Everyone knows the story of how Jarrod Uthoff took a detour through Madison, Wisconsin en route to Iowa City from Cedar Rapids. I'm not going to rehash that here. Instead, I want to focus directly on what we all saw on the court this year: talent.
Uthoff has, in my opinion, the smoothest looking jumper on the team and he has the athleticism to put the ball on the floor and take his man off the dribble. On defense, he's got Stretch Armstrong-like arms that can block shots from the perimeter and not just at the rim, and he's very good at crashing the glass and pulling down defensive rebounds. He still has some improvement to make to his game, of course, like becoming physical enough to finish in traffic against conference foes. Remember, though, he was essentially a redshirt freshman this year. Yes, this was his third year on a Big Ten college campus, but he had yet to do anything other than practice for two years. He hadn't truly experienced the physical grind of a college basketball season from anywhere but the bench, especially in a conference as physical as the Big Ten. There were definitely some growing pains for the lanky 6'9" forward this year, but I still think he showed extremely positive flashes of what's to come in the next couple years.
Season in Review
Like I mentioned above, Uthoff had some growing pains this year. Basically, it was a tale of two seasons for the redshirt sophomore: The non-conference highs and the conference lows. Right out of the gate, Uthoff looked like the third best player on the team, if not better. Just about every shot he took in November and December fell, and in addition, he rebounded, he blocked shots, he did just about everything. But then conference play started, and Jarrod seemed to struggle adjusting to the increased difficulty of the competition, as his shooting and scoring numbers both dropped pretty significantly.
In non-conference play, Uthoff averaged 0.52 points per minute and put up a 62.20% eFG%. I mean, yeah, we all figured there would be a little bit of regression when Big Ten play started, but we didn't think Uthoff would cease to be that consistent third best player on the team. In terms of what I was expecting his Big Ten offensive numbers to look like, I felt a points per minute somewhere in the 0.40s and an eFG% of 55% or so was reasonable for a player with his offensive ability and shooting prowess. In reality, his Big Ten numbers were 0.34 points per minute accompanied by a 48.17% eFG%.
One of his main issues was that his golden shooting touch left him during the last three months of the season... kind of.
It was mainly his struggles to convert down low that were the driver of the problem. Against the easier part of the schedule, Uthoff made 82% of his shots near the rim, but against Big Ten teams he only made 62%. That's quite the drop off, and not something you want to see from a taller player with the wingspan that Uthoff possesses. The rest of his shooting regressed, but not to the lows of his near rim shooting. Instead, his two point jump shooting fell from 35% in non-conference games to 27% in Big Ten play, which is still decent considering how inefficient those shots usually are. Meanwhile, his three pointers regressed from an unsustainable 52.63% against non-Big Ten teams to a pretty average 33.33% against Big Ten teams. Uthoff is definitely capable of shooting better than 27% and 33% from further out, but it was that fall off near the rim that really hurt him as the season wore on.
However, it wasn't just his shooting that decreased as the season went on, his minutes also took a hit, too.
During the conference portion of the schedule, Fran started relying more on the experience of Roy Devyn Marble, Aaron White, Josh Oglesby, and Mike Gesell. Those four players playing increased minutes, meant that Uthoff would lose about 4 minutes per game from his non-conference average.
All in all, Uthoff seems to have experienced what looks like a normal freshman-like season. It's not unusual to see a talented player, who has yet to be run through the ringer of a full college basketball season, look like a star in the making during the cupcake portion of the schedule, and then struggle to find his game during the beastly part of the schedule. Probably the stat that most accurately describes Uthoff's season is win shares. His 2.7 win shares on the year was good for third best on the team. However, only 0.7 of those win shares came during the Big Ten portion of the schedule, which was 8th best on the team. In other words, he literally got almost all of his value during the non-conference portion of the schedule.
He's only got one year under his belt, but I've still got some charts.
Breaking Uthoff's offensive game down, the three point shot was less prevalent than I think it should probably be going forward. Uthoff can knock down the mid-range jumpers, but if he can turn some of those long twos into threes next year, that would be a nice increase in value for him and the team.
As for shooting, Uthoff put together a nice year shooting overall, but don't forget this is largely driven by his non-conference numbers. However, I don't see why these numbers aren't attainable going forward in Big Ten play either. If I'm being honest, Uthoff is probably the one guy on the roster that I can envision making over 40% of his threes on a consistent basis for his career. Maybe I'm biased, but I really like his shot.
And last but not least, Uthoff does have more to his game than just scoring the basketball. He was a very good defensive rebounder and shot-blocker this season. His 20% defensive rebounding rate was 204th in the nation, according to Kenpom, and unlike his offense, that did not really fall off during conference play, as he still grabbed almost 19% of all rebounds available when he was on the court against Big Ten opponents. As for blocked shots, his 6.4% block rate was 123rd in the country according to Kenpom, and that didn't fall off in conference play either, as he still had a block rate of 5.84% against Big Ten teams. Making that block rate even more impressive (besides the fact that it's from a wing player) is the fact that Uthoff only averaged 2.5 fouls per 40 minutes this year. This part of his game is solid, it's the offense that he needs to continue develop further next season.
Obviously, since Jarrod had yet to play a college basketball game before this season, the "Career Development" section contained only one year of data, which I think again drives home my point that this was essentially his freshman year. The key thing for Uthoff's development next year is toughness. He's got the skills and I don't doubt that they won't be on display next year, but he's going to need to learn to finish in traffic against Big Ten teams. 62% won't cut it (unless he goes bonkers from downtown, which I guess he could do), but somewhere above 70% should be more realistic for a player with a finishing touch as nice as what his seems to be. Now, this isn't the football program, so don't expect Jarrod to shoot up to 225 pounds. Fran likes his guys lean and athletic for his up-tempo offense, and I don't really expect Uthoff to get much bigger than his listed 208 this year, especially considering that he's had three years in a college weight-training program. Uthoff should continue to get stronger without packing on the noticeable pounds. If he can convert down low on a consistent basis, and his jump shot isn't just average in conference play next season, he could realistically be the Hawkeyes' second best player behind Aaron White.
Speaking of Aaron White, I remember his first year on campus, and how people were making the inevitable comparison between him and Uthoff (who was at Wisconsin at the time). I get it. I mean, if Uthoff had never gone to Wisconsin, we probably would not be watching Aaron White in an Iowa uniform today. So Uthoff's whole circuitous route back home might have actually worked out really well for Iowa's overall talent level. But at this point I think we all understand that they have two totally different games that aren't directly comparable. White was listed as a small forward coming out of high school and he did start there this year, but I think we've come to realize that his game is probably better-suited for the power forward role in college and Uthoff is more of the true small forward. Uthoff can finish from outside, but needs to work on his inside game against tougher competition. White thrives around the rim, but struggles when he shoots from distance. I think they both compliment each other's game nicely, and Fran seemed to think so too at the end of the year when we saw a lineup with Uthoff at the three and White at the four on the floor more often. Next year, we will probably see them on the floor quite a bit more, too. That could even be part of the starting lineup. And let's be honest: that's a pretty exciting starting lineup.
But wrapping this up, I guess my main point is: don't be too down on the second half of Uthoff's season. This was his first year game-wise, and he looked like a freshman. He may be behind the curve initially, but in his final two years with Iowa, I fully expect him to jump ahead of that curve starting next year.
Up Next: Mike Gesell