Iowa has started out the season with a 7-3 record which includes wins over Wichita State, Florida State, and Marquette. All three losses come from tough squads in Notre Dame, Dayton, and Iowa State. It'd be a challenge to find many other programs that have had a more difficult schedule thus far. It won't get any easier when Big Ten play begins in January.
Notre Dame, Dayton, and Iowa State should all advance to the NCAA Tournament comfortably.
Wichita State was without Fred VanVleet and lost to everyone they played at the Advocare Invitational in Orlando so it's a victory that has a bit less shine than anticipated. However, with VanVleet back, the Shockers could find their stride the rest of the year. They've responded with wins over Saint Louis, UNLV, and Utah.
Florida State is a team that could be moderately competitive in the ACC. They have nice wins over DePaul and VCU but fell to Hofstra in addition to Iowa.
Though Marquette lost to Belmont and the Hawkeyes, and had to go into overtime to defeat IUPUI, they've won every game since their home loss to Iowa. They knocked off LSU and Arizona State in New York and took down Wisconsin in Madison.
Safe to say, Iowa will not have to worry about bolstering their case at the end of the season especially since they'll play in the Big Ten and have opportunities against the likes of Maryland, Michigan State, Purdue, Michigan, and Indiana.
The one obvious plus to the early season has been the play of Jarrod Uthoff, Peter Jok, Anthony Clemmons, and Mike Gesell. Adam Woodbury has also been a fine presence underneath on defense. Uthoff has been torching everyone, even averaging almost 30 points in his last few games. He's averaging almost 20 a game on the season.
Jok has been shooting the lights out. His defense could still use some improvement but he's been a great alternative scorer to Uthoff. When teams key and game plan against Uthoff, it has been Jok that has picked up the slack. He's had a few injuries pop up at a couple different points this season that have limited him. His presence throughout the season is going to be a huge key in how the Hawkeyes fare.
Clemmons and Gesell do a great job at dictating the pace of the game. Clemmons is a fire plug that plays with a ton of energy. Gesell is the intelligent player that always makes the correct decision and commits very few mistakes. Clemmons just needs to play a bit smarter on the offensive end of the floor and Gesell has to avoid foul trouble that caught him in two different ball games. Their experience has been valuable already this season. Gesell has also improved his shot percentage from the perimeter which is always a good sign.
Woodbury may be the most valuable player on the team that is saying something because of how guys like Uthoff and Jok have played. It is evident by how the team plays and defends when he isn't on the floor. His size on the defensive end of the floor is irreplaceable because he's been so good in that area but also because they lose a ton of size after him. There's a bit of a drop off. They're developing a few guys like Ahmad Wagner and Dom Uhl off the bench but neither are the big presence inside that Woodbury is. Uhl is more comfortable on the perimeter and Wagner is just a true freshman. Though Wagner is a physical, tough guy that can play in the post, he's not the rim protector that Woodbury is.
Iowa has shot the ball extremely well. They're extremely athletic. They run well. That's what this team is centered on this season. They knock down shots from the perimeter and run.
This season has actually gone better for the Hawkeyes than it may appear just because the Dayton game was certainly winnable and the Iowa State loss was a heartbreaker after being ahead by 20 points earlier in the game.
There's still some areas that do need addressed. The free throw shooting has been abysmal in a handful of games. The turnovers happen at an alarming rate when Gesell is not in the game. There's no easy replacement for when Adam Woodbury leaves the floor. The rebounding has improved but that was a concern earlier on in the season. The defense has been inconsistent, but mostly when Woodbury is not in the game. A few guys like Peter Jok and Dom Uhl have to improve on that end of the floor. The bench has disappeared in a few games and is very inconsistent.
What are the answers? There's no obvious ones. The bench is practically full of freshmen so that should improve as the year goes on. The defense will have to learn how to play together when they have to go small without Woodbury on the floor. Woodbury has to avoid foul trouble at all costs. What they lack in size they make up for in athleticism. They need to capitalize on that and wear down teams with their speed, quickness, and athleticism, especially the teams that are more comfortable with going bigger.