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Iowa Helps Indiana’s NCAA Cause

Indiana just isn’t our state this year. Where is the conference finals?

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Indiana Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s be upfront, Indiana isn’t very good. With that said however, the Hoosiers outplayed and outworked Iowa last night to the tune of a 89-77 butt kicking. There’s not much I can add that wasn’t wonderfully covered by the Quick Recap from Matt last night but I’ll give some thoughts anyway.

Ultimately a road loss in the Big Ten isn’t that big of a deal, but a loss of C.J. Fredrick for any extended period of time could cost the Hawkeyes dearly down the stretch. Another injury combined with the lack of bench depth could lead to the infamous February swoon.

I think one thing is for sure, Iowa players are in fabulous condition. All-American candidate Luka Garza played 40 minutes according to the box score. He did get about 20 seconds of rest before the first half ended, but otherwise was an iron man. Joe Wieskamp and Connor McCaffery were basically slackers as they only played 38 and 35 minutes respectively.

Before I move on to the shortcomings, let’s talk a little more about Garza. Playing 40 minutes is pretty impressive, but mixing in 38 points makes it even more spectacular. The 38 points is tied for 10th all-time in a single game for Iowa. Garza made three from deep and added four blocks. He missed a double-double as he was only able to corral eight boards.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Indiana Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

That’s where the good news ends for the Valentine’s Day eve massacre. The list of things that bothers me is fairly lengthy so I’ll bullet point them to try to keep from rambling.

  • The Iowa defense is sorely lacking in the ability to cover shooters when there is extra passing. Most teams make well above their average in three pointers against Iowa even if they are not typically a good shooting team. Indiana made 11 3s, a season high, when they average around five per game. The trend in the NBA lately has been the 3-and-D players, that is a taller guy that can hit a three-pointer and can also defend. Iowa lacks these players this year and I’m hoping that is a role that the Murrays can fill in the future.
  • Besides not being able to actively switch out to the shooters, Iowa has been struggling at blocking out. Indiana had 16 offensive rebounds which led to numerous second chance points. Rebounding is a skill that’s driven by desire and effort and is something that can be improved on immediately.
  • Is there a reason that Joe Toussaint and Bakari Evelyn can’t play on the court at the same time? As long as they don’t get into foul trouble, I can’t imagine that these guards can’t play more together with Fredrick going down. I think I saw them together less than five minutes last night.
  • I love Joe Wieskamp. He was born to be a Hawkeye. With that said, he is definitely not ready for the NBA or any pro league yet. His inability to get his own shot off against a superior defender is preventing him from reaching his true potential. This is something he needs to work on constantly in the offseason. Justin Smith played like he was Wieskamp’s shadow.
  • Riley Till and Austin Ash saw some extended playing time and unfortunately that definitely showed that neither are ready to perform at the Big Ten level. Till looks a step slow as his four fouls in ten minutes indicates while Ash needs to have a role where he is just a spot-up shooter rather than a ball handler. I appreciate their minutes and effort though and hopefully they improve each time they are called upon.
  • Fran McCaffery finally lost it with just under five minutes in the game. You could see a slow build-up coming as the chippiness in the second half was increasing. McCaffery was unhappy with a non-goaltending call and stormed the court to let his feelings be known. The refs actually got this call correct I believe as opposed to some of their other decisions on the night. It must be a helpless feeling to see a game slipping away and not having the horsepower to make a difference.

With all this said about the Iowa shortcomings, it is just one road loss in a stacked conference. Iowa has six regular season games remaining, three at home and three on the road. If Iowa can go 3-3 in these games, they will still be in a strong position for a number 6 or 7 seed and at that point, anything can happen. However, a loss of focus could lead to a 1-5 run and put Iowa back on the NCAA bubble or at best, an 11 seed.

Iowa needs to turn the page on this loss as they head to Minnesota to play a desperate Gopher team on Sunday. It’s definitely a winnable game, but a couple players other than Garza will need to step up for the Hawkeyes to succeed.