Do you know what’s one of the best parts about sports? Letting your expectations soar. Sure, most of us inevitably set ourselves up for disastrous failures, but we all share that ability to talk ourselves into just about anything during the offseason. Like Kevin Garnett so graciously put it, “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE,” even when it probably isn’t. So, as most of you (like clockwork) forget the many nuances that drove you nuts about the 2016-17 Iowa basketball season, I wanted to provide you with the moments and flashes you need to hang on to when it comes time to build up the 2017-18 season in your mind. Because whether it’s now or in November, we’re all going to come to the same conclusion anyway: This is THE year Iowa finally wins... a game in the Big Ten Tournament.
Tyler Cook, Sophomore, F
2016-17 Stats: 12.3 points (55.4 FG%), 5.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists (2.4 turnovers), .7 steals in 24.5 minutes per game.
Best Game of the Season: I think it’s safe to say that on Saturday, February 25, both Tyler Cook and his NBA Jam partner in crime, Jordan Bohannon, took it upon themselves to personally destroy #24 Maryland at the Xfinity Center. Cook finished the game with a double-double with 21 points (15 of which came in the first half), 10 rebounds, two steals and a block while JoBo finished with 24 points (and was 8-10 from downtown). Oh, and that one block he accounted for, this was it:
No. Easy. Buckets. Ever.
While Bohannon stole the show because of the flames that were shooting out of his arms, Cook was the one that dominated Maryland from the opening tip. He was so forceful in the first half that he single handily demolished the confidence of every Terp forward for the remainder of the game.
Next Best Game of the Season: Dollar-you-call-it. There was the 17/7 (two assists, two blocks, one steal) game in a loss against Memphis. There was the 16/6 (with two assists and one steal) game in a win against Purdue. There was the 18/8 (with three assists, one block) game in the NIT against South Dakota. OR, if you only like points and really don’t give a hoot about Cook’s rebounding prowess, I’d recommend that you indulge in the sweet offensive sauce that Cook whipped up for us during the Seton Hall game (24 total points). It was an early season performance that gave us all the chills; mainly because he turned into the collegiate version of a Monstar:
That’s What I Like, That’s What I Like
Before we even begin, I think it’s necessary to start with Cook’s wrist injury that forced him to miss the last seven games of the non-conference schedule and discuss how this effected Iowa in the long run. I don’t think I’m the only one that thinks the Nebraska Omaha and Notre Dame games would’ve gone very differently with Cook in the lineup. It also most likely changes Iowa’s postseason fortunes. Allow me to put my revisionist history cap on here and go through this with you all.
Notre Dame out-rebounded Iowa 45-32, for starters. On top of that, the Domers were able to penetrate into the lane at will. When they shockingly didn’t convert on their attempt at the rack, they got fouled, went to the line and knocked down the freebies (THEY WERE 30-33 FOR THE GAME). Iowa, a man down, got little-to-nothing from the bench that night (nine total points), and while Cordell Pemsl was awesome subbing into the starting lineup for Cook, they missed his scoring ability in the second unit badly. These two subbing in for one another make so much sense as change of pace big men.
I’m not saying Cook was going to be the difference-maker that would have inevitably provided Iowa with an extra win in non-conference play, but missing Cook’s athleticism on the defensive end, on top of the scoring touch he displayed in his first six games, would have surely made things a little more bearable.
Same goes for that Bubble Breaking loss against Nebraska Omaha. Once again, Iowa was out rebounded (47-39), the bench offered just as much as they did against Notre Dame (nine total points), while the Mavericks shot 54.3% inside the arch (25-46), Iowa shot 39.4% (13-33) AT Carver Hawkeye Arena.
That game still makes me want to vomit. I don’t think there is anyone out there that can argue with me that Iowa, with Tyler Cook in the lineup, loses that game. There’s no question in my mind. Think about what actually troubled the young Hawkeyes that entire contest... I’ll wait.
Their biggest problem in that game (somehow) was finding and converting on easy buckets. If Cook was available... well it would’ve been much, much easier:
That right there is the type of play I’m talking about. It’s so simple to get Cook looks on the block. As Nicholas Baer motions out of the strong side and looks like he’s about to fill in on the back wing, Cook’s defender is caught starring at the ball handler. Just as Cook goes to break off (and his man notices the movement), Baer lands just enough of the screen to pin Cook’s man to his left hip. The result? One of the easiest buckets Cook saw all season long.
Yes, I’m still bitter and angry with the Basketball Gods for taking away Cook for those games (especially the two I mentioned above). It wasn’t fair. I swear, for the next two to three years, if Iowa’s playing, I need Cook on the floor. It’s going to be my life blood to get through these cold Florida winters.
But, I digress. This is meant to be a positive piece and positive we shall be.
Outside of easy dunks on the block, Cook was also an exceptional asset on the offensive glass. Iowa was fifth in the conference in offensive rebound rate according to KenPom and Cook was a big part of that (he had 53 total for the season, or just short of two per game). When he was active on the offensive glass, good things generally happened:
Another aspect of Cook’s game that you don’t often see from big men in the Big Ten is his ability to get out on the break and beat every man down the floor. If Cook goes down as McCaffery’s best recruit, it’s because of how well he fits into the style of ball his coaches want to play as a 6’9”, 250 pound super human. I mean seriously, in the play below Cook was on an even line with four players on the baseline and he STILL beat all of them down the court:
No way that sat well with Tom Izzo.
One thing I’m excited to see continue to develop with the maturation of this team: How McCaffery uses Cook and some combination of JoBo, Baer and Isaiah Moss in pick and roll situations this upcoming year. There are so many possibilities to work them into both offensive sets and out of bounds first and secondary options. All three players in Bohannon, Baer and Moss offer different offensive threats as ball handlers, and when you pair that up with Cook’s natural athletic abilities (speed+agility+hops), it’s a match made in NBA heaven:
There has to be GM’s salivating over those clips already. SAL-I-VAT-ING. That’s the kind of tape that NBA guys go bananas over.
Now, before we go, I’ll give you all what you really wanted... more of the 50 earth shattering, mind numbing, “I want to hurt you/bury you/or put you on a poster” dunks from his freshman season:
SLAM DUNK. OH ME! OH MY! WHAT A DUNK!
COOK WITH THE FACIAL!
I can do this all day if my editors would let me.
While Cook has a lot of things he can work on during the offseason (namely the turnovers that plagued him this season and the not-so-great free throw shooting) you have to be ecstatic with the prospect of where his game can go from here.
Much like Melsahn Basabe before him, Cook is 100% the emotional leader of this Iowa team. While he might need the extra two years of seasoning on the more technical aspects of basketball, his athletic ability will only continue to be super human: