A look back at the 2013-14 Iowa Hawkeyes and a look ahead at what 2014-15 has in store for Fran McCaffery and Co.
Previously: Purdue, Northwestern, Penn State, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota
Finally: a tournament team! It's been a long road to get here, but, here we are nonetheless. As strange as North Carolina was this season, Iowa was definitely a bit of a head-scratcher at times as well, especially down the stretch.
So, what happened this season?
Iowa's season flamed out with a play-in game defeat against a deceivingly strong Tennessee squad, and the Hawkeyes
finished with a 20-13 (9-9). Okay, a .500 league record seems to jive with a first-round exit, right?
Well, Officer Ramathorn, enhance *zooms in on Iowa's season*--yeah, this team, at one point, was far better than a .500 outfit. Iowa fell to the Volunteers on March 19; on Feb. 8, Fran's bunch delivering a humiliating 85-67 defeat to the then-No. 10 Wolverines. This was just about the apex of Iowa's season.
With a 12-point win at Penn State a week after annihilating Michigan at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa moved to 8-4 in the league, boasting a No. 15 ranking when the Badgers rolled into Iowa City on Feb. 22.
Remember how I said they finished 9-9? Well, things spiraled out of control, starting with the postponing of the Indiana game in Bloomington because things were falling from the ceiling
. The Hawkeyes finished 1-6, the lone win coming against a a not so good Purdue team at home, by 7.
In the final six games of the regular season, Iowa' defense gave up 83.7 points per game, the culprit behind Iowa's slide. Evan an offense as strong and balanced as Iowa's couldn't overcome that.
So, for a time the Hawkeyes appeared poised to truly threaten the teams vying for the regular season title (Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin), something that didn't seem so strange after Iowa delivered that aforementioned thumping to John Beilein's squad.
If this were football, this is probably where I'd be talking about a new defensive coordinator--but, since that's not really how it works here, the Hawkeyes will need to rectify what went wrong down the stretch if 2014-15 is going to be a little more fulfilling.
- For all of the defense's struggles, Iowa's offense was a well-oiled machine, laying waste to defenses left and right. Part of that was because they were just so good at getting to the line: Iowa finished first in the Big Ten during league play in free throw attempts, which made up for the fact that they were a middling 6th in three-point percentage (33.8 percent).
- 2013-14 was a funny year for Big Ten stereotypes--for a league known for its plodding play, teams like Wisconsin and Iowa (especially Iowa), showed an ability to push the pace (Michigan did too, of course). The Hawkeyes played faster than any other Big Ten team, at 68.7 possessions per 40 minutes. The Hawkeyes were Oregon football-esque this past season, and, quite frankly, it was exciting to watch and a breath of fresh air.
- The Hawkeyes also got it done on the offensive glass, finishing first in the league in ORB% (36.9 percent). In review, they had several scoring options, they played efficiently with speed, they were exceptional from two-point land and, when they did happen to miss, they could grab an offensive board more often than not. Needless to say, Fran engineered quite the offense this past season.
- It also wasn't a couple of guys going off on the regular, like, say, NEBRASKETBALL. Iowa had excellent talent, sure, but they shared the ball, finishing with the second-best assist percentage during Big Ten play (55.5 percent).
- Only Wisconsin and Michigan took care of the ball better than Iowa. The Hawkeyes finished third in turnover percentage (16.2 percent); for what it's worth, Michigan was at 15.4 percent.
- Despite the defensive slide, Iowa finished third in both steal and block percentages.
- As far as points per possession goes, Iowa was the second-most pliable D in the league, giving up 1.07 PPP, tied with both Michigan and Purdue (only Minnesota, at 1.08, was worse). But, like Oregon football, volume of possessions and talent usually won the day for Iowa.
- The Iowa D gave up a league-worst eFG% of 51.6 percent; given the fact that Michigan was right there behind Iowa in this category, it goes to show what a powerful offense can do. Of course, the major difference between Iowa and Michigan came in the form of the three-ball.
- Roy Devyn Marble, a major part of that offensive machine, led the league in points per game (18.6) during B1G play, and finished third in free throw attempts.
Unfortunately for Iowa, Marble, of Southfield, their most talented player on a squad with multiple scoring options, is off to the NBA
, where he was recently drafted by the Orlando Magic with the 56th overall pick in the draft last Thursday.
McCaffery signed three Class of 2014 recruits, including JUCO transfer PG Trey Dickerson -- a March commit -- and 3-stars SG Brady Ellingson and PF Dominique Uhl. In the B1G, Uhl netted offers from Minnesota, Penn State and Northwestern.
Marble is a huge loss and Basabe was certainly a talent, even if it didn't work out as a full-time starter or as a pure scorer -- the Hawkeyes will miss the former's all-around scoring ability and the latter rebounding and defense.
Mike Gesell, Aaron White, Jarod Uthoff and Josh Oglesby are back, plus big men Gabriel Olaseni and Adam Woodbury. That's a real strong core, albeit one that, on paper, lacks that extra jolt of starpower a team needs to seriously challenge for the league title (i.e. Marble).
Somehow, Aaron White is going to be a senior this year...they grow up so fast. I remember when he was a quietly productive freshman like it was yesterday, in the early days of the "Iowa is going to be really good next year" hype train (which I've been in each of the past few seasons, FWIW). It's hard to say if White can be that guy, or to criticize for not being that guy on a team with Marble. Sans Marble? We'll see. For a guy who was the No. 2 option on the 2013-14 team, he had some awfully strange lines. For example, 1-for-5 for 5 points in a Big Ten tournament loss to Northwestern. Or 2-for-5 for 4 points in a home loss against Wisconsin. Or 1-for-4 for 10 points (8-for-8 from the free throw line) in an overtime loss against Michigan State.
In any case, at some point it's just got to happen for Iowa, right? As I forced myself to watch all 40 minutes of that Michigan-Iowa blowout, I thought this was the year that Iowa would make some noise -- a play-in game loss was not exactly what i had in mind, nor what Iowa fans had in mind, I'd imagine.
With that said, the program is still in good shape, even if the Hawkeyes seemingly missed out on a great chance to make a deep tournament run in 2013-14.
Like a lot of people, I'm a big fan of Fran. At first it was an ironic sort of fandom, what with his histrionics and all, but it's hard not to root for him given what he and his family have gone through
Iowa won't be as deep this year, so maybe they won't play quite as fast. They do, however, return a lot of pretty good talent. Stars? No, probably not, unless White shouldering the load left by Marble results in a serious uptick in production. On the bright side, he did have a much more efficient junior season than the season before--he averaged 12.8 ppg both years but his FG% shot up from 46.8 to 58.4 percent.
Those are great numbers for a No. 2 guy. But, and not to mix sports here, Iowa needs him to be a first line guy. Whether he makes that final jump (probably at the expense of a little efficiency) or not will be the difference between another Iowa that simply makes the tournament and one that could reach the Sweet 16 (or further).
Either way, a few things are certain: 1) Iowa will score, a lot. 2) Fran will probably do some hollerin' on occasion. 3) It will all be pretty fun basketball to watch, albeit unpredictable...which, of course, is the best kind of college basketball.