Peter Jok. He's unstoppable from the three-point line right now but he hasn't left himself one-dimensional. Most importantly, he's creating a lot of turnovers on defense and scoring in transition. He's also attacking the rim and finishing or getting fouled in the paint. That is even more important so teams just can't crowd him consistently to take away his scoring. There's another element they have to be concerned about.
Not only that, but Jarrod Uthoff is the likely Big Ten player of the year. He's in the discussion along with Melo Trimble, Yogi Ferrell, Denzel Valentine, and A.J. Hammons. What makes Uthoff special is that he can score from just about anywhere on the court, but he's also an elite rebounder and shot blocker. Like many of the analysts on televsion have noted, he just doesn't block shots in help defense or from behind. He's an elite shot blocker when he's defending the ball because of his extraordinary length.
I know the rebounding struggled against Indiana in the first half but for the most part I've liked what they've done on the glass. Woodbury has reached double-digit rebounds a number of times in Big Ten play and Jarrod Uthoff is coming off a 15-rebound performance against Minnesota. Most of the great work on the glass has only been on the offensive end, though.
I mentioned it a few weeks ago but Mike Gesell's shot has kind of come back to life. He's got that 13-15 foot jumper apart of his arsenal that was lost for a few weeks. He's seemed to find that range once again. Clemmons' outside shooting has been falling at a high clip as well.
Their defense is elite. It wasn't the problem in the loss to Maryland and outside of the first 5-7 minutes, it wasn't the problem in the loss in Bloomington. It's an elite defense and has been nearly all year. Even Dom Uhl and Peter Jok are guarding well.
This team also takes care of the ball. It's very rare when they turn the ball over in the double-digits. They also share the ball. When you take care of the ball as well as they do, you'll always have a chance to win, even on the road. That's a large reason why they're 11-2 in the league and have road wins at places like East Lansing and West Lafayette.
WHAT ISN'T WORKING
As much as I've liked what they have done on the offensive glass, they have been putrid at times on the defensive glass. It definitely hurt them against Indiana and it has hurt them against other foes. They're coming up empty there for the large part. They are not in the top 100 in defensive rebounding. It hasn't been too much of a flaw where it has affected outcomes or their play on a regular basis. It was evident it was impacting the game early on in Bloomington but they seemed to regain control of it after the first half.
Free throw shooting has been bad all year. In the games where it wasn't bad, the ones they missed were in the final minutes. So even when they do miss, it is coming at bad times. It is one of the many reasons they fell in Bloomington. It hasn't bitten them much but they did bounce back at the line against Minnesota. I'm not sure this is just a fixable problem to not be concerned about. I think it's one of the few flaws this club has.
I do not think the bench is a flaw for this team but it is certainly a portion of the team that is going through their struggles. All of Brady Ellingson, Ahmad Wagner, Dom Uhl, and Nicholas Baer have been cold in terms of scoring. Uhl has been active but ineffective. Ellingson may be the coldest and his impact on the last few games is hard to find. Baer has been cold shooting from the outside for a stretch now but he's a tough kid that finds a way to contribute somehow. Wagner has still been productive. He has found a niche as a physical defender, aggressive rebounder, and someone that can create second chance points. But as a whole they are in a slump. And they may be hitting a wall. The unit that comes off the bench is still pretty young and inexperienced. Two are redshirt freshmen and one is a true freshman.
Iowa has also had a few slow starts recently but I don't think that is a trend, at least not yet.
THE UPCOMING WEEK
It's not a busy week for the Hawkeyes. It's not a two-game slate. They only have one game and then there's a week until the next. They travel to Happy Valley on Wednesday where they'll have to grind out a win over Penn State. I see them coming away with a win but it might not be easy. The Nittany Lions tend to play tough despite losing by 24 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena earlier in the season.
BIG TEN RACE FOR FIRST
Iowa is in the outright lead for the conference again after Indiana and Maryland both fell last week. Iowa should go into next week still in the lead since they are expected to take care of business at Penn State. But can they gain another game on either the Hoosiers or Terrapins?
Indiana has a home contest Wednesday night against Nebraska that they should win. Assembly Hall is a tough place to play for anyone. They also host Purdue Saturday night. That's a step up in competition, but again, it's tough to pick against the Hoosiers in Bloomington. I think Indiana has a 2-0 week.
The Terps have two games but I also see them coming out on top in both. They travel to Minneapolis on Thursday and they'll likely grind out a win over the Gophers. They host Michigan on Sunday. That is a tougher opponent but they'll be looking for revenge after falling to the Wolverines in Ann Arbor earlier in the year.
One spot remains in the 2017 class. The 2016 is already signed and sealed with Ryan Kreiner, Cordell Pemsl, Jordan Bohannon, and Tyler Cook. The 2017 group has Connor McCaffery but there's one spot left and they'd love for it to be a true center. There's two priority options for that vacancy right now in Malik Williams of Fort Wayne and Jeremiah Tilmon of La Porte, Indiana. Tilmon is an AAU teammate of Tyler Cook and has been hearing from the Hawkeye signee often.
The Hawkeyes are players for both.