FRAN VS. KIRK - THE CLOSE GAME THING

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

We get it, Kirk Ferentz has lost some close games and Fran McCaffery has too. So let's get to the bottom of who has had it worse when the margins were narrow.

Fran McCaffery's time at Iowa has been full of its ups and downs. There were some embarrassing losses his first year, but a big win over top-ten Purdue at the end of the season. There were disappointing losses and an overall mediocre record the next season, but a couple of impressive wins in February propelled them to a NIT berth. His third year, Iowa played really well, but some bad losses (like at Nebraska) and a weak non-conference schedule kept them out of the tournament. And this year... I'm not ready to talk about it.

But one thing has been fairly consistent throughout Fran's tenure... Iowa is disturbingly bad in close games. And that has, of course, led to plenty of jokes with the whole Kirk Ferentz close games meme. So, the next logical thing to do, was to comb through all the games Iowa has played under both Fran and Kirk and see who is worse.

Kirk Ferentz has been around a lot longer than Fran, but because of the much heavier basketball schedule the two have actually coached in about the same number of games (Fran - 137, Kirk - 187) and their overall win percent is very similar (Fran - 54.0%, Kirk - 57.7%). So the close game comparison, I think works out pretty well.

For basketball, let's just define a close game as 2 possessions and we'll give them 3 pointers just because. So a margin of 6 or less. For football, a close game is probably only 1 possession, and since we gave basketball threes, we'll give football 2-point conversions and put the mark at 8 points.

Fran's Close Games
10-27 (27.0%)
Kirk's Close Games
33-40 (45.2%)

While neither is super great, Fran's is considerably worse. It's just half of his overall win percent, while Kirk's is just a little lower than his overall average.

Anyway, the point of this post is not to bash Fran or try to figure out what's wrong with his teams when games get tight. It's just a (hopefully) fun comparison between sports. I've included more data below with a slightly interactive chart and table, so you can play with the numbers more if you want. Here's a few other stats that I found interesting:

  • The 3-point game haunting for both football and basketball. In games decided by 3, Fran is 2-12 and Kirk is 8-16.
  • At least Iowa doesn't get blown out a lot in either sport. Football has the only loss of 40+, a 46-point defeat against Michigan State in KF's first year.
  • Basketball has actually been successful in the 1-2 point games, with a 5-1 record. It's really those 3-6 point games that are killing them where they are 5-26.
  • During Iowa's magical run between 2002-2004, they were 10-1 in games decided by 7 points or less. (So that's not where the close game meme came from.)
  • But...from 2005-2007, they were 4-8 in close games, and then 6-12 between 2010 and 2013.
  • Fran has never had that successful streak of close games...his best year was 2012 when the team went 4-4.

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