Brown: White missed in 2015-16, but Hawkeyes have nearly full tank
When guard Devyn Marble was named to the all-Big Ten first team in 2013-14, he became the first Iowa basketball player to accomplish that feat in seven years.
Forward Aaron White made it two in a row in 2014-15. As we look ahead to 2015-16, forward Jarrod Uthoff has what it takes to make it a three-peat.
"I'm uncomfortable saying that," Uthoff said. "We have a lot of talent on this team. I'll do whatever it takes to win."
Uthoff will be one of four returning starters from a team that finished 22-12 overall and tied for third in the Big Ten. He'll be joined by point guard Mike Gesell, center Adam Woodbury and shooting guard Peter Jok.
Uthoff was Iowa's No. 2 scorer and rebounder and No. 1 shot-blocker last season. His career has been unique — consecutive redshirt seasons, then limited minutes off the bench in 2013-14 as he tried to shake off the rust.
His junior year offered a tantalizing taste of his upside. He's a 6-foot-9 forward who can score from the perimeter or on the dribble. He has a turnaround jumper that is unstoppable. He also has the quickness and length to guard most positions on the floor.
The thought of Uthoff taking his game up another notch next season is an exciting prospect. And if he does, Iowa will have a good chance to reach the 20-win mark for a fourth straight season and go to a third straight NCAA Tournament.
"We're not done yet," Uthoff said. "We have a lot more we want to accomplish as a program."
When Gesell played aggressively, the Hawkeyes had success. If he and backup point guard Anthony Clemmons can play that way for longer stretches next season, the Hawkeyes will have more.
Woodbury is not a great athlete, but he's invaluable as a passer and screener in the motion offense. If he can become more productive offensively around the basket, Iowa will be a better team.
Jok oozes with potential, too. He needs to become a double-figure scorer, and a better rebounder and defender.
Forward Dom Uhl, who played in 33 games as a freshman, is the leading candidate to fill White's spot in the starting lineup. And keep an eye on Nicholas Baer, who redshirted this season as a freshman walk-on. Guard Brady Ellingson tried to play, seeing action in seven games before he was shut down with a foot injury. He made four of his six 3-point attempts in limited action.
Several members of Iowa's incoming recruiting class, which still has a vacancy to fill, will also contend for playing time. Two who stand the best chance of immediate playing time are Isaiah Moss, who will play both shooting guard and small forward, and Ahmad Wagner, expected to be a power forward.
The Iowa program has made progress annually in McCaffery's five seasons as coach, to the point where status quo in 2015-16 wouldn't be a bad thing.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. On Twitter: @ByRickBrown.
HAWKEYES' 2014-15 SEASON AND OUTLOOK FOR 2015-16
RECORD: 22-12, 12-6 (tied for third in Big Ten).
WHO'S GONE: Aaron White, 16.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, No. 2 scorer (1,859 points) and No. 3 rebounder (901) in school history. He also set school records for games played (140) and free throws made (618) and attempted (800). Gabe Olaseni ( 8.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 54 blocked shots) made steady improvement all four seasons. Josh Oglesby ( 3.2 points, 1.9 rebounds) played 126 career games, with 19 starts.
WHO'S BACK: Versatile F Jarrod Uthoff had a breakout season as a junior (12.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 56 blocks [the ninth-most in school history], 59 assists, 38 steals, 37.2 percent shooting from 3) and should emerge as the go-to guy in 2015-16; point guard Mike Gesell (135 assists to 61 turnovers) is at his best when he attacks defenses on the dribble; C Adam Woodbury (6.6 points,5.2 rebounds) needs to become a more consistent scorer in the paint; At 6-6, G Peter Jok (7.0 points, 2.6 rebounds) has the size to shoot over defenders (he shot .343 from 3 last season) and will become more dangerous with improved ballhanding skills; G Anthony Clemmons (4.8 points, 1.9 rebounds) is invaluable as a defender and backing up Gesell or playing alongside him; F Dom Uhl (2.1 points, 1.8 rebounds) showed flashes of brilliance last season.
WHO'S NEW: Sharpshooting G Brady Ellingson redshirted to recover from a foot injury; F Nicholas Baer also redshirted as a freshman and will contend for minutes; F Isaiah Moss is the biggest catch of the five freshmen joining the program. He will play shooting guard and small forward; F Ahmad Wagner is a power player who will likely be in the rotation next season, too; G Andrew Fleming will improve the perimeter shooting; G Christian Williams, 6-5, is a big point guard who has been compared to Devyn Marble; F Brandon Hutton will bring toughness and athleticism to the floor.
HIGH POINT: Winning seven true road games — at North Carolina and six in the Big Ten for the first time since 1986-87 — will be one feel-good memory from this season. Another will be seven victories in the last nine games after losing seven of the last eight the year before. That includes a victory over Davidson, the Hawkeyes' first NCAA Tournament win since 2001.
LOW POINT: A week that saw Iowa lose to Minnesota at home and at Northwestern in overtime, dropping its Big Ten record to 6-6. The season was hanging in the balance at that point, but the Hawkeyes rallied to win the last six regular-season games.
COULD HAVE USED: More consistent guard play. It wasn't a one-man thing. But when Gesell was good and aggressive, the Hawkeyes were very good. When Gesell, Jok and Clemmons struggled in the same game, Iowa really struggled. Perimeter shooting was suspect at times, too. Iowa shot .333 from 3, a dip from last season (.350).
MVP: White joined Greg Stokes (1984-85) as the only players in program history to lead the team in scoring, rebounding and steals in the same season. White also became the first player in school history to lead his team in rebounding four consecutive seasons. He got to the free-throw line 238 times, 118 more than any teammate.
OPTIMISM FOR 2015-16: This program, mired in mediocrity (that's being polite) before coach Fran McCaffery arrived in 2010, has a pulse again. With five of the top seven scorers back, plus a deep recruiting class, there will be expectations for this team to return to the NCAA Tournament for a third straight season. Four starters are back from a team that finished six games above .500 in league play for the first time since 2005-06. Defense could determine this team's future. Iowa allowed opponents 62.3 points a game last season, the lowest since 2008-09 and down from 70.3 a season ago.
BY THE NUMBERS
Points returning: 60.1 percent
Rebounds returning: 62.6 percent
Assists returning: 76.7 percent
Steals returning: 69.3 percent
Guard: Mike Gesell.
Staying aggressive offensively and becoming a more consistent scorer (7.4 points as a junior) will pay dividends for this team. His 97 career starts will give Iowa experience at a crucial position.
Guard: Peter Jok.
The team's best free-throw shooter at 90.2 percent last season, he'll become a more effective scorer when he takes it to the basket on the dribble. He trailed only Uthoff in 3s made (36).
Center: Adam Woodbury.
Another offseason in the weight room will help increase his scoring and rebounding totals as a senior. He leads the returnees with 104 career starts.
Forward: Jarrod Uthoff.
Iowa's most complete player will be the go-to guy in 2015-16. His versatile skill set has NBA written all over it. It also makes a third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament a distinct possibility.
Forward: Dom Uhl.
The most impressive thing about his rookie season (331 minutes) was the fact that he seemed to play without fear. Don't let his stats (2.1 points, 1.8 rebounds) fool you. This guy has game.