No. 20 Iowa basketball is about to hit a five-game gauntlet to finish up its regular season. The Hawkeyes face No. 25 Ohio State on Thursday, Michigan State, No. 9 Penn State, Purdue, and then Illinois. Four of those teams sit within the top six Big Ten spots.
In other words, these games will make of break where Iowa ends up in the Big Ten Tournament. It’ll be a test for a Hawkeye team that lost guard CJ Fredrick to injury for the time being.
Ahead of Iowa’s game against Ohio State, here’s a look at this week’s Hawkeye basketball stock watch.
Stock down: 3-point shooting
At the moment, CJ Fredrick’s injury is the second-worst thing to potentially happen behind Luka Garza missing time. So far this season, he’s been right there with Garza in terms of consistency, but it’s his outside shooting that separates him from the rest of the Hawkeyes.
Before going down with injury against Indiana, Fredrick boasted a 46.7 3-point shooting percentage — best on the team by nearly eight percent.
Given Joe Wieskamp’s erratic disappearances (just two points against Minnesota), losing Fredrick is huge. Iowa needs outside shooting to compliment Garza’s dominance down low. When the Hawkeyes have been clicking this season, it’s been because of their balance. I’m confident in saying Wieskamp won’t put up just two points against Ohio State on Thursday, but the point remains: Iowa’s 3-point shooting is going to take a toll for as long as Fredrick remains out.
Fredrick has missed four games this season due to injury: Syracuse, Nebraska (in Lincoln), Maryland (in Iowa City), and Minnesota (in Minneapolis). Here’s a breakdown of how the Hawkeyes shot from distance in those games:
- Syracuse (Dec. 3): 11-for-34
- Nebraska (Jan. 7): 4-for-33
- Maryland (Jan. 10): 9-for-33
- Minnesota (Feb. 16): 4-for-13
A few things to note here. Iowa had Bohannon for the game against the Orange. He accounted for five of those 3-pointers. For what it’s worth, Iowa shot 17-for-79 without both Bohannon and Fredrick. But, in all four games (one with Bohannon, the other three without), Iowa went 28-for-113 (24.8 percent).
Put Iowa’s 3-point percentage with Fredrick side-by-side with the total without Fredrick, and the difference is staggering:
- 3-point shooting with Fredrick: 37.3 percent
- 3-point shooting without Fredrick: 24.8 percent
That’s almost a 13 percent difference. Iowa needs others to step up from beyond the arc while Fredrick recovers.
Stock up: Iowa’s resiliency
This team keeps fighting. No Bohannon, Jack Nunge, and now Fredrick, yet Iowa keeps on finding ways to win games. The Minnesota contest stands as a prime example of this team refusing to quit.
Iowa trailed by eight points with a little more than five minutes remaining against Minnesota and had not scored for almost two minutes.
The last 5:09, however, was a different story. The Hawkeyes went on an 11-0 run to close out the game, forcing the Gophers to go 0-for-3 from the field in that span. It was a gritty performance for an Iowa team backed into a corner — not the first time we’ve seen a performance like this from the Hawkeyes this season.
Stock up: Bakari Evelyn
Bakari Evelyn’s clutch free throws pushed Iowa ahead with 1:15 left against Minnesota. It was a senior moment for the five-year veteran. For as much criticism as he’s gotten this season (some rightfully deserved), this was huge.
And even aside from those shots from the stripe, Evelyn put together a solid outing off the bench. He scored seven points (more than what starters Joe Wieskamp and Joe Toussaint combined), dished three assists, grabbed a pair of rebounds, and also notched a steal.
Iowa has no guard play coming off the bench aside from Evelyn. He’s a guy that’s going to help alleviate pressure from Connor McCaffery, Toussaint, and Wieskamp.
Evelyn needs to cut down on the turnovers (three against the Gophers), but if he can make a few baskets and perform well in crunch time, Fran McCaffery will take that, and Iowa fans should gladly as well.
Stock down: Joe Wieskamp
When Joe Wieskamp is clicking, he’s one of the best scorers in the conference. See his 30-point performance (and 20-point second half) against Nebraska. Or his 26 points against Maryland.
But for as many games as he shoots out of his mind, there will be games where he disappears. This season, Wieskamp has scored eight points or fewer five times this season, including his two-point performance against Minnesota. Up until that game against the Gophers, the Hawkeyes were 0-4 when Wieskamp scored eight points or fewer.
To make matters worse, he didn’t even attempt a free throw in the win. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Wieskamp needs to attack the rim more. He’s someone who should be shooting at least six-seven free throws a game. He’s got the speed and quickness to take defenders off the dribble, and I’d love to see him slash more to the basket and draw fouls.
But take this “stock down” mark lightly. No. I don’t believe Wieskamp will put up another dud in the box score when Iowa hosts Ohio State. After each of those games with fewer than eight points, Wieskamp averages 19.3 points the next game.
But now with Fredrick down and defense keying more and more into Garza, Wieskamp needs to step up. This is his time.