By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Much has been said and written about Jordan Bohannon’s supposed flaws as a point guard, but imagine the Iowa men’s basketball team without him.
It’s not a pretty picture, but that could be the circumstance when Iowa faces Big Ten power Michigan State on Tuesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery told the media on Monday that Bohannon suffered a physical setback without being specific and would not practice on Monday.
Bohannon is listed as questionable for Tuesday’s game, which starts at 8:05 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN.
“It's weird because he was feeling awful on Saturday,” McCaffery said of Bohannon, who leads Iowa with 70 3-point baskets and with 132 assists. “He felt a little bit better yesterday. Seemed like he was on his way back, and then today he feels worse. So he won't be around anybody today.”
McCaffery was asked on Monday if he had concerns that Bohannon’s illness would spread to his teammates.
“If we thought it was the full-blown flu, we obviously would (be concerned),” McCaffery said.
Whatever the 6-foot Bohannon is suffering from hampered his performance in this past Saturday’s 82-58 loss at Penn State. He played 24 minutes, attempted just three shots and scored three points as Iowa fell to 3-9 in the Big Ten and 12-13 overall.
Bohannon has been criticized for not being a true point guard and for lacking the quickness needed to play the position at the Big Ten level, especially on defense.
But the former Linn-Mar star is also arguably Iowa’s most important player due to being the only point guard on the team and because of his ability to make 3-point shots.
McCaffery said junior Brady Ellingson has been cleared from concussion protocol and should be available for Tuesday’s game.
“We need all the guards we can get,” McCaffery said.
However, the 6-4 Ellingson is more of a shooting guard who struggles to defend and handle the ball as a point guard.
McCaffery's son, Connor McCaffery, played point guard in high school and during brief stretches this season. But Connor, a 6-5 freshman, has missed almost the entire season because of physical ailments and now seems headed for a redshirt season.
Sophomore Maishe Dailey appears to be the next man in at point guard if Bohannon can’t play on Tuesday.
“It’s always tough losing one of the best shooters in the country,” the 6-7 Dailey said of Bohannon. “But I will be ready.”
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Fourth-ranked Michigan State has won 10 of the last 12 games against Iowa, but the two teams have split the last six games in Iowa City.
Iowa also has won its last two games at home against Wisconsin and Minnesota by scores of 85-67 and 94-80, respectively.
“I think there is a level of just being comfortable, especially with the rims and shooting,” freshman center Luke Garza said of playing at home. “We’ve done so much practicing here I think we shoot better at home sometimes.
“We love our fans, so it definitely helps to be playing on our home court, especially against a team like this.”
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Michigan State will enter Tuesday’s game riding a six-game winning streak and with one of the conference’s deepest and most talented teams.
All five of Michigan State’s starters average in double figures as scorers led by sophomore forward Miles Bridges with a 17.4 per-game average.
Michigan State is also 8-2 in games played away from East Lansing, Mich., including 4-1 in true road contests.
So even with Bohannon running the point, beating the Spartans would be a monumental task.
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“It’s always fun to compete against really good guys like they have,” Iowa sophomore forward Tyler Cook said of Michigan State. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Iowa won the last game played between the two teams at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, 83-70, on Dec. 29, 2015 when Michigan State was ranked No. 1 in the country.
The Spartans are playing at an elite level once again under veteran coach Tom Izzo, whereas Iowa has been a major disappointment this season.
But even with a record below .500, the Iowa players aren’t conceding anything or lowering their goals as a team.
“I’m never going to lower my goals,” Garza said. “We all came to this school with a dream and nothing is going to take away from that dream.
“When I was a freshman in high school, no one thought I would be a high-major basketball player and I’m here.”
Iowa vs. Michigan State
When: 8:05 p.m., Tuesday
Where: Carver-Hawkeye Arena