A Deeper Dive Into Iowa’s Offense

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 2nd, 2015

Another year of college basketball must mean another mixed start to the season for Iowa. After thumping Marquette on November 19 and moving to 3-0, the Hawkeyes lost two of their next three games during Feast Week and walk into their Big Ten/ACC Challenge tonight sitting at 4-2. But things aren’t all bad for Frank McCaffery as their two losses are to Dayton and Notre Dame, a pair of likely NCAA Tournament teams next March. Furthermore, Iowa is currently performing well both on the offensive and defensive ends, ranking #19 and #29 in efficiency on KenPom, respectively. The high offensive rating on offense is especially notable after consecutive years of losing All-Big Ten players like Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White. In this post, I’ll take a deep look at the Hawkeyes’ offense and see how they’re living up to the two previous seasons.

Iowa seniors (from left) Jared Uthoff, Adam Woodbury and Mike Gesell have lead the offense to its high level. (AP)

Iowa seniors (from left) Jared Uthoff, Adam Woodbury and Mike Gesell have sustained the offense to its highly efficient level of performance. (AP)

Last season, McCaffrey had the challenge of replacing Marble, a career 1,000 point scorer, and did so effectively thanks to the emergence of White. This year, the Hawkeyes are once again replacing their leading scorer now that White graduated with Jarrod Uthoff as the presumptive next star. Thus far, the senior wing has stepped up to the challenge and leads the team in scoring with 18.2 PPG, but he hasn’t done it alone. Iowa has seven players getting a majority of the minutes and all have averaged over six PPG: Uthoff, Peter Jok (12.0 PPG), Adam Woodbury (9.7 PPG), Mike Gesell (8.8 PPG), Anthony Clemmons (7.5 PPG), Brady Ellingson (6.8 PPG), and Dom Uhl (6.3 PPG). When compared to the two previous seasons, these Hawkeyes are certainly more balanced. But does deeper mean a more productive offense? The table below compares the performances in the first six games from each of the last three seasons.

iowa off table

As illustrated in the table, the current version of the Hawkeyes has been shooting the ball better than the previous two seasons evidenced by their ultra-high effective field goal percentage. One reason Iowa has been able to shoot so well is because their point guard, Gesell, has been able to set them up in rhythm. The senior point guard has upped his distribution game this season, going from 4.0 to 7.7 APG (currently 2nd in the B1G) even with sharing starter minutes with another point guard in Clemmons. The donut chart below illustrate how Gesell has spread the rock among this deep Iowa team.

gesell donut

However, passing and shooting better isn’t exactly leading to a more efficient offense. While this season’s team is shooting six percentage points better than the Marble-led 2013-14 squad, their efficiency rate is lower by 0.06 (6 points per 100 possessions). How can this be? It’s because this year’s team has relied much more on their jump shot (70.1 percent of all shots are jumps shots this season compared to 64.4 percent in 2013-14) and less on getting themselves to the free throw line. This year, the ratio of free throw attempts to field goals attempts is 27.9 percent, which ranks 318th in the country. By avoiding the charity stripes, this year’s Hawkeyes are missing out on easy points.

So, are these Hawkeyes better on offense than the previous two seasons? Well they’ve changed their identity a bit by relying on (and hitting) more jumpers, but will their sharpshooting lead to a more overall efficient offense? The honest answer is we don’t know given the small sample size. It will be difficult to match the Marble-led team of 2013-14 which ended up being a Top-5 offense (119.8 adjusted offensive efficiency). While they move the ball and shoot well, there’s still the question of late game situations. Uthoff has yet to show if he can be the type of player than can win a game on his own like Marble and White were able to do. He doesn’t have the penchant for getting fouled like the two former Hawkeyes, so he’ll have to rely on a hot hand to pull out wins late in the game. Maybe we’ll find out as early as Wednesday when the Hawkeyes host an always-talented Florida State team.

Alex Moscoso (170 Posts)

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