Fran McCaffery is very close to helping the Iowa Hawkeyes turn the corner and become a NCAA Tournament-caliber team. The addition of a pair of key freshmen has the Hawkeyes' future looking rather bright.
Getting 7-1 big-man Adam Woodbury to stay home and play for Iowa rather than heading to a perennial power like North Carolina or Ohio State was a huge recruiting pickup for McCaffery. The lefty is a skilled back-to-basket player, and, while he is nowhere near a finished product, should contend for the Big Ten Freshman of the Year honor.
The Hawkeyes have solid depth inside to put alongside Woodbury. Aaron White is a stretch four who lit it up in Iowa's two NIT games and seems the most capable to replace the scoring ability of Matt Gatens. Melsahn Basabe digressed in his sophomore campaign, but is still a dangerous weapon off the Iowa bench, as is Zach McCabe. Gabriel Olaseni and freshman Kyle Meyer add even more depth inside, but will likely find it difficult to crack the regular rotation.
Iowa also returns some decent talent on the wing. Roy Devyn Marble is easily one of the most versatile players in the Big Ten and can play multiple positions, which is a wonderful weapon to have. Josh Oglesby and Eric May both saw quality minutes off the bench a year ago. Each player can light it up from deep, and they figure to compete to replace Gatens' starting spot. Freshman Patrick Ingram is more of a slasher who could steal some minutes due to his ability to attack the rim.
The biggest question mark will come at the point where freshman Mike Gesell will be handed the keys right away since he is a capable scorer and distributor. How well Gesell transitions to running the show at high-level college basketball could determine whether Iowa makes a major leap this season or remains a slightly below five-hundred program in the Big Ten. There isn't a whole lot of experience at the point, with freshman Anthony Clements in a reserve role, but Marble is capable of setting the table when needed.
Home-state kid Jared Uthoff also transfers in from Wisconsin after a controversial exit from Madison. The versatile forward must sit out this season, but will be another puzzle piece for McCaffery in 2013-14 when the Hawkeyes should take the next step as a program.
Player to Watch: Aaron White, F
While balance will be a huge asset for Iowa this season, every team needs a go-to option or someone who can catch fire and carry the team offensively when it struggles. Gatens was that guy more times than not last season, but this year that role shifts over to White, who also led the team in rebounding. He is not the lights out shooter that Gatens was, but is capable of making things happen on his own.