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Breaking Down Joe Wieskamp’s Game-Winning Shot

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Fran McCaffery dialed up the “tap play” and Wieskamp tapped it off the glass

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

In the aftermath of the Iowa Hawkeyes 71-69 victory over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, I was in a haze. To have the same thing happen 7 days after another thrilling victory seemed impossible.

So I watched the play over and over and over.

It reminded me of three plays throughout basketball history. Of course, a game-winning shot during the doldrums of conference season does not match the stakes of any of these following shots, but it’s clear where Fran found inspiration in the play design:

Duke-Kentucky, The Shot (1992)

Yes, I know. It’s insane to come right of the bat and use this one, the greatest shot by the greatest college basketball player. But the two are most similar in comparing how the defense is tilted. Everyone knew the ball was going to Christian Laettner and Kentucky set up the defense accordingly. They had him doubled. The flip side was that it allowed Grant Hill a clean pass to Laettner.

In the same way, the respect Jordan Bohannon garnered allowed a free pass for Connor McCaffery. Fran understood this and had Bohannon aligned to the weak side of the play to prevent either of his defenders from affecting the play. In the postgame, Steve Pikiell admitted as much:

Q: Do you typically put a guy on the inbounder there?

A: We were taking Bohannon, who makes every play for them down the stretch, away from it.

Valparaiso-Ole Miss, Bryce Drew (1998)

The action of this play almost exactly mirrors what happened in the Iowa game. Despite having to inbound over a jumping defender, they get a clean pass/catch to roughly the same spot Nicholas Baer tipped the ball.

This is part of the reason my initial thought was the ball was designed to go to Isaiah Moss, the resemblance was uncanny. But the tip “scrambled” the play a bit, brought Wieskamp into the corner instead of boxing out like Valpo’s center. Like McCaffery said:

Spurs-Heat, Ray Allen (2013)

Joe Wieskamp’s shot resembles this one in the way both players reacted in a broken play. The legend of Ray Allen went that he would run a drill starting on his back then running to the corner so he “feel” where he was on the court. In much the same way, the overlooked aspect of Wieskamp’s shot is the skill and instincts required to make it. I mean, look at this:

Pardon the graininess, but this is all ability: to know exactly where you are, stay on your tiptoes to remain inbounds, and shoot a turnaround three is skill. It’s lucky insomuch as any basketball shot is lucky. Some go in and some go out.

Sure, it hit off the backboard, but Fran Fraschilla dubbed that exact spot on the floor “Wieskamp Corner” during two games at Madison Square Garden. In other words, it’s not a one-in-a-million shot.

It took the right amount of play design, execution, and sure, maybe a pinch of luck. After years of these types of plays going against Iowa, it’s nice to see them even out a little bit.