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McCaffery's dilemma – does he change the starting lineup?

[ 0 ] January 30, 2013 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Iowa’s long bench has made this a challenging season for Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery.

Who to play? Who to sit? Which lineup will click? How does he balance egos and get everyone the minutes they deserve?

Now another challenge has emerged. McCaffery is wrestling with making a change in his starting lineup for Thursday’s game with Penn State.

“A lot of times when you look at this, it’s not as simple as it may appear,” McCaffery said.

Melsahn Basabe of Iowa.

Melsahn Basabe of Iowa.

Melsahn Basabe has given Iowa a real lift off the bench, averaging 10.2 points and 5.4 rebounds over the last five games. McCaffery admits that Basabe deserves to start. But does that move erase the energy Basabe brings off the bench?

“Obviously he’s playing well,” McCaffery said. “So the logical conclusion is, we’ll just put him in the starting lineup. It may be the right thing for the team. It may not be, because he’s playing the best basketball of the last two years coming off the bench.”

Woodbury, a freshman making his first trip through the Big Ten, has averaged 2.0 points and 4.4 rebounds the last five games. If McCaffery doesn’t start him, does that crush Woodbury’s confidence?

“We may look at different lineups, because making a lineup change doesn’t mean that would be the only one,” McCaffery said. “It might be different, might not be. We’l l see.”

McCaffery has already

made one significant change. He inserted Anthony Clemmons into the starting point guard spot in the eighth game of the season, moved Mike Gesell to second guard and took Zach McCabe out of the starting lineup.

Basabe’s last start came in a home loss to Nebraska on Jan. 26, 2012. The junior forward has 52 career starts.

“Everyone wants to start,” Basabe said. “That’s just competitive nature.”

Basabe played 31 minutes off the bench in Sunday’s 65-62 overtime loss at Purdue. That’s the most minutes he’s logged in 41 games. He played 33 minutes as a starter in a victory at Wisconsin to open Big Ten play last season.

“I just care about being on the court,” said Basabe, who also played 27 minutes off the bench in a 72-63 loss at Ohio State Jan. 22 “It doesn’t matter how I get there.”

Basabe started all 31 games as a freshman, averaging 11.0 points and 6.8 rebounds. His numbers dropped to 8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in a disappointing sophomore season. McCaffery takes some of the blame for that slide. He thought Basabe needed to get bigger to withstand the physicality of the Big Ten. Basabe started the season at 235 pounds, up 20 from the end of his freshman year.

That added weight bogged Basabe down. He lost some of it, but never found a consistent rhythm to the season. He did give a glimpse to a promising future by averaging 15.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in Iowa’s two NIT games to end the season. Now he’s bringing a more consistent game to the floor.

“If anything, I think I should have been bringing this last year,” Basabe said.

It is the Basabe that McCaffery likes to have on the floor.

“I think with him, it’s all energy level,” McCaffery said. “He’s running, he’s jumping, he’s impacting the game with his athletic power. That’s what we need him to do. Plus, he can score.”

Whether he starts or not is McCaffery’s tough call.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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