IOWA CITY — Fran McCaffery hopes and expects to have both Nicholas Baer and Ahmad Wagner back from injuries tonight.
He’ll need them because his Iowa basketball team is running up against the top scoring, top shooting team in the country when it visits Virginia Tech in a nationally televised 8 p.m. game in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Wagner missed just one game last week after injuring his shoulder in the second round of the Cayman Islands Classic. Baer, last year’s Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year, has yet to play in a game after breaking the pinkie finger on his left hand in practice a few days prior to the season opener.
Neither player had been officially cleared for game action when McCaffery spoke to reporters on a Monday morning teleconference, but he said he expected that to happen later in the day.
He said it will be great to have the 6-foot-7 Baer back on the court.
“We need his leadership,’’ McCaffery said. “He’s really good in practice and in the locker room on the road. I thought he was really good down in the Caymans even though he wasn’t playing.
“But obviously having him back out on the floor is even better. He can impact the game more and utilize his leadership on the floor better, especially when you go on the road. Guys that have been in those sort of road environments and performed successfully are who you need (Tuesday) night.’’
McCaffery said the former Bettendorf star is likely to be in his familiar role coming off the bench with either Wagner or freshman Jack Nunge starting at the small forward position.
The other Iowa player who has been sidelined lately, freshman Connor McCaffery, probably is still a few weeks away from playing. He has been battling mononucleosis and his condition got bad enough last week that he was hospitalized for two days.
The Hawkeyes (4-2) will need all the help they can get to slow down a Virginia Teach team that leads the country with an average of 102 points per game.
“They’re as good a transition team as I’ve seen in a long time in terms of anybody can take it, anybody can shoot it, anybody can finish it,’’ McCaffery said. “A lot of slashing teams can’t shoot the ball from the outside. This is a slashing team that has multiple 3-point shooters so that’s going to spread your defense out.’’
The Hokies (5-1) are shooting 58.3 percent from the field as a team and 49.8 from 3-point range. Both of those numbers lead the country, too.
“That clearly has your attention when you look at numbers like that …’’ McCaffery added.