Iowa City, Iowa – The Iowa men’s basketball team started the year a little slow out of the gates. They were sloppy on the defensive end and a mess of confusion on offense. In their last three games the team now seems to have found a rhythm. Sure, the competition hasn’t been the greatest, but it appears the turnaround could be on for this young group of players.
Early in the season, teams were scoring at will on this Iowa team. Communication is key when you are guarding the hoop, and Iowa lacked that. No one was talking, there was poor rotation on defense, and the absence of Nicholas Baer was apparent. In the first 10 games of the season, where the Hawkeyes struggled to find an identity, they were allowing opposing teams to score 75.6 points per game.
In these past three games Iowa has allowed just 62.6 points per game. Their zone defense hasn’t been collapsing, the rotations have been better, and Baer is back to being Baer.
The expectations were high for this team offensively with Jordan Bohannon and Tyler Cook leading the way, but that too was a bit of a let down to start the year. There were times at the beginning of the season where the Hawkeyes couldn’t buy a bucket. They had multiple 5 or more minute stretches without scoring. This was a problem that carried over from last season where the same scoring droughts occurred in some of their toughest losses. Their luck was bound to change with shooting, and it appears that is has over these past few games.
Turnovers were also a major issue at the beginning of the season. The Hawks were turning the ball over around 15 times a game. At that time, Bohannon was the primary ball handler. He was getting mugged all the way up the floor, but when Connor McCaffery returned from illness he provided Bohannon some much needed assistance. The turnover number has dropped to 11 in the last three games. As a bonus, McCaffery has also shown a good eye when passing the ball.
The final issue that Iowa seems to have addressed is ball movement. The Hawkeyes look like a solid offensive unit when they are swinging the ball around and finding the open man. However, this team has not moved the ball well in their losses this season. They have averaged 15.5 assists per game in their losses. In their wins they have averaged 22.3. This is a pretty significant difference, and the results are telling. Fran McCaffery and the rest of his coaching staff would be wise to share those types of stats with the team.
If the NCAA tournament is the goal, then the margin for error is razor thin. Iowa can only afford to lose maybe two more games this season if they want a shot at making the NCAA Tournament come March. That’s not likely considering the majority of Big Ten Conference play lies ahead, but If they can finish out the non-conference schedule strong and win the games they are supposed to then they’ll give themselves a chance. The way the Hawks have played in these last three games has been closer to what most Hawkeye fans were expecting out of this team. The question is becomes… can they continue to play that well when the competition takes a step up?
Don’t give up on this team yet Iowa fans. They are young, they are improving, and they have a lot of fight left in them.