Three games and three wins into the season, Iowa entered the Thanksgiving extended weekend with a chance to play some quality competition and to potentially come away with a top 25 ranking. Now, four days later, and with a tournament record of 1-2, that top 25 ranking probably isn't happening for a while.
It's not that Iowa played horribly in the Advocare International. No, that was Wichita State, who was running out their B squad on the court. Instead, Iowa played well, for the most part. What hurt them, though, were two terrible ten-minute stretches against Dayton and Notre Dame, followed by the inability to close out those games after they had made late comebacks. That is what had them playing in the seventh place game on Sunday morning. No, it was not the outcome we were all looking for, but it's not like Iowa looked completely overmatched in the tournament, either.
So let's go back and review all three games and see where things went right -- and wrong -- for the Hawkeyes.
Four Factors in Review
Iowa Won 1 of 4 Factors
Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.05, Dayton 1.12
Iowa's first round game against the Flyers came down to two things: 1) foul trouble; and 2) defense in the paint and in transition. Both of these were related issues, of course, as Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury both had early foul issues. Gesell earned 2 fouls in the first 2 minutes of the game, and sat the rest of the period. Meanwhile, Woodbury also picked up a second foul and had to take a seat with just under 10:00 left to play in the first half. Both proved detrimental for Iowa's defense, as Dayton not only killed Iowa off the dribble and got some easy looks in the paint, but also consistently beat them down the court for some easy buckets.
Now, while Mike Gesell's defense was sorely missed on the perimeter, Adam Woodbury not being in the game was probably the biggest issue with Iowa's defense. There were two spurts in which he was not on the court in the first half. The first one was from the 14:18 mark to the 10:16 mark. The other was from the 9:48 mark for the remainder of the half. If we look at when he was on the court, the Flyers had all of 3 field goal attempts near the rim in that approximate 7 minute span. Plus, one of those came on a fast break, so it's not like Woodbury was going to be in the paint to alter that shot. But when Woodbury was on the bench, Dayton had 11 tries in that 13 minute span. Adjusting for the time difference, Dayton averaged 0.43 shots attempts per minute in the paint when Woody was playing and 0.85 attempts when he wasn't. That's pretty much double the attempts. Sure, Dayton made 63-66% of those attempts no matter whether Iowa's big Shrek was on the court or not, but Woodbury's deterrent effect was how he made his presence felt on the game. I mean, it's not a coincidence that when Woodbury went out for the remainder of the first half, Dayton went on a 26-16 run. And it's also not a surprise that they won the rebounding battle in the first half, while Iowa won it in the second half when #34 was back on the hardwood.
Anyway, that was a long-winded way of saying fouls hurt Iowa against Dayton. It killed them because it took two of their best defenders out of the game for long periods of time, but it also killed them on the offensive end because Iowa's offense doesn't run the same when Mike Gesell isn't on the court. Dayton's defense was so quick and aggressive that without Mike Gesell to work his way into the teeth of the defense and find the open man, Iowa settled for lots of jumpers.
|Iowa||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG||FT|
|Dayton||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG||FT|
And while Iowa shot the ball well from the field, jumpers aren't high-percentage shots and they don't possess the same foul-drawing qualities that shots near the rim have. And even when Iowa actually did get to the line, they didn't shoot very well and missed the front-end of some crucial one-and-ones at the end of the game that could have changed the final outcome.
It is what it is, though. Dayton played hard-nosed, aggressive defense the way we expected them to, and they took advantage of Iowa's foul trouble and inability to get the job done at the free throw line. Kudos to them on a nice win.
Uthoff was Iowa's player of the tournament and he was probably Iowa's player of the game against Dayton, but it was an interesting performance. He finished the game with 18 points on 6-15 shooting (4-7 from downtown), but scored 15 of those points in the first half and then disappeared after halftime. Iowa really could have used a nice performance from him at the end of this game.
After Uthoff, Clemmons was probably Iowa's second best player. He played 34 minutes because of Gesell's foul troubles and finished with 11 points and 6 assists. Sapp was cold from the floor in the first half, scoring only 2 points. But with Gesell on the bench, Clemmons took over the assist duties and handed out 5 dimes in the first twenty minutes. When Mikey G. came back after halftime, Clemmons relinquished the assist responsibilities and scored 9 points for the Hawkeyes as they clawed their way back into the game.
Peter Jok had a ridiculously inefficient 12 points on the night, seeing how it took him 12 field goal attempts and 3 free throw attempts to put up that point total. He also had 3 turnovers and some issues on defense. Adam Woodbury scored 6 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in his 23 minutes on the court, while Mike Gesell had 7 points and 3 assists in just 15 minutes of play. I know it didn't happen this way, but I think this is a much different game if these two stay out of foul trouble.
Lastly, please note that Nicholas Baer is mis-plotted on this chart. There was a calculation error that gave him an adjusted game score per minute of 0 for this game and the Notre Dame one. He had an adjusted game score per minute of 0.23 against Dayton, which means his diamond should be right around Mike Gesell.
Four Factors in Review
Iowa Won 1 of 4 Factors
Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.01, Notre Dame 1.11
While Dayton is a defense-first team, Notre Dame is pretty much the opposite. This game pretty much came down to which team shot the ball better. And that wasn't Iowa.
|Iowa||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG||FT|
|Notre Dame||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG||FT|
The Hawkeyes weren't quite as ice cold in the second half, but the final ten minutes of the first half is again where Iowa dug themselves a deep hole for the second night in a row. While the Irish were up 14-13 on Iowa after the first ten minutes of the initial period, Notre Dame ended the half on a 25-14 run. This run consisted of Iowa clanging long jumper after long jumper on the offensive end of the court, while Notre Dame was making it rain from outside on the other end, in part thanks to some horrible defensive rotations by Iowa. Seriously, watching the game on TV from home, I was probably a closer defender on some of Notre Dame's open looks from three than Iowa was.
But even down 39-27 at halftime, Iowa came out of the locker room after intermission and staged another comeback for the second consecutive night. Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury put on a clinic in the pick and roll, Jarrod Uthoff did his usual thing, and Iowa dominated on the offensive glass. Unfortunately, the Hawkeyes' improved shooting in the second half still wasn't up to par with what they have shown early on this season, and despite grabbing 8 offensive rebounds, they only came away with 4 second chance points in the final 20 minutes of play. Needless to say, that wasn't enough to win the game and the comeback fell short. Again.
Fran rode the starters hard in this game. But the only guys who did much of anything for the Hawks were Uthoff, Woodbury, and Gesell. Uthoff scored 20 points on the night, shooting 8-16 from the field (2-5 from three-point range) and 2-3 from the line. He also hauled in 8 rebounds (2 offensive), blocked 2 shots, and had 1 steal.
Gesell made his presence felt on this game after sitting most of the Dayton game out. He made a living off of penetrating the Notre Dame defense, as 8 of his 15 field goal tries came near the rim and it also allowed him to get to the free throw line for 6 attempts. His constant probing of the defense also allowed him to dish out 9 assists on the night. Unfortunately, Gesell only made 4 of his 8 attempts at the rim and his 9 assist total also likely had the potential to be higher if Iowa hadn't had such an off shooting night.
Adam Woodbury also made amends for the previous game. He scored 14 points on 7-9 shooting from the floor and completed a double-double by grabbing 10 rebounds (4 offensive). As I mentioned before, he and Gesell ran a beautiful pick and roll game throughout the contest. Hopefully that will be something we see more of as the season goes on, along with a focus on getting the ball inside.
Again, please note that there is an error with Nicholas Baer on this chart. He had an adjusted game score per minute of 0.28 against Notre Dame, which should put him right above the second "O" in "Not Good." So feel free to exclude Baer from that circle of horror that was the rest of the bench plus Clemmons and Jok.
Four Factors in Review
Iowa Won 3 of 4 Factors
Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.31, Wichita State 0.95
This was a much needed change of pace from the first two games of the tournament. Iowa took advantage of a Fred VanVleet-less Wichita State team and shredded it into oblivion. There was no Iowa comeback needed in this one, as the Hawkeyes led for the entire forty minutes of play. Making up for their cold shooting against the Irish, Iowa came out blazing hot against the Shockers. In both halves of basketball, the good black and gold squad had an effective field goal percentage of better than 60%. Not only were they hot from the field in this one, but they also put more of an emphasis on getting the ball to the basket than they had in the past two games.
|Iowa||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG||FT|
|Wichita State||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG||FT|
Jarrod Uthoff and Adam Woodbury had 18 of Iowa's 26 points in the paint, while Mike Gesell continued his penetrating ways and it earned him 6 free throw attempts on the day. Hell, even Peter Jok was able to to get in on the foul-drawing affair with 6 free throw attempts in this one.
On defense, Iowa shut down Ron Baker by hedging hard and double-teaming him off of ball screens, while also fighting like hell to stay on him when Wichita State tried to run screens to get him open looks from deep. The Shockers made a brief attempt at a comeback in the second half when Iowa's defense got lazy and the offense stagnated because they stopped trying to attack and instead started chucking up long jumpers and turning the ball over at will. But even with that short period of time in which the roles briefly reversed, Wichita State never got closer than within 15 points in the second half.
Once again, the magical trio of Jarrod Uthoff, Mike Gesell, and Adam Woodbury played a huge role. Uthoff was a matchup nightmare for Wichita State, as he went to work in the paint, attacked the rim off the dribble, and knocked down shots from distance. He finished the game with 22 points on 16 scoring attempts, which was good for an efficient 1.4 points per scoring attempt on Sunday morning. On top of that, Uthoff also pulled in 7 rebounds, blocked 5 shots (!), and came away with 2 steals. It's no surprise that he was named to the All-Tournament Team.
Adam Woodbury finished with 15 points on 4-7 shooting from the floor and 7-10 shooting from the charity stripe. The Hawkeyes made an effort to get the ball in the post to Woodbury in a manner similar to the Notre Dame game, and it paid off with another great performance from the 7-footer from Sioux City.
Mike Gesell also had himself a game, scoring 14 points (4-7 from the field and 5-6 at the line), distributing 9 assists, and grabbing 5 defensive rebounds. Like I mentioned above, for a majority of the game he ate up Wichita State's defense by attacking the basket and drawing fouls or finding the open man.
After the big three, Peter Jok scored all 12 of his points in the second half. He did a good job of getting to the free throw line against Wichita State (since his threes weren't falling), but he was part of the problem during Iowa's lull in the second half, as he hoisted some bad shots. He also had some more defensive issues during that Wichita State run, but they weren't a huge deal considering that Iowa was never in danger of losing this game.
Finally, I just want to mention Nicholas Baer for giving Iowa some great minutes. In his 24 minutes on the court, Baer scored a career-high 8 points on 3-4 shooting (2-3 from long range), corralled 2 rebounds, and had 1 steal. He may be a walk-on, but he's usually good for a three and a couple of rebounds here and there. And that's always useful.
Tournament Wrap Up
So what do we take away from the three games Iowa played over the last four days?
First of all, the outcome of this tournament doesn't have me too down on this team. They played some pretty good competition, lost two close ones and won a final blowout. Sure, there are no moral victories anymore for this program, but there are positive signs that this team is still just fine.
First of all, Iowa's offense looks pretty potent, even with the questionable shot selection at times. They blew the doors off of Wichita State and then, against Dayton and their 30th ranked KenPom defense, still managed to average 1.05 points per possession. The weird performance of the weekend was against Notre Dame and their 106th ranked defense, but I would chalk that up to a really cold shooting night from the Hawks. Out of Iowa's 6 games thus far, they have only had two games in which they've had an effective field goal percentage under 50% (Gardner-Webb and Notre Dame), but they have yet to average under a point per possession for an entire game. This team may have some concerns on the offensive glass and getting to the free throw line, but they sure seem like they can shoot the ball.
Meanwhile, on defense, I'm also fairly happy with how this unit has done over its first 6 games. The defensive performance against Dayton is a little more understandable when you take into account that Gesell and Woodbury dealt with some foul troubles, while the Notre Dame game is understandable when you see that KenPom lists them as the 4th best offense in the country. Outside of those two teams, Iowa has held its other four opponents to 0.82, 0.82, 0.83, and 0.95 points per possession. I'm not saying this Iowa team is elite on the defensive end, but I do think it's an above average unit.
As for for stylistic changes this season, it's still looking like Iowa is not going to be its usual foul-drawing self. The Hawkeyes were really kept off the line against Dayton and Notre Dame in this tournament. And even though they made a concerted effort to turn that around against Wichita State, there still seems to be more evidence that this team is more comfortable shooting the ball from distance rather than getting to the basket on a consistent basis. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as this team looks like it could potentially be the best shooting team that Fran has had at Iowa (small sample size alert). However, like I've said before, and like we witnessed in the Notre Dame game, this team will need to do more in other areas on nights when those jump shots aren't falling.
Finally, my last observation and potentially biggest concern from this tournament was the bench play. In this tournament Brady Ellingson, Dale Jones, and Nicholas Baer were the most consistent non-starting contributors for Iowa. Noticeably absent from that trio? Dom Uhl. In his three games this tournament, Uhl played 14, 9, and 9 minutes and scored just 4 points. And it's not like he was adding any value on defense or with his rebounding, because he actually had the same amount of fouls as he did points and only had 2 rebounds. It's only a small three-game stretch, but it is something to keep an eye on—as is Fran's rotation as the season goes on.
It's still pretty early in the season, but it's pretty clear that: Andrew Fleming has (for now) lost the playing time battle to Brady Ellingson (and rightfully so, because Ellingson has been good), Ahmad Wagner needs more seasoning, and Christian Williams is going to be very inexperienced when he's the point guard next year. Iowa only has four cupcakes left on their schedule before Big Ten play kicks off, and one of those cupcakes beat Wisconsin in the first game of the year. That means there are only those four games and then maybe a few games against Rutgers, Penn State, or Nebraska to get the newcomers some experience. Because once Iowa gets to Big Ten play, Fran's rotation should really shorten and the starters should carry this team. Hopefully, they'll carry Iowa to another NCAA Tournament.