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The 2014-15 Iowa Hawkeyes: White Hot Finish

Aaron White led the Hawks to their strongest finish of Fran McCaffery’s tenure

Iowa v Purdue

Over the course of 10 weeks, we’re counting down Fran McCaffery’s squads as head coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes. Below are links to previous iterations in the series:


After four seasons of Fran McCaffery, the Iowa Hawkeyes finally experienced disappointment. Adding sting to the disappointment was losing three seniors off of McCaffery’s first recruiting class: Devyn Marble, Melsahn Basabe, and Zach McCabe.

Though Aaron White had started 85 games going into his senior year, he had not quite asserted himself as a go-to player. He was surrounded by a strong supporting cast with Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury as returning starters plus Jarrod Uthoff and Gabe Olaseni as strong bench roles ahead of the 2014-15 season.

Iowa hit some roadblocks in the non-conference season but also brought home a totally enjoyable win against North Carolina. The conference season was underwhelming to start but it flipped after a road loss to Northwestern when Iowa went on a six-game winning streak to finish out the regular season.

As for the NCAA tournament, Davidson was a better team than people remember and Iowa worked them to a record-breaking win. Fun times!

The Lead-Up

Coming off the disappointing finish to the 2014 season, the GIA guys broke down the upcoming season with “The Jamboree.” The predictions were not all that off, though nobody got so excited to predict a 12-6 conference record.

Some funny player preview headlines:

  • Trey Dickerson: What can we expect from Iowa’s most-hyped (and most-needed) incoming recruit?”
  • “Josh Oglesby: Iowa’s resident sharp-shooter bounced back for a solid junior season, but what will it take to raise his play from Ogles-B to an Ogles-A?”

The Statistical Profile

(all ranks vs. McCaffery teams)

Record: 22-12 (4th), 12-6 (T-1st)

Offense: AdjO - 114.2 (6th); 69.8 PPG (9th)

Defense: AdjD - 95.1 (2nd); 62.3 PPG (1st)

Wow! Iowa’s delightfully slow, defensive-oriented team was the most unique of Fran’s teams. Just one other has failed to average 70 points per game on offense, which was largely driven by Iowa’s adjusted tempo 63.7. It’s over 2 possessions lower than any of Iowa’s other seasons under McCaffery.

Like most teams which were impacted by Aaron White, offensive rebounding was sky-high and was particularly important for this group, as they had the second worst effective field goal percentage of the last 10 years.

Defensively, Iowa was a relative vicegrip. The length of Iowa’s forwards (White & Uthoff), peskiness of the guards (Gesell & Anthony Clemmons), and rim protection (Olaseni & Woodbury) resulted in the second lowest defensive eFG% of Fran’s tenure. It’s particularly noticeable with the lowest two-point percentage of that time.

In White and Uthoff, Iowa had just two double-digit scorers with Olaseni holding it down in third at 8.1 points. Each of them were recognized by the conference: White, 1st team; Uthoff, 3rd; Olaseni, Sixth Man of the Year.

The Rotation

ORtg & % Poss via KenPom ($); rest via sports-ref

Full-Time Starters

Player yr ORtg % Poss PTS TRB AST FG% 3P% FT% MP
Player yr ORtg % Poss PTS TRB AST FG% 3P% FT% MP
Aaron White sr 128.1 0.231 16.4 7.3 1.4 0.521 0.356 0.819 31.5
Jarrod Uthoff rs jr 113.8 0.253 12.4 6.4 1.7 0.43 0.372 0.737 30.3
Mike Gesell jr 98.5 0.206 7.4 1.9 4 0.408 0.267 0.689 25.5
Adam Woodbury jr 98.7 0.206 6.6 5.2 0.9 0.489 0.576 20.5

Part-time Starters

Player yr ORtg % Poss PTS TRB AST FG% 3P% FT% MP
Player yr ORtg % Poss PTS TRB AST FG% 3P% FT% MP
Peter Jok so 96.9 0.215 7 2.6 1.3 0.358 0.343 0.902 19.9
Anthony Clemmons jr 102.6 0.153 4.8 1.9 1.9 0.381 0.373 0.75 19.9

Bench

Player yr ORtg % Poss PTS TRB AST FG% 3P% FT% MP
Player yr ORtg % Poss PTS TRB AST FG% 3P% FT% MP
Gabriel Olaseni sr 113.6 0.228 8.1 4.8 0.4 0.52 0.75 18.6
Josh Oglesby sr 96.5 0.122 3.2 1.9 1.5 0.282 0.292 1 18.9
Dom Uhl fr 82 0.169 2.1 1.8 0.4 0.361 0.185 0.524 10

Deep Bench

Player yr ORtg % Poss PTS TRB AST FG% 3P% FT% MP G
Player yr ORtg % Poss PTS TRB AST FG% 3P% FT% MP G
Trey Dickerson so 75.2 0.244 2.7 0.5 1.2 0.347 0.308 0.3 9.7 15
Brady Ellingson rs fr 143.3 0.159 1.9 0 0.6 0.5 0.667 0.5 4.6 7
Kyle Denning sr 0.8 0.2 0.1 0.429 0.2 2.8 9
Charlie Rose fr 0.4 0 0.1 1 1 2 8
Okey Ukah jr 0.2 0.7 0.1 0.5 2.4 10
  • After a dabbling with Trey Dickerson and Brady Ellingson getting injured, Fran settled on a crisp nine-man rotation. There were just three starting lineups all season, with a midseason flip from Clemmons to Jok and the classic senior day lineup to get Olaseni and Oglesby the start. Great rotation.
  • White was an absolute barnburner down the stretch. He scored 20 points in six straight before losing to Gonzaga and made 9 or more free throws in four of those games. He also found a 3-point shot, going 12 for his last 18.
  • Gabe Olaseni had the highest usage rate in conference play among Hawkeyes. He was a machine in the paint, posting the #1 fouls drawn/40, #2 offensive rebounding rate, #9 block rate, and #24 defensive rebounding rate in conference. This is the bat signal for Gookin about how underplayed the Brit was. He averaged just 18 minutes per game.
  • Iowa was the fourth tallest team in the country, according to KenPom.

The Low Point

There’s just too much Northwestern in this recurring section.

Honorable mentions: in-state losses to good ISU & UNI teams, Big Ten Tournament loss to Penn State, record-breaking loss after a record-breaking win in the NCAA Tournament, 0-2 non-conference tournament

The High Point

Was this the greatest non-conference win of Iowa’s last 10 years? I kinda think it’s a resounding yes.

It was not a particularly pretty game and came down to Gesell making a once-in-a-lifetime shot to seal the game. The Tar Heels went down as the best team the Hawks beat that season, at 10 in KenPom’s ratings.

Honorable mentions: Six-game winning streak against lesser opponents, blowout win against Davidson

The What If

The winning streak at the end more or less makes it feel like this team achieved their potential. Though they lost to Penn State, it’s hard to envision a path for the finish to have been better than the one they saw. Perhaps a win moves Iowa to the 6-line, catches a break opposite Baylor/Georgia State, and is able to sneak into the Sweet 16.

Pretty difficult to play that game, though.

The Why

Maybe it’s too easy to chalk this up to saying having the best scoring defense of Iowa’s had in Fran’s time? While the whole rotation had some ups and downs, the top six might have been Iowa’s best of the last 10 years.

The one area where it is lacking is a true scoring outfit but against any of the other iterations, they’ll be in the game.

Outside of that, there’s a level of “high floor” to them being #1. There were real concerns about other teams and this one ended on about a high a note as any from 2011-2020.

Let’s hope they’re dethroned next season.