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To be great, the Hawkeyes need Joe Wieskamp back

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The sophomore will factor greatly into how many Iowa wins from here on out

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Wieskamp has had a good sophomore season. With the departures of Tyler Cook and Isaiah Moss and injuries to Jordan Bohannon, Jack Nunge, and CJ Fredrick, he’s turned into a solid second option alongside player of the year candidate, Luka Garza.

He’s averaged 14.0 points and 6.1 rebounds, both increases over his freshman campaign. Yet it’s come with an expected though drastic dip in efficiency: KenPom has his offensive rating at 111.0, down from 122.3 in 2018-19. It’s driven from his dip in shooting percentages:

  • 2019-20 - 3P%: 34.7%; 2P%: 49.2%; FT%: 85.6%
  • 2018-19 - 3P%: 42.4%; 2P%: 56.4%; FT%: 76.7%

Now why is that?

It was much discussed during the last couple days (and weeks) that Joe is on the receiving end of aggressive defense. Fran McCaffery more or less said if this were the 1980s, Joe Wieskamp would throw hands to get open:

Obviously he can’t do that. And Fran is protecting his guys with preemptive complaints knowing that Iowa’s going to have at least one more game where they’re faced with aggressive, handsy, Big Ten defense.

Outside of the posturing, what else can Joe do to recapture some of the early part of his career?

The first key, is remember it wasn’t that long ago he was great. Through 24 games, Wieskamp was averaging 15.4 points on 45.8% shooting and 38.1% from three. He had even averaged 18.0 points in his first 13 Big Ten games before the last seven games at 9.3 points on 29.7% shooting and 16.7% from 3. The percentages were down from the season prior, but his role shifted so drastically into the #1 perimeter option.

In 2018-19, he had Bohannon, Moss, and even Nicholas Baer to take away some of that pressure. Now, just CJ Fredrick takes away that pressure as a credible shooting threat, though Joe Toussaint, Connor McCaffery, and Bakari Evelyn have had their moments.

Though he’s been the only constant on Iowa’s perimeter this year and it’s taken its toll, as he has the 5th most minutes in the conference, he needs to reset his mindset to those times where he was rolling. Of course, this is easier said than done.

One area he can show a return to the mindset he had for much of his freshman year is offensive rebounding. Despite playing many more minutes as pseudo-power forward, he’s logged just 16 offensive rebounding possessions for 10 points this year according to Synergy. Last year? He had 25 possessions which yielded 36 points. Though he made just 6/18 shots, he drew fouls on 10 possessions.

He’s shown more assertiveness in driving but the offensive rebounding is a slight downtick he can reverse heading into the postseason.

The last thing Fran can do is simply turn the ball over to Wieskamp more often to be the primary ballhandler. Sets run to get him the ball at the top of the key do not require the same timing or angles as catch-and-shoot jumpers.

Joe, believe it or not, does not turn the ball over out of line with some of Iowa’s best ballhandlers. Garza (10.4%), McCaffery (13.3%) and Wieskamp (13.9%) have the lowest turnover percentages on the team. He should have the ball more in areas where he can make plays for himself and others.

Though we are dealing with a small sample size, much like the offensive rebounding numbers, he has shown an impressive statistical profile in the high pick and roll in each of the last two years according to Synergy: in 22 possessions, he’s scored 31 points. There is also the confidence entrusted to him by handing him the keys to the car.

While Joe Wieskamp could have had a better regular season, it was still a good one which earned placement on the All-Big Ten Third team and BBWA All-District team. For Iowa to rev him up in the postseason, he needs to remember what he’s capable of and demonstrate more assertiveness both in offensive rebounding and as a primary ballhandler. If he’s able to return to his early season form, it could be a very successful postseason for the Hawkeyes.