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Iowa basketball analytics check in

We’re about 2/3rds of the way through the season - what are the stats saying?

Syndication: HawkCentral Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

Hey! The Hawkeyes play later today, and I’ll have a more detailed writeup on the matchup. But we’re 19 games into the season, including 11 of 23 against Power 5-ish competition, so there’s a fair amount to unpack. Here are some of the most interesting ones, from my perspective:

The shooting and Jordan Bohannon’s dip

The Hawks are shooting the three ball at their least prolific rate since 2015, at 33.8% on the season. It’s even worse in conference play, at 30.2%, and ranks tied for last with Nebraska. Iowa shot it at 40.5% in conference play last season, so that’s quiiite the drop after losing three 40%+ shooters in Luka Garza, Joe Wieskamp, and CJ Fredrick.

The most fingers get pointed a Jordan Bohannon, a player whose value is most demonstrated when the ball is falling in the basket. I took a trip into Synergy’s database to see where he’s fallen off, as he’s a career 40% by pretty much any cut, including shooting above that in each of his full Big Ten seasons. Right now, he sits at 36% on the season - a livable number and second on the team among volume shooters - but is just 12/45 (27%) in Big Ten games.

The following are Jordan Bohannon’s 1) split by shot type across his 5 full seasons and 2) the point/possession by each shot type:

Jordan Bohannon Shot Type Splits

Year Miscellaneous Hand Off Isolation Off Screen P&R Ball Handler Spot Up Transition
Year Miscellaneous Hand Off Isolation Off Screen P&R Ball Handler Spot Up Transition
2016-17 13.02% 4.67% 6.63% 7.86% 22.60% 23.83% 21.38%
2017-18 12.93% 5.08% 6.47% 12.47% 18.94% 19.40% 24.71%
2018-19 16.46% 5.49% 4.74% 12.22% 18.45% 23.19% 19.45%
2020-21 11.69% 6.77% 4.31% 8.62% 23.69% 28.62% 16.31%
2021-22 9.73% 2.70% 5.41% 22.70% 11.89% 26.49% 21.08%
Grand Total 13.19% 5.14% 5.60% 11.71% 19.82% 23.76% 20.79%

Jordan Bohannon Points/Possession

Year Miscellaneous Hand Off Isolation Off Screen P&R Ball Handler Spot Up Transition
Year Miscellaneous Hand Off Isolation Off Screen P&R Ball Handler Spot Up Transition
2016-17 0.585 1.105 0.778 1.281 0.576 1.320 0.851
2017-18 0.750 0.864 1.214 1.630 0.695 1.071 1.009
2018-19 0.909 0.909 1.105 0.857 0.730 1.290 0.974
2020-21 0.500 1.227 0.857 1.036 0.844 1.237 1.019
2021-22 1.556 1.000 1.000 1.095 0.818 0.918 1.205
Grand Total 0.779 1.022 1.000 1.200 0.712 1.197 0.986

The first bit is that his shots have largely come from the same play types across all of his full seasons with one exception: off screen and pick & roll ballhandler have roughly flipped as Bohannon has moved into the shooting guard role.

While it would be delight to see that off screen points/possession return to his freshman and sophomore year efficiencies (~50% shooting from 3), where he is at now is fine considering the increased rate with which he’s taking those shots. The real disappointment is his spot up shooting. It’s down ~20% from his career points/possession on the shot type. Unpacking that further, his PPP on guarded catch and shoot jumpers is down even more, from 1.321 on his career to 0.958.

The answer? I think it’s just trust that the shot is gonna fall and keep taking them. Because of his adjusted role, he’s been more willing to take shots, even if they’re not falling. The 20 3s he missed in the Indiana, Minnesota, & Rutgers games were the most he’s missed in a three game stretch since his freshman year.

It’s his job to shoot and Fran’s job to keep those mitigate the misses. One area he might be able to get Bohannon going is with looks at the basket. Per Pivot Analysis, he’s shooting 56% at the rim, a career-best.

The turnovers

Feels like a jinx to talk about it before tonight’s game but despite having limited continuity from last season to this one, Iowa has remained among the best at taking care of the ball, with a turnover percentage of just 12.6% (3rd in the country). Three of Iowa’s five starters have rates under 10%.

The player I want to point out is Patrick McCaffery, though. His 6.5% is Connor-esque (actually way better than any season his older brother has put forth due to his higher shot volume) and highlights the ceiling the kid has as a playmaker alongside his 1.8 assists.

The downside of Patrick’s ability is he does seem to get himself into tricky situations at times, particularly in the lane where he has to hoist a very contested jumper which can feel like a turnover at times. He’s a 48% shooter at the rim but 38% in the midrange, which means he’s driving into lanes which can be pretty clogged.

A solution might be to surround Pat with Iowa’s three best shooters (Bohannon plus the Murrays) and Player X. That 5th player is pretty important, and has typically been occupied by Toussaint, who’s hit his 3s at a 38% clip. They’ve played about 18 minutes together and have a net rating of +0.53 points/possession. One area Fran might be able to eke more minutes out of that group is subbing Kris for Filip Rebraca ahead of the first television timeout. That’d be a change in Fran’s sub patterns but could be a way to get more minutes for Kris while limiting Rebraca’s likelihood of entering two-foul jail.

Two-foul jail aside: According to KenPom, the 7.1% of available minutes players with two fouls have played in the first half is actually the fourth highest rate in the Fran era but still ranks in the 300s. Love a stodgy rule!

Bucking the rebounding trend

Iowa’s allowed opponents to rebound 30.3% of their misses this season, a percentage unlikely to reduce tonight against Purdue’s Zach Edey & Trevion Williams. Yet they’ve done better in the last three games, in large part to Rebraca’s uptick in the area with 17 defensive boards. He had 1 against Purdue last time out, which reiterates the poor timing of this analysis, but his effort has been tangible as we’ve entered the teeth of Big Ten play.

Yet the rebounding is a seasons long trend for Fran. Iowa hasn’t been in the top 100 for defensive rebounding rate since 2014! His youngest son, Jack, was like 6. He’s a freshman in high school now.

Anyways, Iowa’s defensive four factors are in pretty good shape outside of the rebounding, which ranks 253rd in Division 1 and 14th in Big Ten-only games. The Hawks just can’t let teams rebound that many of their own missed baskets and not expect bad things to happen. Improved rebounding would pair well with the conference’s best turnover rate and help reduce totally fine defensive field goal percentage.

Fran did say in a recent presser something to the effect of: “well we can’t run if we don’t rebound the ball so we gotta be better there.” Hear hear. Per Synergy, Iowa allows 1.022 points/putback possession, which limits their ability to play in transition (1.120 points/possession). In some ways, defensive rebounding is found money.

Let’s hope that emphasis continues as the season wears on despite the relatively undersized center Iowa often deploys.

Back to Rebraca: The North Dakota transfer has not always shown his worth in eye popping or obvious stats but looks really good when digging deeper. Pivot Analysis has identified him as having the highest net rating of any Hawkeye in conference play (+16 points/100 possessions) which gets even better when accounting for when he’s not on the floor (-13 points/100 without him). Fran has backed himself into a bit of a sticky wicket with rangy but undersized posts in Rebraca, Keegan, & Kris and will need to figure out a way to manage the rotation of them.

My hot take(?) Rebraca is as good a pick and roll hedger as Iowa’s had under Fran. Him with the Murrays (who are both capable switchers) puts Iowa in really good position from that perspective, so long as the guards can stay connected.

For the Hawkeyes to continue improving, they’ll need to maintain current trends of improved rebounding and taking care of the ball. If Jordan Bohannon can regress - in a good way! - to the mean, Iowa should be able to lock in another NCAA tournament berth and be a dangerous team wherever they’re seeded.