What does life after Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp look like? Iowa basketball is about to get glimpse
Since their last game in March, the pressing question surrounding Iowa men's basketball is what does life after Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp look like?
You're about to get a sneak peak.
The long-awaited Iowa men's basketball season officially tips off Tuesday. But first: The Hawkeyes will host Division II Slippery Rock in an exhibition at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday.
After last season, which included a loaded veteran roster, this year's squad enters with lower national expectations but isn't lacking on the intrigue. There's so many unknowns to this group: Will emerging talents like Keegan Murray explode on the scene? What do the newcomers look like?
Those are just of the few of the questions that have Fran McCaffery anxious to start play.
"What I've seen is a young group excited for opportunity," the veteran Iowa said. "You knew (Garza and Wieskamp) were going to play a lot. So somebody is going to step up and figure out how we're going to score without those two guys on the floor.
"I said this at Big Ten Media Day (last month): I don't know if I've ever coached a team where everybody will have a different role than they had last year. It's fairly unique when you think about it."
Iowa's opponent, Slippery Rock, returns to action after its 2020-21 season that was canceled due to COVID-19 precautions, marking 613 days since their last game. It's a quality Division II program.
Where Iowa is breaking new and/or inexperienced players, Slippery Rock is doing the same. Their roster breakdown is as followed: four true freshmen, four redshirt freshmen, one sophomore, three juniors and three seniors. And when these two teams meet on Friday, the matchup could allow for new lineup variations for Iowa.
Slippery Rock's team is guard-dependent. In fact, SRU only has two players on their roster taller than 6-foot-6 with the biggest player being sophomore Lashon Lindsey at 6-8 and 210 pounds. Iowa senior transfer Filip Rebraca, the oldest and biggest front court starter on either side, should dominate in his Hawkeyes debut. Albeit against lesser competition, expect Rebraca to show his full range of skills and why McCaffery sees him as a big part of the plans this year.
Additionally, this means that we'll likely see sophomore Kris Murray playing the center position in their small lineups. McCaffery spoke to Murray's defensive versatility and overall roster versatility during team media days.
"(Kris) will be playing forward," McCaffery said. "He might end up guarding a (center) depending on what lineup is out there for our opponent. … We can go with a bigger lineup, a smaller lineup. We can go without a five-man, traditional five-man and three guards and two 6-foot-9s. There's a lot of ways we can go. I think from that standpoint it's a different kind of team."
The other newcomers to watch are freshmen center Riley Mulvey and forward Payton Sandfort, the Waukee product. Mulvey will most likely not be a big factor this year as he still needs to develop his body (6-11, 240 pounds) but it will be worth watching how he can impact the game against Slippery Rock. It may be one of the best opportunities to give him big minutes. As for Sandfort, the sharpshooter is projected to compete for playing time and, if he can get off to a hot start from three-point range, could earn a regular rotation spot.
The biggest question mark in the starting lineup is the health of sophomore forward Patrick McCaffery. Projected to take on the Joe Wieskamp type three-and-D role, McCaffery's been limited this off-season with a pair of ankle injuries.
If he does play, fans will want to monitor his minutes load and range of motion.
Overall, this should be a fairly easy and exciting night for the Hawkeyes before the regular season opener against Longwood next Tuesday.
Expect new starting point guard Joe Toussaint to push the pace, senior Jordan Bohannon to shoot the three-pointer effectively and for Murray to flash his NBA potential.
Will we learn if Iowa is an NCAA Tournament team? No. Probably not.
But Iowa should get a good glimpse of what basketball looks like in this new Hawkeye hoops era.
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 email@example.com.