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Iowa Basketball Lineups in Review: Big Ten Halfway Point

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Peter Jok is down, but pieces are in place for a run

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the season, I have been tracking the players Iowa has on the court throughout each game. After half of the Big Ten season, now is the perfect time to look at what has worked so far in the B1G season, and what hasn’t.

Data Primer

The data I maintain is done by tracking whenever Iowa makes a substitution. I take note of the players on the court and their positions (which I approximate). I marry this data with play-by-play data to aggregate the statistics which are used for the four factors: eFG%, TO%, OREB%, and FTA/FGA. From there, I can analyze what does or doesn’t work with lineups Iowa plays.

I’ve also created a simple Excel tool so I can compare how the Hawkeyes do with a specific player or group of players on the court vs. off so positions are not considered. It also bears mentioning that my data does not account for opponent quality nor who is on the floor for them.

Is Resting Jok the Right Move?

During the Illinois game was the first time I saw the comparison of Peter Jok to CJ Beathard—a clearly hobbled star doing his best to lead a team to a win. It was clear to almost everyone how ineffective Jok was—exception being Jon Groce who avoided isolating Jok like the plague. Yet, I understood Fran’s mindset: like Steve Kerr playing an unhealthy Steph Curry in the Finals, the threat of Peter Jok, no matter what capability, required the opponent to defend 5 players.

This isn’t the Finals. As confirmed by the decision to rest Jok, playing him with his back injury is not in his best interest. Also, after taking a deeper look at the numbers, confirmed by last night’s performance, it’s clear that Iowa is a better team when an unhealthy Jok sits:

This information is aggregated to show that Iowa was about the same during B1G play when a healthy Peter Jok was on the court (-.056 points per minute) vs. off (-.037 PPM). The difference became drastic after Jok’s injury: including last night, Iowa is .878 PPM better without him on the court. As much as anything, it has boiled down to shotmaking on both sides of the court: Iowa shot an eFG% of 38% with an injured Jok while they’ve shot 54% eFG without him and they allowed an astronomical 65% eFG compared to 53% without Jok playing injured. With effectively even eFG%s, the work Iowa does on the margins has resulted in their good performance without Jok.

Iowa Stats During Jok’s Injury

Jok On/Off? On Off
Jok On/Off? On Off
Minutes 83.63 76.37
Net Points Per Minute -0.682 0.196
Off. eFG% 38.00% 54.30%
Off. TOV% 16.90% 13.60%
Off. ORB% 30.90% 38.80%
Off. FTA/FGA 33.80% 32.50%
Def. eFG% 64.50% 52.70%
Def. TOV% 18.60% 16.80%
Def. ORB% 35.00% 31.30%
Def. FTA/FGA 29.00% 24.10%

I look for Brady Ellingson to build on his strong performance against Ohio State. While it was his most notable performance of the season so far, his on/off numbers have fared quite well in the Big Ten season. The Hawkeyes are +.09 PPM in with him on the court in 127 minutes vs. -.26 PPM in 248 minutes off. This compares favorably with other guards, specifically Isaiah Moss: -.441 PPM in 166 minutes on vs. .095 PPM in 209 minutes off.

Who Should Start?

Iowa has been outscored 32 points in the first 2 minutes of 9 B1G games combined. They’ve been outscored 21 points in every other minute. While neither are enjoyable statistics, the former demonstrates a clear need to begin games with more urgency. “Small sample size” alert, but none of Iowa’s starting lineups used in B1G play have shown much success overall:

Starting Lineups Used in B1G Play

Lineup Bohannon-Moss-Baer-Wagner-Cook Bohannon-Moss-Jok-Cook-Pemsl Bohannon-Moss-Jok-Wagner-Pemsl
Lineup Bohannon-Moss-Baer-Wagner-Cook Bohannon-Moss-Jok-Cook-Pemsl Bohannon-Moss-Jok-Wagner-Pemsl
Minutes 6.30 51.95 9.20
Net Points Per Minute -0.159 -0.943 -1.413
Points For 7 72 12
Points Against 8 121 25
Off. eFG% 23.1% 40.3% 35.3%
Off. TOV% 18.2% 19.3% 15.0%
Off. ORB% 50.0% 23.5% 36.4%
Off. FTA/FGA 7.7% 19.5% 0.0%
Def. eFG% 25.0% 59.3% 78.1%
Def. TOV% 7.2% 8.3% 15.8%
Def. ORB% 33.3% 36.4% 16.7%
Def. FTA/FGA 16.7% 19.8% 0.0%

To me, the easiest answer, if/when Jok is healthy, is sub in Baer for Moss from Iowa’s most used starting lineup to become Bohannon-Jok-Baer-Cook-Pemsl. Not only does it pass the “best five players” test, it has a track record of performing. Most notably, it was the lineup McCaffery used after halftime of the Purdue game at home which keyed the team to victory. They have posted the following stats in B1G play:

B1G Stats

Lineup Bohannon-Jok-Baer-Cook-Pemsl
Lineup Bohannon-Jok-Baer-Cook-Pemsl
Minutes 25.75
Net Points Per Minute 0.43
Points For 52
Points Against 41
Off. eFG% 55.7%
Off. TOV% 15.6%
Off. ORB% 52.4%
Off. FTA/FGA 54.3%
Def. eFG% 51.4%
Def. TOV% 18.0%
Def. ORB% 23.1%
Def. FTA/FGA 24.3%

While the Offensive Rebounding and Free Throw rates are unlikely to sustain, the addition of Baer into this offensive-focused group balances them out. It allows Fran to deploy the best version of the defense, including him at the point of the press from the start. On offense, he does all the small things and, according to KenPom ($), has the lowest TO% on the Hawks of players with requisite minutes. If Iowa is able to sustain during Peter Jok’s injury, Nicholas Baer and all the small things he does will play a major role. He is one of two players in the conference to average 6 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block, and 1 steal per game. The other is Ethan Happ, and he doesn’t shoot 3s.

Fran-Kriener-stein?

Iowa’s frontline is a complete logjam, specifically at the 4. While there are at least 5 guys who deserve playing time at the power forward spot, Ryan Kriener’s emergence means less time allocated to players like Tyler Cook and Cordell Pemsl playing out of position as a center. Not only is Kriener more suited for the B1G at center, his willing (and able) outside game provides a different element to the offense.

Centers With More Than 30 Minutes In B1G Play

Center Kriener Uhl Pemsl Cook
Center Kriener Uhl Pemsl Cook
Minutes 85.05 30.85 170.40 78.50
Net Points Per Minute 0.15 0.03 -0.26 -0.28
Off. eFG% 53.6% 53.1% 45.6% 49.6%
Off. TOV% 14.1% 10.0% 16.8% 17.9%
Off. ORB% 32.4% 29.6% 33.5% 31.5%
Off. FTA/FGA 22.3% 29.2% 27.7% 42.9%
Def. eFG% 53.2% 56.3% 53.8% 60.3%
Def. TOV% 18.3% 20.2% 13.7% 17.3%
Def. ORB% 24.3% 31.8% 32.1% 40.7%
Def. FTA/FGA 24.8% 42.5% 22.1% 25.0%

Perhaps his best trait is the ability to lock down the boards, as the team performs its best at keeping opponents off the offensive glass and second best at generating offense rebounds. One downside to his play is his foul rate, which leads the team at 6.5 fouls per 40 minutes according to KenPom. But if he stays out of foul trouble and performs well, I would expect Fran to give him more run. After Kriener’s performance against OSU, Fran went with him to close the game out. I would expect McCaffery to continue going with the hot hand as the season comes to a close.

Overall, I believe Iowa has the pieces to sustain without Peter Jok. While I don’t think it meets Ewing Theory criteria, since Iowa is removing him while injured, they proved to have greater cohesiveness in the OSU game than most of their prior games. Maintaining that cohesiveness will be paramount, and Brady Ellingson, Nicholas Baer, and Ryan Kriener are showing themselves elemental to such cohesiveness.

Do you have any questions you’d like me to explore in a later post? Please let me know in the comments below.