Iowa fans kept waiting for the Bryce Cartwright from last season to re-emerge at point guard and it finally happened, at least for one game, against Wisconsin this past Saturday.
But now if you’re waiting for Cartwright to return to the starting lineup, that could take some time.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Tuesday morning on a teleconference that he won’t change his starting lineup for Wednesday’s game at Minnesota, even though Cartwright played so well during the 72-65 upset at Wisconsin.
“I’m sure he would prefer to start,” McCaffery said of the 6-foot-1 Cartwright, who scored 17 points, dished out five assists and had just one turnover against the Badgers. “But he’s a quality person and he’s a captain and he’s comfortable either way.
“He knows he’s going to play.”
And when Cartwright plays, that allows McCaffery to switch current starting point guard Devyn Marble to his more natural position of shooting guard.
The 6-6 Marble began the season as Cartwright’s backup at point guard. But with Cartwright slowed by health issues early in the season, Marble stepped in a point guard and has since blossomed into a top scorer on the team.
“Those guys are going to be on the floor a lot together,” McCaffery said of Cartwright and Marble. “And if you remember at the end of last season, it ended with those two in the starting lineup when we were playing our best.
“So I think a lot of times it’s easy to jump and say, `hey, these guys should be on the floor a lot and they should be in the starting lineup.’ We’ll, they’re going to be on the floor a lot together. There is no question about that.”
McCaffery has settled for now on a starting lineup that includes 6-5 junior Eric May at small forward. May would most likely be the player benched to make room for Cartwright in the starting lineup.
“But I don’t want to under-estimate the quality of play we’re getting from Eric May and how hard he’s worked,” McCaffery said. “A lot of times it’s the defense that gets overlooked and he’s been tremendous in that area.”
Cartwright, on the other hand, impacts the game more on offense because he scores and helps others score when playing well, as evidenced by the Wisconsin game and his performance throughout most of last season. In addition to leading the Big Ten in assists in conference games last season, Cartwright also ranked third on the team in scoring at nearly 11 points per game.
“He was a guy that we relied on for baskets in important parts of the game and late in the game,” McCaffery said. “And when he’s hitting that pull-up jumper that really changes a lot because he’s got the defense back on its heels when he hits the pull-up and then they’ve got to come get him and then everybody else is a little bit more open.
“It really changes a lot of things.”
Minnesota coach Tubby Smith, meanwhile, has had to change a lot of things since losing all-Big Ten forward Trevor Mbakwe to a season-ending knee injury in a loss against Dayton on Nov. 27.
Mbawke led the Big Ten in rebounding last season and was averaging a team-high 9.1 rebounds and 14 points per game in eight games this season.
It’s now taking the combined effort of 6-11 senior Ralph Sampson III and 6-7 junior Rodney Williams to make up for Mbawke on the boards. Sampson now leads Minnesota in rebounding at 5.1 per game followed by Williams at 4.9.
The Gophers have received a boost from 6-3 junior-college transfer Julian Welch, who leads the team in both scoring (10.3) and assists (2.5)
Minnesota has won the last six games against Iowa and has a 60-33 advantage against the Hawkeyes in Minneapolis.
Tubby Smith is in his fifth season as the Minnesota coach and his record is 7-1 against Iowa overall.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball