After COVID-19 absence, Fran McCaffery set to rejoin Iowa basketball for Maryland trip

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY — Fresh off a season-best 18 points against Minnesota, Patrick McCaffery was in a jovial mood Tuesday as the Iowa men’s basketball team was preparing for its next Big Ten Conference opponent.

What was it like to play for the first time in a college game without his father, 12th-year Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery, on the sidelines?

“It was a lot quieter,” the Hawkeye redshirt sophomore joked.

And how’s his father been doing while isolating after a positive COVID-19 test last Friday?

“I know he’s been calling pretty much every player individually throughout the week. (Maybe) he's just bored or something,” Patrick said. “He’s watching film with (assistant coach Sherman Dillard) over Zoom. It’s a miracle those two were able to get that to happen.”

Patrick got a good laugh out of that one. So did teammate Jordan Bohannon and the assembled media at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes are in good spirits, because they feel like they’re in a good place. Despite some tough road losses with tough circumstances — at Rutgers on a questionable foul call and at Penn State in double overtime — they find themselves well-positioned to cement their status in the coming weeks as an NCAA Tournament team.

More:Iowa men's basketball bounces back against Minnesota behind furious second-half rally

Fran McCaffery's son, Patrick, joked that his father has probably been "bored" in quarantine while sitting out after a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Fran is expected back for Thursday's game at Maryland.

Bohannon was watching Monday night’s Virginia-Duke game with a lot of interest. He sent a jubilant group text to his teammates as soon as the Cavaliers’ winning 3-pointer went through the nets at Cameron Indoor Stadium. A win by Virginia — which Iowa defeated in Charlottesville earlier this season — improves Iowa’s NCAA resume. As of Tuesday, ESPN’s latest bracket projections have the Hawkeyes as a No. 7 seed.

“I was cheering for a Quad 1 win. The way the NCAA has set this up, start cheering for the teams you beat,” Bohannon said. “Utah State, keep winning. Virginia, keep winning.”

Patrick interjected: “I hope Utah State never loses again.”

(The Hawkeyes defeated Utah State, 94-75, on Dec. 19 in Sioux Falls.)

Now, the Hawkeyes (15-7, 5-6 Big Ten) need to do some winning of their own. And they will get their leader back for Thursday’s 6 p.m. CT, ESPN2-televised game at Maryland (11-12, 3-9). Fran McCaffery was feeling better after his COVID-19 absence and was set to rejoin the team Wednesday, acting head coach Billy Taylor said Tuesday. The head coach, appearing on his radio show Monday night, said he watched the game alone at home and that his wife, Margaret, also tested positive for COVID-19. He also said he was feeling much better after two rough days with symptoms.

Taylor was unsure of Thursday's status for fifth-year senior guard/forward Connor McCaffery, who hasn’t been available since a right arm injury Jan. 31 at Penn State. Connor McCaffery continues to be “day-to-day,” Taylor said.

This is a big week for the Hawkeyes to go 2-0. They get last-place Nebraska (6-17, 0-12) at home Sunday. A couple wins would put them in an even better mood ahead of a home game against Michigan. There’s a good chance the postponed game at Ohio State gets wedged into next week's schedule, too. A home date with always-tough Michigan State looms on Feb. 22.

“We have a chance to make a statement these next couple games,” Patrick McCaffery said, “and look forward to doing so."