McCaffery planning strategy to test veteran Hawkeyes early | News, Sports, Jobs

AP FILE PHOTO – Iowa’s Kris Murray (24) heads for the basket during the second half of a college basketball game against Nebraska February 25 in Lincoln, Neb.

IOWA CITY — With nine players returning from the 26-win team that won the Big Ten tournament, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery knew he could challenge his team.

So McCaffery put together a non-conference schedule that included games against Seton Hall, No. 7 Duke, Georgia Tech, Iowa State and a Thanksgiving tournament with matchups against Clemson and California or No. 14 TCU.

The Big Ten’s opener against Wisconsin ends a streak of six games in 17 days.

“It’s a pretty great schedule when you look at the Power Five teams,” McCaffery said.

The Hawkeyes’ wealth of experience was one reason McCaffery thought it would be manageable.

“You couldn’t play it any other way,” he said, “and it’s not going to be easy even then.”

Players are eager for the challenge.

“There are a lot of really good opportunities for us to come out and compete,” said forward Patrick McCaffery, the coach’s son. “That’s what we signed up for. We signed up for this schedule.

Fran McCaffery said the series of games will test the depth of the Hawkeyes. He trusted his bench in the Big Ten Tournament championship game, giving minutes to 12 players in a 75-66 win over Purdue.

McCaffery spent the summer and early fall training experimenting with different formations.

“You never know what kind of lineup we’re going to have,” McCaffery said. “And everyone agrees. It helps our team grow.


McCaffery will be looking for a new point guard following the departures of Jordan Bohannon and Joe Toussaint. Toussaint transferred to West Virginia and Bohannon ended a career that spanned six seasons.

Ahron Ulis and Dasonte Bowen will get most of the point minutes. Tony Perkins, whose stint in the starting lineup helped spark Iowa’s late-season run, can also play the job. The same goes for McCaffery’s son, Connor, a sixth-year player who has a 3.5-to-1 career assist turnover ratio.


Iowa won 12 of 14 games after Perkins entered the starting lineup at the end of the regular season. The coach said Perkins provided the strength the Hawkeyes needed in recent weeks.

“I showed what I can do,” Perkins said.

Fran McCaffery said the best teams in Iowa have players like Perkins who are ready to fight. “He’s absolutely fearless,” McCaffery said.


The Hawkeyes will likely play rosters without a traditional center.

Filip Rebraca, 6-foot-9, started all 36 games at the post last season and averaged 5.8 points and 5.6 rebounds. McCaffery expects Rebraca to be more of a goalscorer this season. Rebraca averaged 16.8 points at North Dakota in 2020-21.

“I’ve said it before – he’s got a lot more attack in his game than we saw last year,” McCaffery said. “It was good at times, and it was pretty good in general. But I think you’ll see a more aggressive attacking player.


Incoming freshman guard Josh Dix missed most of his senior season in high school after breaking his leg. Dix has had a full practice schedule since September and McCaffery thinks he can play a big role in Iowa’s rotation. McCaffery said Dix hasn’t missed a practice since Sept. 1.

“He’s had some great training days where he’s been absolutely spectacular,” McCaffery said, “and there were days where he’s learning clearly, but physically he looks really good.”


The Hawkeyes open with home games against Bethune-Cookman on Nov. 7 and North Carolina A&T on Nov. 11 before the Gavitt Games. After the conference opener against Wisconsin, they played three of the Big Ten’s four road games.

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