Minus Bohannon, Hawkeyes McCaffery, Toussaint and Fredrick know their time is now
CHICAGO, Ill. — Connor McCaffery knew this moment was probably coming for his Iowa basketball team.
Life without Jordan Bohannon begins Saturday when the Hawkeyes (8-3) face Cincinnati (7-4) at the United Center. It’s a rematch of March’s NCAA Tournament opening-round game that Iowa won 79-72.
But the Bearcats have a new coach in John Brannen.
The Hawkeyes will have a new point guard in Joe Toussaint. Fans will get a first look at what that means for the team’s style of play at 8:10 p.m. on BTN.
“I don’t think it really surprised everyone a ton,” McCaffery said of Bohannon opting to have season-ending hip surgery this week.
“I want to try to be more aggressive at times with Jordan out. He’s somebody that, he’s able to just go get a bucket. And now having one piece of that missing, that’s more shots, more opportunities for other people. And I think that’s something we all have to plan for.”
Bohannon, a senior, is averaging 11.7 points per game for his career. He is an 88.6% free-throw shooter. He shoots 40.3% from the 3-point arc.
Perhaps most importantly, Bohannon was always the Hawkeye with the ball in his hands late in close games.
It’s a lot to replace. The Hawkeyes have been bracing for it, though, and three perimeter players in particular will be called on to pick up Bohannon’s mantle.
McCaffery, a redshirt sophomore, leads the Big Ten Conference in assist-to-turnover ratio at 4.3:1. He is a 6-foot-5 natural point guard who also happens to be Iowa’s most versatile player. That means he can move to the power forward spot in small lineups, where his precise passing is still valuable. That enables the true freshman Toussaint to run the point.
Wherever he’s positioned, McCaffery will be the one directing traffic for Iowa on offense. He is averaging 28 minutes per game, but showed his true value Dec. 3 at Syracuse, where he ran the show for 36 masterful minutes in a 68-54 Iowa win.
McCaffery’s minutes will increase. So will his leadership. Toussaint will look to him for guidance.
“Helping him know what play we’re running, what we’re doing on defense. I never had to tell Jordan that kind of stuff. But Joe T., I’ve got to constantly be talking to him,” McCaffery said of Iowa’s rookie.
“He brings a lot more speed. More of a driving ability. And I think the thing that maybe is a little bit underestimated is his defensive ability. He brings another aspect of quickness on defense, stealing the ball, making stuff happen. I think that will really be beneficial.”
Toussaint leads Iowa with 13 steals. The 6-footer has been a change-of-pace option off the bench all season.
But now he’ll be asked to pace himself. Toussaint needs to provide much more than 15 minutes per game. Can he do that without landing in foul trouble?
“I’ve got to slow down, know when to go and not to go,” Toussaint said.
“Basketball is a game with a lot of emotions, and you’ve just got to stay composed. You can’t get too rattled. You can’t show a lot of emotion on the court. You’ve got to play the game the right way to win the game.”
CJ Fredrick has been averaging 26 minutes per game as Iowa’s starting shooting guard. The redshirt freshman has never looked out of place and said he doesn’t feel like a first-year college player. Fredrick is averaging 10.5 points and 3 assists, making 51.4% of his 3-pointers.
He knows his life is about to change without Bohannon. Fredrick needs to become the guy who helps stretch the floor now. He will be asked to hit big shots late, the way he did to help the Hawkeyes topple Texas Tech on Nov. 28.
“That’s something that I’m willing to take on for the team,” Fredrick said.
“I definitely think I’m going to have to do a little bit more with Jordan being out, continuing to try to make more plays and continuing to shoot more. My team is really confident in me and basically telling me to shoot more.”
Iowa had nine days between games after winning at Iowa State on Dec. 12. That helped Fredrick heal a bruised quadriceps muscle. He hadn’t been practicing on back-to-back days, saving himself for games.
There’s no saving himself anymore, though. Bohannon isn’t walking through that door.
McCaffery, Toussaint and Fredrick are young players who need to make sure he’s not missed.
“We’ll definitely be different,” McCaffery said. “We’re losing one of the best shooters in the country.
“But it’s not like we don’t have other shooters still around.”
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.