten the bench so you two guys aren’t playing,’” McCaffery said. “If they deserve to play, then they need to play. And that might mean that others don’t play as much. And we can say, ‘Well, maybe they need to play a little bit more, maybe they would develop quicker.’

“But I’ll still probably lean toward playing guys that deserve to play. I’m having a hard time not playing Dale Jones and Maishe Dailey, to be honest with you.”

Jones and Dailey are the only two scholarship players not being used in most games for the Hawkeyes. Only senior guard Peter Jok is averaging 30 minutes of play this season. Three others – Jordan Bohannon, Tyler Cook and Nicholas Baer – are seeing 23 or more minutes per contest.

That means guys like freshman forward Cordell Pemsl must adjust to spending long stretches watching their teammates and waiting their chance. Pemsl is fourth on the team in scoring at 9.1 points a game, but is averaging only 19.3 minutes while coming off the bench recently.

Pemsl said Thursday that the Hawkeyes understand minutes are hard to come by on such a deep team, and have adjusted to that fact.

“I think we just have a great group of guys that understands their roles and understand that some games they may play 10 minutes and other nights they might play 25,” Pemsl said.

“Everyone trusts everyone and there’s no problems in the locker room or anything like that. We’re really poised as a team as a whole. ... The upperclassmen brought us under their wing and we just came together a lot this season. Every guy wants to see the guy next to him do something great. So nobody really takes it personal depending on how many minutes they’re playing.”

McCaffery admitted that he’d like to find more court time for players such as Pemsl, Cook, Ryan Kriener, Christian Williams and Isaiah Moss. But each of the 11 players he’s used have had moments when they’ve shined, meaning he likes to mix and match.

“That’s what happens when you get into games. You just try to make the best decisions you can make at the time and hope it works out,” McCaffery said.

This week, Pemsl said, has been devoted to improving defense and rebounding. The Hawkeyes have been outrebounded by 36 in Big Ten games.

“We’ve been beat on the glass by basically everyone throughout the Big Ten Conference season,” said Pemsl, who is averaging five per game. “We’ve focused on getting ourselves in better condition and to attack the glass.”