It's easy to have gotten caught up in irrational Iowa basketball optimism lately (or before this past Sunday, anyway), and why not? A win at Indiana, a smacking of Michigan State, the nearest of near-misses against Wisconsin; why not get optimistic? Why not think Iowa is basically interchangeable with the sixth- or seventh-best team in the Big Ten at that point?
Well, Minnesota helped bring Iowa fans back to earth with a 62-45 win on Sunday, a game that featured a span of about 20 minutes of game time where the Hawkeyes scored nine points. Todd Lickliter applauds, gentlemen.
And with that game, John Gasaway provides his weekly rundown of conference-only tempo-free stats. While it looks good for the Big Ten, it looks horrible for Iowa; the Hawkeyes are yet again worst in the conference:
W-L Pace PPP Opp. PPP EM 1. Wisconsin 9-3 56.3 1.18 1.03 +0.15 2. Ohio St. 11-1 62.6 1.14 1.02 +0.12 3. Purdue 9-3 64.8 1.13 1.02 +0.11 4. Illinois 6-6 64.3 1.08 1.02 +0.06 5. Penn St. 6-7 58.5 1.07 1.08 -0.01 6. Minnesota 6-7 62.4 1.05 1.06 -0.01 7. Michigan St. 6-6 61.3 1.05 1.09 -0.04 8. Michigan 6-7 60.9 1.07 1.13 -0.06 9. Indiana 3-10 63.8 1.04 1.11 -0.07 10. Northwestern 4-9 62.9 1.05 1.14 -0.09 11. Iowa 3-10 64.6 0.98 1.10 -0.12 AVG. 62.0 1.08
That -0.12 looks bad, and it is; that means for every possession, Iowa gets outscored by .12 points on average. At 64.6 possessions per game, that means Iowa's averaging about an 8-point loss per game in conference play (Last season, it was a nine-point loss. Progress!).
Now, if you peruse the rest of the conferences, you'll see that while Iowa's in last place in the Big Ten, there would be very few instances where Iowa's -0.12 efficiency margin, 0.98 offensive efficiency, or 1.10 defensive efficiency would rank at the bottom of in a different conference. This is a very competitive, cupcake-free conference top to bottom.
What really dooms Iowa, obviously, is the team's offensive production. It's by far the worst in the Big Ten (and yet significantly better than last year's 0.94 mark. Progress!) and not at all surprising. After all, think of the offensive limitations this team faces:
- Bryce Cartwright is in his first year in this offense, has an inconsistent jumper, and is basically shouldering the PG load by himself thanks to Cully Payne's lingering injury;
- Matt Gatens really struggles to create his own shot, and his three-point shooting is pedestrian for the second season in a row. His assist numbers are also way down;
- Eric May is brilliant in the open court, but terribly inefficient in the half-court set (to the point that he's a liability unless his long-range jumper is dropping, which isn't often);
- Jarryd Cole is playing center despite being slightly undersized--for a power forward, that is--and he just doesn't have any polish on the inside;
- Melsahn Basabe works his butt off, but he's got to learn some reliable post moves sooner or later. Consistency is also a major problem for the true freshman. These problems will be helped with experience, one would figure, but that comes later and Iowa needs points now;
- Andrew Brommer gets hustle points but there is absolutely no reason to run an offense through him;
- And the rest of the role players are Zach McCabe (true freshman), Roy Devyn Marble (true freshman), Devon Archie (not very good), and Jordan Stoermer (walk-on).
The good news is that next year, Payne should be healthy, the freshmen will have valuable experience, and Cartwright will actually have familiar teammates for once. In other words, the situation is hardly hopeless. We should have high expectations for next season! NIT? Why the hell not?
Ah yes, the defense; that's why not. Actually, I'm not terribly perturbed by the 1.10 DPPP; a lot of that has to do with the wretched turnover rate Iowa has: the Hawkeyes turn the ball over on 22% of possessions, which is just as lousy as it sounds. Of course, the high-pressure defense forces turnovers at an even greater rate--which A: is delightful and B: makes that 0.98 offensive rate all the worse--but those rates are pretty much independent. With a proper point guard corps and an older group of core players, Iowa's turnover rate should diminish, and that should help the efficiency tremendously.
Further, 1.10 DPPP isn't that bad; it's barely above the conference average of 1.08 points scored (and, since this is conference-only, allowed) per possession. It's not good, mind you, but it's hard to get as worked up about this issue as with the offense, considering the fact that the effort is at least there. We never see guys dogging it on the court or anything, after all; it's just that the depth isn't there to really get after the opposing offense for 40 minutes. Not yet, anyway.
So, that's where we stand in the conference. Not good, but not at all in intractably dire straits either. Patience... but not too much of it. Things ought to be better very soon.