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Do Iowa’s shooters take too many open shots?

Going from “good to great” is a great motto to breed unselfishness but does it lead to hesitation when the defense gets tighter?

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

“Nobody should shoot over 40% from 3” - Mark Titus, loosely paraphrased

I cannot remember when I first heard Titus, cohost of the Titus & Tate podcast, first utter this axiom (he reprised it a bit in the clip above) but it has stuck with me for awhile through the lens of the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Hawks are a team with as impressive a shooting as exists in college basketball. Consider even after Iowa’s poor performance against Michigan where they could only muster 57 points on 36% shooting and 31% from three, Iowa remains in the top 5 nationally at 40.4% from distance. The only power five team ahead of them is Baylor, at 43.2%.

Yet it goes further than this. Iowa’s 1.176 points/possession on catch-and-shoot jumpers, the desired outcome of Fran’s motion offense, is in the 97th percentile despite occurring on 36.8% of their possessions, according to Synergy Sports. Only Rice has a higher PPP and rate with which they take catch-and-shoot jumpers.

Data via Synergy Sports

Perhaps even more perplexing is how Iowa gets even better when shots are “guarded” based on Synergy’s analysis and shift to 1.193 points/possession. Just three teams shoot guarded jumpers better than their unguarded jumpers and at a higher points/possession than Iowa.

Iowa takes these shots 50.8% of the time, which ranks in the middle of the pack in terms of guarded vs. unguarded. What this suggests is that there is opportunity for guys to be more willing shooters without being absolute gunners. Looking at Iowa’s player-by-player breakdown, it looks like this:

Iowa’s Shooters

Player 3 Point % Possessions PPP % Poss Guarded PPP Guarded
Player 3 Point % Possessions PPP % Poss Guarded PPP Guarded
CJ Fredrick 51.6% 46 1.500 28.3% 1.231
Joe Wieskamp 48.3% 91 1.429 67.0% 1.344
Luka Garza 44.6% 82 1.244 65.9% 1.204
Keegan Murray 38.9% 32 1.219 37.5% 1.000
Jordan Bohannon 37.9% 92 1.207 44.6% 1.463
Patrick McCaffery 30.3% 27 0.889 51.9% 1.071
Jack Nunge 29.8% 48 0.875 54.2% 0.769
Connor McCaffery 32.7% 43 0.860 37.2% 1.062
Synergy Sports

While Iowa’s biggest positive movers - Jordan Bohannon and the McCafferys - make up the bulk of the math for why Iowa’s guarded PPP slightly eclipses the unguarded it’s notable that each of Fredrick, Garza, and Wieskamp do not dip past the danger zone. In other words, assuming each guarded shot is a 3, the points/possession results in the following percentage for them:

  • Luka Garza: 1.204/3 = 40%
  • CJ Fredrick: 1.231/3 = 41%
  • Joe Wieskamp: 1.334/3 = 45%

So even guarded threes are in line with Iowa’s overall percentage and eclipse their non-adjusted points/possession overall (1.192) and in Big Ten play (1.149).

Despite getting called out in the above clip, Joe Wieskamp’s last 12 games he’s shot 57% from three, which includes three games he combined to go 3/14. He’s leaned into his heater, shooting from longer distances and with more tightly contested defenders. It is something Fredrick could learn from, as he’s taken 0 or 1 threes in five of the last eight games he’s played to completion, including a single attempt last night.

While I want to be cognizant to understand that Iowa cannot have guys constantly hunting shots with unbalanced floors which may lead to poor transition defense, it is simply a recognition that Iowa is loaded with good shooters and they should feel consistently enabled to shoot it when they have a good look.

Passing up good shots for great ones is an awesome mindset to breed selflessness, there’s no denying that. Yet Iowa could use a widespread does of selfishness to take shots when they have them. It might be the best they get.

Other musings:

I hit these next couple points on Twitter but want to bring them here.

The paradox of Joe Toussaint is not simply to get more of him. That is a silly take which lacks any real due diligence. When trying to understand why Toussaint struggles - because he undoubtedly has over the last seven games - I wanted to see if he is being put in the best position to succeed. By playing less than 4% of his minutes with the best 3 point shooters on the court, his speed to get into the lane is minimized.

Overall the group is +8 in 12 minutes, according to Pivot Analysis.

The last time the quartet was used for any real run was Iowa’s loss at Minnesota, for 4 minutes, and was +1 during that time. Wait, what happened in that game?

Fran really holding that shot over JT’s head two months later?

With Iowa needing to adjust the rotation in Jack Nunge’s absence (UGH), Fran will need to adjust the rotation. It is probably worth turning back to Toussaint as first man off the bench and dust this lineup off.

Bringing Toussaint off the bench first would enable Fran to maintain a rotation which enables Iowa to space the game with 2+ shooters around Garza all 40 minutes. With no Nunge, Garza’s minutes will approach last year’s where he played all but 11 minutes in Iowa’s final five games. He’ll need all the space he can get.

McCaffery regularly rolls with his starters well past the first media timeout of each half for roughly 12 guaranteed minutes together. KenPom’s “most used lineups” bears this out with Iowa’s regular starters receiving 30% of time together over the last 5 games and the non-Fredrick lineup with another 10%.

Here’s how they’ve performed in Big Ten play (non-garbage time) by their configuration, per Pivot Analysis.

  • All on: 260 minutes, +20.19 points/100 possessions
  • 2 together: 228 minutes, +5.96 points/100 possessions
  • Just one: 141 minutes, -4.27 points/100 possessions
  • None with Nunge: 36 minutes, +25.49 points/100 possessions (yeah, he was important in those defensive-focused bench lineups)
  • None without Nunge: 5 minutes, +5 in 7 possessions

Anyways, with 28 minutes to play with Fran needs to ensure the bench minutes of Bohannon, Fredrick, and Wieskamp do not line up. If each guy plays 31 minutes a game, that’s a clean 9 minutes on the bench individually, and 27 in total.

Please stagger them.