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A look-back (and a brief look-ahead) at the basketball season

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

Another year of Iowa basketball is in the books. The season had its ups (Wisconsin, Iowa State, Purdue) and its downs (UNO, Minnesota, turnovers and free throws) but all in all, I think at the start of the year we would have agreed that we’d take a 19-win season along with a Peter Jok all-conference nod.

This blog and your comments have been aflutter with how bright the future is for this Iowa team, and we’ll get into the future a little bit in here (a full recruiting post is coming at you later this week) but for the most part let’s look back on Fran McCaffery’s seventh season at the helm of the Iowa program, dissect what went right and what didn’t, and postulate a little on the future.

The bad

Let’s start with the bad, because here at The Pants we like to break you down and build you back up. Just like the marines.

First the obvious: the defense was atrocious. We all knew it was bad, but looking at historical precedence, it’s even worse. This Iowa team gave up 78 points a game this year, which is the worst of the McCaffery by a huge margin. The team during his second year gave up 72 points a game, and had a much easier schedule back then to boot. That stat goes back 25 years, which is as far back sports-reference goes for the metric.

The Hawkeyes allowed opponents to score 90 or more points nine times this season. Iowa was 1-8 in those games, the lone win coming against Indiana in overtime. So yeah there’s probably a pattern there.

So, how do we fix the defense? The easy answer is to throw a mustache on Adam Woodbury and bring him back to campus. The real answer is a cop-out of sorts, in that Iowa’s youth didn’t lend any favors on the defensive end.

It’s not like Iowa’s defense will get better as the team gets older, but it’s fair to assume that defense will be a huge point of emphasis in the offseason, and these 19 year-olds will get a lot stronger after more time in the weight room. The defense really was so bad this year that it would be damn difficult to get any worse.

Next up, we have free throws! Iowa’s lack of success at the charity stripe was almost certainly a direct cause of its recent loss to TCU. (Iowa went 8-19 from the line in a 94-92 loss.)

Overall, the Hawkeyes shot 68 percent from the line, going 510-741 for its attempts on the year. That’s 231 points left on the board. Yuck yuck yuck. I feel like we harp on Iowa’s free throw shooting every year, but Fran’s teams usually hover around 72-73 percent shooting, which is just below around the national average that sits around 75 percent. This year was the only other time his teams have shot below under 70 percent from the line. Fran’s first team at Iowa shot 67 percent, but got to the line less often, going 466-601.

How do we fix Iowa’s free-throw problem? Make these kids shoot a million of them in practice every day. Force Ahmad Wagner to shoot Canyon Barry style hell if it works we won’t care.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Florida vs East Tennessee State Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

And finally, turnovers. Iowa coughed it up 14 times a game this year, which actually isn’t all that bad on paper when you take the national landscape in to account (fun fact: Fran’s former team in Siena led the nation with over 16 a game) but under the microscope of the Big Ten, Iowa didn’t fare well! Indiana and Michigan State were the only teams that turned it over more often than Iowa. Michigan led the whole nation with fewest turnovers per game at just under 10. So there’s a lot of parity here.

Between turnovers, horrible free-throw shooting and porous defense, I think the turnovers have the easiest fix. Turnovers are mostly mental lapses, therefore will be caused by young players. That being said, Iowa’s lone senior Peter Jok caused the most turnovers on this team, so if anything else Iowa’s turnover rate will go down following his departure!

These are three really easy things to nitpick, but still tangible points to improve on. For example, following the 2013-14 season I would say the biggest problem for that team was its lack of clutch. I’ve been lambasted in the comments before when I’ve written that Fran’s teams lack a clutch gene of sorts, and that’s fair because that’s a made up thing, to an extent. You can’t really coach clutch, but you sure can coach better defense, protecting the ball and hitting free throws (though that is sort of clutch?), so we should feel pretty good going on from here.

The good

There’s so much to be happy about here I think we’re just going to lump it all together.

First, we have to be thrilled about Iowa’s point guard play. Not to knock Mike Gesell or anything, but I think Jordan Bohannon is huge upgrade over our former point guard situation. As a freshman, Bohannon was good for 11 points and 5 assists a night and made 41 percent of his threes. Bohannon scored 372 points this year, which is more than Gesell ever scored during a year while he was in Iowa City. As of now Bohannon may not have the dishing ability that Gesell possessed, but I trust it will come.

Also on the perimeter we have Isaiah Moss, who’s role will surely grow now that Jok is out of the equation. Moss showed flashes of brilliance last season, but seemed to also follow-up scoring runs with droughts and turtling. I think he felt he played in Jok’s shadow last year, and will really come in to his own as a true 2.

On the interior, we have to love what Tyler Cook and Cordell Pemsl will bring in their second years in the program. Both were pretty damn good as freshman, and another offseason of lifting weights and practice should do wonders for their game.

Really I could say great things about all of Iowa’s returning players and I’m not going to dedicate another 1,000 words to just that. If you take away one thing from this just know that we’ve got a lot of incredible returning pieces, and some other great ones coming in ...

The future

We’re going to have a separate recruiting piece later on, but here’s some things to wet your whistle while you wait for that.

Here’s Iowa’s upcoming class:

Garza was just named Gatorade player of the year in Washington DC. His recruiting rankings keep on going higher, and he’s just this close to becoming a four-star recruit.

Nunge is gaining traction to becoming Mr. Basketball in Indiana. Whoever is the next coach for the Hoosiers will probably try and pry him away from Fran.

Connor McCaffery got snubbed out of Iowa’s own Mr. Basketball race. He just led West to a 4A title.

With these guys coming in, I think the only thing we have to be worried about is minute distribution.

And there it is, your exhaustive dissection of the most recent Iowa basketball season.