Busting Brackets

Iowa Basketball: Fran McCaffery is quietly having a terrific offseason

McCaffery is under a lot of pressure from fans after a disappointing 19-15 campaign, but has landed two under-the-radar transfers that could pay huge dividends for the Hawkeyes next season and beyond.
Penn State v Iowa
Penn State v Iowa / Grace Smith/GettyImages

Last season, Iowa Basketball entered the new year with its lowest expectations in a while. Keegan and Kris Murray had left for the NBA, and the roster featured many newcomers.

Not surprisingly, the season was a bit of a struggle, as the Hawkeyes finished 19-15 and missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in six seasons. That was not a shock nationally, but disgruntled Iowa fans openly voiced their frustrations about the direction of the program, which hasn't advanced past the opening weekend of the Big Dance under head coach Fran McCaffery.

McCaffery will be 65 before the start of the 24-25 season, but has no apparent intention to retire any time soon. Instead, he has worked hard in the offseason to add key transfers to his roster. Let's dive into Iowa's productive offseason thus far.

G Drew Thelwell

Former Morehead State guard Drew Thelwell signed with the Hawkeyes on April 17. The Orlando native previously played four seasons for the Eagles and led the program to 94 victories over his tenure, including two NCAA Tournaments and one NIT.

As a senior, Thelwell posted 10 points, 6.2 assists, and 1.3 steals per game and helped lead his team to the NCAA Tournament. He gained a reputation as one of the best passers in the country, and finished 15th in the country in total assists, while also leading the OVC.

Thelwell isn't known for his outside shooting or his scoring at all, but Iowa's guard play under McCaffery has lacked athleticism and passing for some time. Thelwell was brought in to distriubute the ball to the open shooters and play tough defense on the other end of the floor. There might be a little bit of a learning curve before he adjusts to Big Ten competition, but Thelwell is a tough, physical player that should prove major dividends for the Hawkeyes in the long run.

G Seydou Traore

After missing out on other transfer targets, McCaffery finally landed Manhattan transfer Seydou Traore a few weeks ago. Traore averaged 11.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game last season as a true freshman for a Jaspers team that went 7-23 last year.

Though his team wasn't very good, Traore made the best of his situation and quickly worked his way into a starting role, where he played 27 games. Though he can certainly shoot the ball from distance, the New York City native was primarily known for his ability to get to the rim and make plays, something Iowa has desperately needed over the last few seasons. Traore still has three more years of eligibility remaining, which is another great plus for the Hawkeyes.

In short, Iowa knows that its upcoming 2024-25 season is crucial for many reasons, and though McCaffery returns many dangerous three-point shooters, he now understands how important it is to round out the rest of his roster with athletic guards that are willing to distribute the ball, attack the rim, and play solid defense. While it's certainly not the best offseason compared to the other top programs in the country, the Hawkeyes did a great job bringing in under-the-radar talent that could be a big boost next season.

Keep in mind, Iowa doesn't have the major resources that most programs have, and if McCaffery can continue his history of development with these new guys, than the Hawkeyes could be a solid team in the Big Ten next year with Owen Freeman, Brock Harding, and Josh Dix returning with more experience under their belts.

Sandfort's decision looms large

Now, with Iowa's transfer class complete, they will now eagerly await the decision of senior guard Payton Sandfort, who is currently participating in NBA Draft activities while maintaining his college eligibility. Sandfort has until May 29 to decide if he wants to stay in the NBA Draft or return to Iowa for his final season.

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Though Sandfort hasn't made his choice, all signs point to him returning to Iowa City after a disappointing showing at the combine. If he returns to Iowa, then the Hawkeyes should be favored to get back to the NCAA Tournament after a one-year absence.