Prior to the start of the year, most of us knew that this year's team would not soar to the heights experienced by last year's squad.
How are the teams different? How are they similar? What trends can we look at from year to year?
Here's a look at how this year's team compares to last year's team, via statistics and through 17 games. You might be surprised at some of the things you read.
Last year's Iowa team averaged 54.6 points per game from it's starting five of Adam Haluska, Greg Brunner, Jeff Horner, Mike Henderson and Erek Hansen, or roughly 81.8% of its points. This year's team is getting 72.7% of its scoring punch from its starting five, which seems to have settled into a Haluska, Tyler Smith, Mike Henderson, Seth Gorney and Cyrus Tate fivesome.
Last year's team averaged 66.7 points per game through 17 games, this year's team is averaging 69.8 points per game through the same number of games. This year's team is allowing 63.2 points per game, last year's team averaged 56.6 points per game allowed through 17 games.
The big difference there is this year's team is allowing opponents to hit 42.2% of its field goals, while last year's team held opponents to 36.8% shooting.
Last year's team had committed 253 turnovers through 17 games, an average of 14.8 per game. This year's team has committed 229 turnovers, or an average of 13.4 turnovers per game. I am guessing that number may have surprised a few of you. That's a big improvement, and one that is necessary for a team that isn't as fierce on the defensive end of the court as it was one year ago.
That difference is offset on the backboards. This year's team is -1.9 in rebounding margin per game, where last year's team was +4.2; last year's team averaged seven more rebounds per game. This year's Iowa team has 26 fewer offensive rebounds than last year's team, and has surrendered 14 more of them.
This year's team is actually allowing opponents to attempt 3.6 fewer shots per game than it did one year ago, another surprising statistic, given the rebounding disadvantage. This year's team is also shooting better from the floor, making 43.7% of its field goal attempts compared to making just 41.4% of its attempts last year. This year's team has taken nine more three point shots over 17 games than it did last year and has made 38.3% of them; last year's team was making just 31.8% of its three-point shots through 17 games. Iowa opponents are making 31.8% of their three's this year compared to 29.9% a year ago, and this year's foes have only attempted seven more shots….this year's team has four more assists through 17 games than did last year's team.
Last year's team got to the free throw line an average of 1.8 more times per game than this year's team, yet this year's team has just three fewer made free throws through 17 games than did last year's club. Last year's team was hitting 71.2 percent of its free throws at this point in the year, compared to 77.6% this year.
One big difference between the two teams is that last year's team had 93 blocked shots through 17 games compared to 60 this year; that can be explained in the loss of Erek Hansen, the league's Defensive Player of the Year last year. This year's team has 13 more steals.
This year's team has committed 50 more fouls than did last year's team, so not surprisingly, this year's team is allowing 3.4 more free throw attempts per game. They are making 2.3 more free throws per game this year. An interesting stat is how poorly teams have shot free throws against Iowa the last two years; this year, teams are making just 63.4% from the line against Iowa, where last year teams made just 62.7%. It must be something in the Iowa air, because visiting teams to Kinnick Stadium have missed a TON of field goals in recent years….sorry, that's for another column.
Stats don't paint an entire picture. Stats don't talk about time and score, mental decisions at crucial times. Stats don't factor in things like having five turnovers in one half and 11 in another, but that's also the game of college basketball. You see it each week in every league.
But speaking purely from statistics, it's interesting to see some similarities between a team that is 10-7 and a team that won 25 games in a league that is not as good this year as it was last year. Again, rebounding is an area of obvious concern for this team and it probably will be that way over the course of the next 13 games.
It's great to see that this year's team is under 14 turnovers per game, and it's clear that this team needs to develop a tougher defensive mindset in half court settings. Iowa's move to mix in zone defenses this year has been a great decision by the coaching staff.
Last year's team also had three consistent scorers that it could rely on in late game situations, where this year's team has two. That makes a difference down the stretch.
Through 17 games last year, Iowa was 13-4 overall and 2-1 in conference play. Jeff Horner was coming back from injury.
This year's team is very, very close to having an identical record, were it not for the late blown leads against UNI and Arizona State, it would be 12-5.
We know where this team needs to improve, but it's interesting, and to me, even encouraging to look at this year's numbers in light of where the team was a year ago.