NICHOLAS BAER TRACKS VS. VILLANOVA:
7-13 FG, 1-4 3PT, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 15 points
AND THE BAER-OMETER SAYS:
HE WAS THE BEST KIND OF BAER: A NICHOLAS BAER
On a day when the rest of the Iowa team looked ready to call it quits after about five minutes, Nicholas Baer provided a welcome spark of fire, aggressively going for his points and showing absolutely no fear. We've made a lot of Baer puns over the course of the year, but it's probably time to put the gimmicks away. Nicholas Baer is a legit basketball player. He can shoot, he has a deft touch around the rim (decidedly not a given skill, as the rest of the team showed), he's active on defense, and he plays smart. He can, of course, get stronger, and his handle needs work, but there is a skilled basketball player there, and Iowa needs them.
There will be plenty of time to discuss next year's starting line-up later on, but I think Baer is probably in there, at small forward. My guess would be that the line-up goes:
- PG: ??????
- SG: Jok
- SF: Baer
- PF: Uhl
- C: Tyler Cook
Baer may not look the part yet, but he's a real Swiss Army knife player, and teams like Northern Iowa and Wisconsin have shown how valuable it is to have a team full of players who can all shoot/pass/dribble at a high level, even if they are not all "elite" athletes. And at small forward, Baer's slight frame is less of a liability. If anything, I kind of think Baer should lean into becoming as much of a guard as he can – getting stronger, but not bulky, working on his lateral quickness and dribbling. He's not a high school center anymore, or even a power forward, so he needs to work on succeeding in the niche that his body allows him at this level.
BAER ESSENTIAL PLAY OF THE NIGHT:
There's a lot to choose from, but my favorite was probably when he drove right into a Villanova shot-blocker and switched to the left hand mid-air to get his shot off cleanly. It was a very tricky maneuver but he made it look easy.
THE BAER FACTS
It was a sad way for the seniors to end their careers, but they nonetheless deserve a great deal of credit for building the program back up to respectability. And that's not vague sunshine and puppy dogs stuff, it's there in the record books. If you look at the winning percentages of every four-year span in modern (post-WWII) Iowa basketball history, the past four show up as the 25th best – good, not quite great, but top third all-time. And if you look at the Simple Rating System (a way of ranking teams that takes into scoring differential and opponent strength), the past four years have featured the 6th (2013-14), 11th (2015-16) and 17th (2014-15) best teams in Iowa history. In spite of the tough loss to Villanova, good things have been happening the past four years, and these seniors were a big part of that.
If you want a grand theory for what happened to this particular team, all I can say is that they looked dead tired by the end of the year. And I'm sure a lot of that was due to the burden that the four seniors tried to bear without a whole lot of help from the bench. Once their legs went, there wasn't much their brains or hearts could do to overcome it.
So vaya con dios, seniors. You were great Hawkeyes.