Brown: McCaffery will have the pieces, but can he make them fit?
Here's the puzzle Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery must put together.
He enters the 2015-16 season with four returning starters from an NCAA Tournament team that tied for third in the Big Ten. Mix in two reserves, and two more redshirt players. Add six incoming recruits. And make them fit in one playing rotation.
"What you've got to do is figure out who fits where, who picks everything up quicker and who establishes himself," McCaffery said. "There are minutes there. We have one spot open. And we have all those positions coming off the bench. Who is it going to be?"
The one missing starter, Aaron White, averaged 31.5 minutes a game. Josh Oglesby (18.9) and Gabe Olaseni (18.6) are also gone. The returning starters — Jarrod Uthoff, Mike Gesell, Adam Woodbury and Peter Jok — have established roles.
"Woody and Mike have started for three years," McCaffery said. "Jok really came into his own last year."
The Iowa program hasn't had a first-round NBA Draft pick since Ricky Davis in 1998. McCaffery thinks Uthoff could change that.
"I think Uthoff is a guy who could be a star, not only in our league but nationally, and that's what I'm expecting of him," McCaffery said.
Anthony Clemmons and Dom Uhl also return after reserve roles last season. Guard Brady Ellingson and forward Nicholas Baer, a sleeper pick to crack the rotation, have a season in the system as redshirts.
"Clemmons and Uhl got great experience last year," McCaffery said. "Clemmons was unbelievable for us. Our young guys are going to have to step up. And hopefully one of them can have the impact that Aaron White had."
White played 35 games as a freshman, with 14 starts. He averaged 11.1 points and 5.7 rebounds and made the all-Big Ten freshman team in 2011-12.
In comes a six-man class of Isaiah Moss, Ahmad Wagner, Andrew Fleming, Brandon Hutton, Christian Williams and Dale Jones. Someone will probably redshirt in 2015-16.
"There's a good possibility of that," McCaffery said.
The new class is a versatile one. Moss could play small forward or second guard. Wagner could plug in at either forward spot. Fleming and Williams could play both guard spots or small forward. Hutton is likely a second guard or small forward who can guard a point guard. Jones, the lone junior college addition, is intriguing.
"He's a jump-shooting power forward who can play small forward," McCaffery said. "He can handle and make plays off the dribble for other people."
McCaffery calls Moss "an explosive scorer" and Wagner "a big-time athlete that is a perfect fit for the way we play." Fleming "can make shots; he's smart, tough and skilled." Hutton is "a junkyard dog who can really defend, a terrific athlete." And Williams can play three spots "because he's long and athletic, a really good passer with unbelievable vision."
Many expected McCaffery to sign a backup center with his last scholarship. He opted for Jones instead.
"We looked at some," McCaffery said. "We decided to go with the best player available. If you get locked into getting a position, you miss on an opportunity."
A backup post is not necessary, McCaffery said, "if you're long. You give up two inches here, but you can make up two inches at another position."
When Woodbury goes to the bench next season, McCaffery said he'll go with three forwards. So that's how he plans to play.
Who he plays is to be determined.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.