IOWA CITY — One of the strengths of the Iowa basketball team entering this season was considered to be its depth, but the Hawkeyes will have only eight scholarship players in uniform Saturday when they take on Savannah State.
The bench got a little shorter when redshirt freshman guard Connor McCaffery was ruled out of the game while he undergoes concussion protocol.
The Hawkeyes already were redshirting Jack Nunge and C.J. Fredrick, and Cordell Pemsl underwent season-ending knee surgery Tuesday.
Backup center Ryan Kriener is expected to play Saturday after spraining his ankle in Tuesday’s 78-60 victory over Western Carolina. And walk-on Riley Till, who watched Tuesday’s game in a walking boot, should be able to play barring any sort of setback Friday in practice.
McCaffery took an elbow to the head from teammate Tyler Cook while going after a rebound late in the Western Carolina game. He stayed on the court for a minute or so after that but complained of being dizzy.
“It’s just one of those unfortunate situations,’’ Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Friday on a teleconference with reporters.
Iowa had two players — Kriener and Brady Ellingson — miss five games or more last season while undergoing concussion protocol, but Coach McCaffery said this one doesn’t appear to be as serious.
“Kriener’s problem was he had two of them,’’ he said. “That obviously was problematic. He had two in the same year. Brady’s lasted a little longer than we thought but Connor’s progressing rapidly. I would expect him to play in the next game.’’
Connor has played an important role as the backup to starting point guard Jordan Bohannon. He has been on the floor with Bohannon at the conclusion of close games, leads the team in assists and has averaged 7.5 points per game.
But Coach McCaffery said he is comfortable playing Maishe Dailey, Isaiah Moss or even freshman Joe Wieskamp at the point.
“There’s a number of different ways we can go,’’ he said. “Austin Ash (a freshman walk-on) is a guy who is ready to get some minutes if we need him to so we’ve got some options.’’
Wieskamp said after the Western Carolina game that he feels the Hawkeyes will be fine no matter how short the bench gets.
“We’ll be all right …’’ he said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who can play more minutes if needed, myself included. If I need to play the whole game, I will. It’s whatever coach wants, whatever the team needs.’’
In Savannah State (3-10), the Hawkeyes are facing a team that has lost six straight games, allows 99.4 points per game and is 344th in the country in Ken Pomeroy’s power rankings.
McCaffery said the Tigers play “a very unique style.’’ They launched 57 3-point shots in one game, press continuously and use a 2-3 zone almost exclusively in halfcourt situations.
“They’re going to push it quick, shoot it quick,’’ he said. “They have multiple guys who can shoot 3s and go off the dribble. They’ve got very good team speed and quickness. They press on both makes and misses, which is another thing that’s rare … They’re going to scramble the game a little bit with pressure at the point of attack. We have to handle that pressure and move the ball effectively without turning it over.’’