Iowa men's basketball roster analysis: Predicting the starting lineup, bench rotation for 2021-22 season

There are more questions than answers on Iowa's men's basketball team, with the regular season tip-off looming on Nov. 9.

But a few answers are coming sooner than later. 

Long-term questions such as who will emerge as Fran McCaffery's top player and how the Hawkeyes will fare in the Big Ten conference remain to be seen. In the short-term, the biggest questions are about this year's roster makeup and what early playing rotations will look like. 

It's understood that Jordan Bohannon and Keegan Murray will play prominent roles, but what about the point guard position?

Who will they rely on for perimeter shooting beyond Bohannon?

And who will get the most minutes at the center position? 

More:Analyzing Iowa basketball's 11 most important games in the 2021-22 schedule

The early slate of games will go a long way in determining concrete rotations but for now, here's a projected breakdown of Iowa's starting lineup and most valuable bench assets: 

Iowa basketball's projected starting five

Guard: Joe Toussaint, junior

Iowa guard Joe Toussaint (2) reacts after making a 3-point basket during a NCAA non-conference men's basketball game against Longwood, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

The Bronx, New York, native is experienced, he started 20 games in 2019 and played in all 31 games last season. Remarks from McCaffery and his teammates through the summer and fall clearly how that Toussaint has earned the trust to run the offense. Additionally, he adds a level of athleticism and explosiveness to the position that will allow the Hawkeyes to play faster. The main question mark about his game offensively is shooting with consistency which has been an area of emphasis for him this offseason.

Guard: Jordan Bohannon, senior

Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon (3) rises to shoot a 3-point basket during a NCAA non-conference men's basketball game against Longwood, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

Bohannon's sixth season will be played off ball more. The school's all-time leader in 3-pointers made will be depended on to carry a heavier scoring role than recent seasons when Joe Wieskamp and Luka Garza were torching opponents. Moving off-ball and distributing less will allow for Bohannon to be more aggressive in his personal offensive approach and display more versatility in his offensive game. He stated over the summer that he feels at his peak physically, don't be surprised to see him averaging close to, if not the most minutes and points per game. 

More:With more than 60% of last year's scoring gone, opportunity abounds for Iowa men's basketball players

Forward: Patrick McCaffery, sophomore

Iowa forward Patrick McCaffery (22) looks to pass as Longwood's Nate Lliteras, left, defends during a NCAA non-conference men's basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

One central theme about this year's Iowa team is new opportunity for players who had lesser roles last year. McCaffery is one of the first who come to mind as a player who will step into the starting lineup. McCaffery flashed defensive potential last year and with more shot opportunities he ideally turns into a reliable three-and-D type player for the Hawkeyes. But his early season progress will be slowed some as he's been nursing an ankle injury throughout preseason. 

Forward: Keegan Murray, sophomore

Keegan Murray swats a first-half shot of Kansas City on Friday.

If you read any NBA mock drafts before the collegiate season, you likely saw Keegan Murray's name several times as a projected first round pick. It's easy to see why in his bench role last season but like Luka Garza, Tyler Cook and Peter Jok before him, Iowa's system will likely flow through top player Murray. His defensive ability needs no introduction, with 30+ minutes and a larger offensive role the expectation is the sophomore flourishes into a premier two-way star. 

More:Stephen Bardo says Iowa basketball's Keegan Murray 'has a chance to be the Big Ten MVP'

Forward/center: Filip Rebraca, senior

Filip Rebraca impressed with his hustle in his first game as a Hawkeye. The 24-year-old North Dakota transfer was in the starting lineup along with Joe Toussaint, Jordan Bohannon, Patrick McCaffery and Keegan Murray.

Assuming Iowa plays a "true big" at the center spot, Rebraca gets the edge. Among the available options, Rebraca is the best combination of experience, size and skill. At 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds, he doesn't have a physically imposing frame or offer rim protection. But he's certainly skilled in other areas: post play, passing and shooting at the mid-range and three-point level. No one can truly replace Garza's presence but if Iowa is to be successful this season, Rebraca will have to play a major part. 

More:How does Iowa basketball replace Luka Garza? Inside the three-man race to fill the big man void

Breaking down the bench pieces 

Forward: Kris Murray, sophomore

After a developmental season last year, Murray appears ready for a major role on this year's team. Murray's versatility offensively and defensively make him a top candidate off the bench and a fringe-starting player at the forward or center spot depending on the matchup. 

Guard: Connor McCaffery, senior

A full-time starter last year, McCaffery's role will change as a top bench option this season. Last year, he primarily set players up for scores through screens and passing but this year will likely take a more aggressive offensive role as a leader of the bench unit. 

Guard: Ahron Ulis, sophomore

Ulis will slide into Toussaint's backup point guard role from last year averaging somewhere between 10 to 12 minutes per game. Ulis should be able to push the pace as well, and there might be moments where they play together. 

Iowa guard Payton Sandfort will likely work his way into the Hawkeye rotation quickly as a freshman.

Forward: Payton Sandfort, freshman

McCaffery said "he's ready" at team media days when asked if the true freshman could be a rotational player. The Waukee native shot 49% from three as a high school senior, that sharpshooting will be needed on Iowa's second unit. 

Guard: Tony Perkins, sophomore 

Perkins will continue to fill a necessary role as a wing defender on Iowa's second unit. He's worked extensively in the off-season on gaining more confidence in his shooting. If that improves, he could see a bigger role. 

Center: Josh Ogundele, sophomore

Ogundele earned strong praise from McCaffery for his work ethic in losing close to 20 pounds from last season. Now standing at 6-foot-11 and 265 pounds, Ogundele is in better position to provide rotational minutes. 

Center: Riley Mulvey, freshman

As a re-classified 2022 prospect, Mulvey needs time to marinate and develop physically this winter. When he does play, defensively is where he'll make the most impact. During his last two years of high school, he averaged five blocks per game.

Guard: Austin Ash, senior

Ash returns to Iowa this year on scholarship after being awarded one in May. He's been a top scout team player and will continue to add depth but likely won't see many minutes with Toussaint, Ulis and even Bohannon at times manning the point guard position. 

Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa Hawkeyes football and men's basketball for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at ksmith@gannett.com.