What's Wrong With Iowa Hoops?

Iowa's in the midst of quite the struggle, losing four of the last five. What's gone wrong for the Hawkeyes?

Let's first examine the facts. Iowa began the year before this titanic struggle began with a 19-4 record and they were 10-1 in the Big Ten. Fast forward to now and they're 20-8 overall and 11-5 in the conference. Those are good numbers still but a far cry from what they were originally and which is reason for all the disappointment that's swept over the program the last two weeks. 

The losses came against Indiana in Bloomington, Penn State in State College, Wisconsin at home, and then Ohio State in Columbus. The lone win since the victory over Illinois on February 7 is on February 14 against Minnesota in a very sloppy contest inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Today is February 29. These are tough times for the Hawkeyes, indeed.

Let's look at some of what is ailing Fran McCaffery's squad.

The Indiana game needs to be tempered some. When looking at the numbers and watching the game, Iowa actually played well in this contest. The turnovers are down. They shot well. They were in position to win in Assembly Hall. There's not too many teams that can say that. The problems in that game were that the Hoosiers shot just as well and the bench was outscored 28-0. The bench was a huge problem in that game and in the matchups thereafter. But the play was good in Bloomington. They got out-rebounded a little but there wasn't a huge discrepancy.

The problems are more evident on tape and on paper against Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State.

Against all three, Iowa shot poorly. The Hawkeyes shot 46 percent from the field against the Hoosiers and 41 percent beyond the arc. They only shot 41 percent against Penn State, 33 percent against Wisconsin, and 41 percent against Ohio State. From the 3-point line they only shot 33 percent against Penn State, 28 percent against Wisconsin, and 25 percent against Ohio State.

The question is why. Is it just poor shooting? Only part of it is. The ball movement is down. The player movement is down. The shot selection is poor because they're not getting the looks they were because the offensive flow isn't there. They're also not getting out and running in transition as well. Defense is part of the problem here because they're not getting as many stops and the half-court offense has been weaker.

Let's examine the defense. The Buckeyes were awful from the three-point line. But Penn State shot 36 percent from distance and Wisconsin shot 44 percent. This isn't much more than what they were allowing when they were 10-1 in the league other than the game against the Badgers. It's the second chance opportunities. It's the stops they're not getting. They're not capitalizing turnovers and running. That's what they were doing early on. 

They're not getting bench scoring they were. The starters aren't scoring more than they were initially but the bench is scoring less. That's points that are missing. In a win against Northwestern, the bench scored 23. In the win over Penn State, the bench scored 28. Dom Uhl scored 8 and Nicholas Baer scored 7 against Northwestern. Dom Uhl and Nicholas Baer both scored 8 against Penn State.

In the losses, the bench didn't score against Indiana, 10 against Penn State, 4 against Wisconsin, and 10 against Ohio State. They were scoring 15-20 but now it's 5-10. That's 10-15 less points a game Iowa is getting right now. It's been said they just need the bench to be active and produce in all sorts of ways. They don't technically need to be scoring at high clips. But that's what was happening when they were winning. And if the scoring from the bench drops, it needs to be accounted for somewhere else. But it hasn't. Mike Gesell isn't scoring more other than the Ohio State game. Uthoff's scoring has dropped and Jok's has went up. But Woodbury, Clemmons, and Gesell aren't scoring more. They're not making up for that decrease in scoring from the bench.

Were all the easy wins and double-digit wins early on a bad omen? It doesn't look like a senior-laden team. They were earlier on in the season. They were taking care of the ball and not turning it over. The assist to turnover ratios were fantastic. They no longer are. They are locking up in the final 2-3 minutes of games now. They miss key free throws, the offense stalls, they don't score, and the ball stops. To me, this is the biggest issue. It happened a few times when things were going extremely well and I warned about it then. 

So, to me, it's not the shooting of other teams that people, including myself, have mentioned. It is the final minutes of the game, it is the bench, it is the turnovers, it's not creating the turnovers and scoring off of it, and it's all the things that are causing them to not be efficient scoring from the field themselves.

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