Think about this for a second…you score 92 points (52 in the second half), you are +2 on the boards, you make 65.4 percent of your shots in the second half, you make 71.4 percent of your free throws and you are +4 in free throw attempts and you hit 14 of 24 three pointers.
Yet, you lose by 14 points and, truth be told, it was actually worse than it appeared.
To me, it's pretty easy to sum up what happened; Greg Brunner and Erek Hansen got into early foul trouble and combined to play just 14 minutes in the first half, and the guards wore down after playing two very closely contested games against two high-pressure defensive teams ranked in the Top 15. One also needs to remember that North Carolina was a preseason #1 in several publications and polls.
Iowa ‘fell' to 3-1 with the loss, but the trip to Hawaii certainly has to be viewed as a success in the eyes of Steve Alford.
The wins over Louisville and Texas will serve his Hawkeyes well in the confidence department, and they might also help the Hawkeyes make a return appearance to the NCAA tournament in March. Both of those teams figure to be ranked all season long, and those wins will keep on giving in the RPI department.
Iowa won those games despite not being anywhere near the type of offensive team they should be come the Big Ten regular season in early January.
So what do we know about the Iowa Men's Basketball team that we didn't know a few weeks ago?
1. They can attack. Again Louisville and Texas, they were plus-seven in the turnover department while playing very aggressively on the offensive end. Alford has more scoring options this year than at any other time during his tenure at Iowa. We all know that Greg Brunner, Pierre Pierce and Jeff Horner are going to get their points. But Erek Hansen showed that he can put some points on the board while playing against three ranked teams. Adam Haluska finally broke out against UNC, as he ‘looked the part' for the first time this year.
2. They are deep. At least in the backcourt. Cartlon Reed is going to be a very good player for Iowa. He showed poise when he played this week and it's exciting to think about the player he should become at Iowa. Mike Henderson's outside shooting has improved, and he is a very good defender.
With Horner, Pierce and Haluska, Iowa boasts one of the best backcourts in the league. Alex Thompson is still raw, but he will be a solid player for Iowa down the road, perhaps even this season. Doug Thomas is going to do the dirty work for Iowa this year, and he should improve as he gets more comfortable in his new surroundings and as Iowa finds its offensive identity. He won't be playing against Top 15 teams each and every night, and he should really be able to contribute this year.
3. They can play defense. OK, 106 points to UNC was not good, but they are perhaps the best transition team in college basketball and Iowa was dead tired. That does not mean that Iowa is going to beat UNC six times out of ten if they were well rested.
Erek Hansen is going to be a force this year on the defensive end. He is averaging four blocks per game thus far, and he is altering numerous shots that he does not get a hand on. Pierce and Henderson are very good on ball defenders.
Iowa is allowing teams to make 47.3 percent of their shots, so you might think I am wrong here. But Iowa has also played three teams that shoot the ball extremely well from the perimeter. They are not going to see these types of opponent's night in and night out in the Big Ten.
Illinois, Michigan State and Wisconsin are capable of doing that, but Iowa plays just four games against those teams. They should fare well against Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue.
4. They are good in transition. This team likes to push it, and against Louisville and Texas, two teams that push right back, Iowa held their own.
Iowa's big men run the floor extremely well, and that is going to help them score a lot of points in transition this season.
On the whole, I am extremely happy with Iowa's trip to Hawaii:
- They averaged 83.3 points per game against three teams ranked in the Top 15
- They were ‘just' minus four in the turnover department, a big improvement over recent years
- Jeff Horner continued his torrid shooting pace from three-point land
- Erek Hansen is emerging as perhaps the second best shot blocker in school history
- Adam Haluska is rounding into shape
- This team IS as athletic as we thought it might be
- They have given themselves a good RPI boost to start the year
- They played well on national television
- They are no where near their peak on the offensive end
- They are +2 turnovers per game
- They are shooting .424 from three
- They have a +3 assist to turnover ratio, good compared to recent years
- They are averaging 6.5 blocks per game
- They have five players averaging at least 9.8 points per game
In all, it has been a great start to a very important 2004-2005 season. Iowa should also be ranked in the Top 25 in next week's poll.
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