Iowa basketball: Hawkeyes are a tough team to figure out

If someone were to attempt to describe the Iowa basketball team in recent weeks, a puzzle would provide a fairly apt description of the 20th ranked Hawkeyes. An often exciting, but sometimes frustrating puzzle.

Unfortunately for fans and the program alike, late February is usually a time when teams hope to reaffirm their identity and put their best foot forward as the conference schedule comes to a close and postseason play begins.

So what should college basketball observers make of the Hawkeyes?

The case for

Iowa can score.

The Hawkeyes are the 7th highest scoring team in the country, checking in at just over 83 points per game. They have only failed to top the 80 point threshold on eight occasions in 26 games. Led by senior guard Devyn Marble (16.6ppg), Iowa sports a balanced and diverse attack on the offensive end of the floor.

Head coach Fran McCaffery also has one of the deepest rotations of players at his disposal of any coach in America. The Hawkeyes frequently go ten deep, and have multiple options at every position that can make a big impact on any given night.

By the numbers, this team is proficient in numerous facets of the game. As previously mentioned Iowa ranks seventh in scoring offense, while also coming in at fourth in rebounding margin, 13th in assists, 32nd in blocks, 16th in field goal percentage defense, and 12th defending the 3-point line.

Finally, in examining Iowa’s seven defeats this season you won’t find a “bad loss” anywhere among them. Each one came to a team that currently sits within the top 22 teams in the country, and the sum margin of the defeats is a measly 34 points (about 4.86ppg).

By all accounts, the Hawkeyes are a dangerous squad capable of competing with any team in the country, but have suffered a few misfortunes against a schedule littered with talented opponents.

The case against 

For all of the gaudy statistics Iowa still has seven losses on its résumé. As much as fans or players might try and twist it, the facts are the facts. The Hawkeyes are a seven loss basketball team, effectively sitting fourth in the Big Ten standings at the present time.

They have struggled at times down the stretch of games with their execution, and early in

With the NCAA Tournament right around the corner, Iowa can ill-afford to continue its recent inconsistent play.

With the NCAA Tournament right around the corner, Iowa can ill-afford to continue its recent inconsistent play.

the season, with free throw shooting. As you can see by their aforementioned average margin of defeat, the Hawkeyes have been in every game they have played this year to essentially the bitter end. It’s a tad worrisome that Iowa hasn’t eked out just a few more wins in those close encounters.

In recent weeks inconsistent play has been somewhat prevalent up and down the Iowa lineup. Other than Marble, point guard Mike Gesell, and back-up center Gabe Olaseni, multiple Hawkeyes have been more cold than hot with their play. Forward Aaron White in particular has not performed to his usual efficient and energetic standards, and needs to get back on track for the team to reach its potential.

A final troubling occurrence has been a recent tirade on twitter by senior forward Zach McCabe against Hawkeye fans who criticized his performance this past Saturday via social media. While the argument from said “fans” would be that McCabe was awful against Wisconsin (he was), it’s about time for those same people to get a grip and leave these kids alone.

In a world increasingly overrun by anonymous critics on the internet, it’s crucial going forward that this Iowa team closes its inner circle even tighter to eliminate any and all outside distractions. Coach McCaffery has taken an initial step by asking his players to refrain from using twitter until the end of the season.

Hopefully this team will grow closer in the face of adversity, rather than allow outside criticisms to fracture it.

All in all I’m not one to believe that the sky is falling on this Iowa team as some in its fan base are beginning to worry about. This is still a squad that is ranked within the top 20 in the country, and has been for roughly the past three months. Such a feat is in itself unprecedented for the program in recent memory, and fans would be wise to remember that.

Iowa still has time to get its act together, and to expect the team to do otherwise would seem premature based on the masterful turn-around job the program has undergone under the leadership of coach McCaffery. I would be willing to bet my non-existent salary that despite their recent struggles, the Hawkeyes will be a team come March that nobody is too thrilled about seeing in their portion of the bracket.

  • chicagohawk1

    what a roller coaster ride. last night’s loss at Minnehaha should send a real loud message to this team. you are not in the tournament yet and quit listening to everyone tell you how good you are….because while you are a good team, you are far from a great team. the blame goes all around. Coach should be using 8 players, not 11. he should be instructing who takes the shots and in the last 8 minutes of a game I don’t want to see McCabe or Woodbury in the game. from the players perspective, put up or shut up. the only talented player who shows up for every game is marble. white is inconsistent, as is McCabe, Woodbury, Basabe. If you want to get into the tournament then act like it and play ball. if you lose the last 4 games you’ll be NIT bound once again regardless of your ‘resume’.

  • chicagohawk1

    iowa is it’s own worst enemy.

    • Tanner Lafever

      I would agree that the Hawkeyes sometimes suffer from self-inflicted wounds. However, in regards to your other points I’m not so sure I feel the same. Yes Woodbury and McCabe have struggled recently, but you cannot remove Iowa’s two most physical players from the rotation without the team being worse off as a whole. Much of Iowa’s success can be attributed to its depth, so I would caution fans to be too quick to call for a 7-8 man rotation. Lastly, Basabe has missed the last two games due to illness and Iowa has put forth two of its worst defensive performances of the year. While I won’t say that he single-handedly fixes the Hawkeyes’ recent issues, his athleticism and rebounding are not something that can be replaced when he is out of the lineup. I really do feel your frustration, but maybe this skid will be the wake up call you are looking for. How about we let the rest of this week play out (two more games) before proclaiming that the sky is falling?

  • Grandma

    Whether I agree or disagree with your opinion, I can’t say that you are overpaid.