Iowa’s Depth Gives Hawkeyes an Element Most Teams Don’t HavePosted by Brendan Brody on November 19th, 2013
There isn’t going be a fancy disclaimer or anything at the beginning of this post talking about small sample size, lack of quality opponents or anything of that ilk. While it is true that Iowa hasn’t played anybody of note yet, 4-0 is still 4-0. They are off to a tremendous start in handily beating the teams that they are supposed to handily beat. One very large takeaway from their Hawkeyes’ four games so far is that they are getting contributions from essentially the whole roster. Iowa has headliners in Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White, but Fran McCaffery has also put together a very deep bench that fits quite snugly with his system. Iowa’s bench players check all the boxes in terms of what you’d want from a reserve unit, and most importantly, have shown no drop-off in production whatsoever when they replace the starters.
The numbers tell some of the story here, with the bench players this season accounting for 49.9 percent of Iowa’s total points, 49.5 percent of its rebounds, and 45.0 percent of its assists. Granted, a lot of this derives from three of Iowa’s four games have been blowouts, so simply taking those statistics at face value doesn’t tell you what you need to know. The combination of evaluating the numbers and using the good old-fashioned eye test instead illustrates the impact that the bench has made. Gabriel Olaseni, a blur running the court end-to-end, is averaging 2.5 blocks per game. Wisconsin transfer Jared Uthoff can score in the paint or from the outside and is also providing rebounding (10.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG). Zach McCabe is a big body at 6’7″ and 235 lbs who can knock down an open shot and match up wherever you need him to. Anthony Clemmons can come in and give you solid point guard minutes without any kind of dropoff if Marble or Mike Gesell have to sit. He has a 13:4 assist-to-turnover ratio and knows how to run the team. Lastly, freshman Peter Jok has the tools to eventually become a superstar. Unlike fellow first-year players like those populating the rosters of Indiana, Illinois and Purdue, Jok really doesn’t have to do anything except be a role player on a team loaded up with experience. So far, he’s shown that he can score and defend on the wing, again dovetailing with the common theme of little to no dropoff when these bench players enter the game.
This isn’t even factoring in shooter Josh Oglesby, who should be back in about five weeks and will mean that Iowa really can go 11 deep then. They will have a shot-blocker, a glue guy, a versatile wing who can play inside or out, two potential knock-down shooters, and a point guard who knows his role and won’t try to do anything he can’t. The Hawkeyes can pressure in the half-court, or even go full-court if needed without worry of foul trouble. They also have the luxury of pulling someone from the starting unit if he isn’t productive and the team will not lose a beat. Iowa will be tested later this month as it will potentially run into teams like Tennessee and Kansas, but so far it appears that they’ll hold up much better than thought once they get into these contests against stronger foes. A few other teams in the league have the potential to go just as deep into its bench, but the key distinction is that the Iowa players seemingly all have set roles and know exactly what’s expected of them when they take the court. Depth and experience can go a long way in a tough Big Ten season, and it’s looking like Iowa has several clear advantages with all of these pieces set in place.