At the beginning of the season, I felt that Iowa would go 11-5 and finish in either third or fourth place in the league. This prediction was made when Jared Reiner, Sean Sonderleiter, Mike Henderson and Nick DeWitz were healthy, eligible or still with the team.
DeWitz never played one minute in the Big Ten for Iowa, having flunked out and then leaving the team. Mike Henderson played in two games and scored nine points before he was ruled academically ineligible.
Jared Reiner played in three league games before missing the remainder of the season with a stress fracture in his foot. Sean Sonderleiter played in six games before leaving the team for personal reasons.
Reiner was averaging seven rebounds per game in Big Ten play along with 9.7 points per game. Sonderleiter was averaging 9.0 points per game and 4.7 rebounds. Those two losses left Iowa very, very thin underneath the glass and on the whole.
Heading into this season, I felt there were a few key areas that Iowa had to improve upon from last year if it wanted to make a run at an upper division Big Ten finish.
The first being that the Hawkeyes needed to be more consistent in taking care of the basketball.
In 2003, Iowa and 222 turnovers in league play to 223 assists, not the kind of ratio that you are looking for. That was an average of 13.9 turnovers per game compared to forcing 12.6 turnovers per game.
Iowa did not make any improvements in that area, and in fact, they backslid, committing 249 turnovers (15.56 per game) to go along with 230 assists (14.38 per game). They forced 13.13 turnovers per game in 2004.
If one is looking for a reason why Iowa was only able to put together one 2-game win streak this year in league play, look no further than the turnover column.
Another area that Iowa needed to improve upon was it's three-point shooting percentage.
In 2003, the Hawkeyes were an abysmal 70 of 262 from beyond the arc (.267) while their opponents were 113 of 320 (.353). That is 43 extra points scored by their opponents from three-point range, or 2.69 more points per game.
In 2004, the Hawkeye really righted that ship, hitting 102 of 258 three's in league play (.395) to 111-348 for their opponents (.319). While opponents still scored nine more points than Iowa from beyond the arc, they attempted 90 more shots from the outside, something Iowa will take every time.
Jeff Horner had a particularly poor percentage from three-point range last year, making just 17 of 75 from three (.227). Horner had probably never shot the ball that poorly in his life.
He worked hard on that area of his game in the off-season and that work paid off, as he made 43 of 84 shots from three-point land this year (.512). That percentage was good for the second best mark in the league and his 2.7 three-point field goals per game was third best in league play.
Tightening the defensive screws was another area that I felt Iowa needed to focus on, and they did just that.
The Hawkeyes finished high in nearly all of the defensive categories this year:
FG% Defense: 3rd
Blocked shots: 4th
3-PT Defense %: 2nd
Iowa also fared well in several major offensive categories:
3-PT %: 2nd
Scoring Offense: 2nd
The Hawkeyes will still have some work to do as they look towards next season, whenever and wherever this season comes to a conclusion.
Iowa allowed 69.6 points per game this season, which was second to last in the league. One of the factors for that number being out of sorts with Iowa's field goal defense number is the number of extra possessions their opponents enjoyed due to Iowa being careless with the basketball.
Opponents averaged 60.25 shots per game compared to Iowa's 51. Iowa's field goal defense percentage was .422. So applying those nine shots to Iowa's defensive field goal percentage, you get 3.8 more made basket's per game on the differential. If those nearly four baskets were just two-point goals, you are still talking nearly eight more points per game that Iowa's opponents scored due to the turnovers that Iowa committed, given that Iowa's rebounding margin was +0.6.
It's also probably not fair to expect Horner to shoot the three next year the way that he did this year. His first two seasons are probably going to be anomalies, but he is capable of making 40-percent of his three's, which would be a very good percentage.
Outside of taking care of the basketball better in 2004-2005, Iowa needs to improve at the free throw line.
Iowa attempted 120 more free throws than its opponents; they made 274 free throws, the same number of attempts by its opponents.
Iowa shot just .695 from the line, which ranked 8th in the league. Getting to the foul line is a great thing, but if you don't make the free throws, it's really like committing a turnover, especially when you are talking about a front end of a one-and-one. Missed free throws are an empty possession, and those misses also helped contribute to the shot attempts per game differential that really affected Iowa.
Lastly, Iowa needs to see an end to the comings and goings of so many players, either from academics or transfers.
There is nothing that you can do about injuries, but injuries are more apt to happen when you have a short bench and players are logging a lot of minutes.