Can Peter Jok Lead Iowa Back to the NCAAs?

Posted by Brendan Brody on October 24th, 2016

Last season Iowa boasted the Big Ten’s highest scoring duo with two players who finished among the top eight in points per game. One of those players is returning to Iowa City; the other (along with three other starters) has exhausted his eligibility. Wing Peter Jok has played in the NCAA Tournament in each of the three years of his career, but now in his senior season, his elevated play may be the only way for the Hawkeyes to reach the Field of 68 for the fourth consecutive time. Much of this determination will also hinge upon the improvements of holdovers who will be thrust into bigger roles, but Jok’s ability to carry Iowa’s scoring load will go a long way toward determining the fate of Fran McCaffery’s seventh season in Iowa City.

Peter Jok faces a big load as the only returning starter for Iowa in 2016-17. (Alyssa Hitchcock, The Daily Iowan)

Peter Jok faces a big load as the only returning starter for Iowa in 2016-17. (Alyssa Hitchcock/The Daily Iowan)

Jok enjoyed quite the breakout season last year as he more than doubled his scoring average (7.0 to 16.1 PPG), scored 20 or more points 11 times, and did so with the sixth best offensive rating in the Big Ten among those using over 24 percent of his team’s possessions. His effective field goal percentage (53.1%) and his true shooting percentage (57.3%) were also career-highs by a wide margin. The caveat with this, however, is that a certain lanky forward wearing jersey number 20 (Jarrod Uthoff) was the clear first option, meaning that Jok was able to get much better looks than he’s likely to get this season. He’ll be the Hawkeyes’ first option this year, and the lack of an experienced point guard like Mike Gesell or Anthony Clemmons to run the offense may also hinder his efficiency numbers. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rushed Reactions: #2 Villanova 87, #7 Iowa 68

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 20th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Villlanova's Offense Carved Up Iowa Today (USA Today Images)

Villlanova’s Offense Carved Up Iowa Today (USA Today Images)

  1. This isn’t the same Villanova team. The Wildcats look ready and determined to continue their NCAA Tournament run. Having now relieved the pressure of getting to the NCAA’s second weekend for the first time since 2009, Villanova removes that distraction and can focus completely on getting ready for Miami next week in Louisville. Jay Wright’s group has all the intangibles: chemistry, leadership and momentum. While its style of play is similar to last year’s group, this Villanova team is more talented and versatile. The three-point shot remains a key part of its attack, but added experience and an ability to get to the rim make this team better and more capable of advancing.
  2. Villanova doesn’t get enough credit for its defense. The Wildcats have ranked among the nation’s best defensive teams over the last four years but the story has repeatedly been about coming up short in the postseason. With that monkey now off their back, maybe they will have some attention paid to their consistently elite defense. It was on full display in the first half today as Iowa was completely shut off from the basket. The Hawkeyes shot just 40 percent from the floor overall and 7-of-18 (38.9 percent) from two-point range in a game that was decided by halftime. Villanova has shut down opponents all year (seventh in defensive efficiency) and that’s what will determine how far it advances.
  3. Shout out to Nicholas Baer. The Iowa walk-on had 15 points off the bench for Fran McCaffery’s team, the lone bright spot for the Hawkeyes on an otherwise rotten day. Baer saw 25 minutes of action, his second-highest total of the entire season. Even in a blowout loss, this had to be nice for Iowa fans. Baer is a skilled forward who will no doubt be offered a scholarship, and McCaffery has indicated as much already this season.

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Rushed Reactions: #7 Iowa 72, #10 Temple (OT)

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 18th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Iowa Escapes to Live Another Day (USA Today Images)

Iowa Escapes to Live Another Day (USA Today Images)

  1. Iowa showed great resiliency. Entering this game with five losses in its last six games, it was a positive sign for Iowa to come out strong in the first few minutes. Even more impressive was Iowa’s ability to win this game in overtime after fouling a three-point shooter in the final seconds. When Temple’s Quenton DeCosey hit three free throws to send the game to overtime, the expectation of many was for Iowa to fold and Temple to spring the upset (think: Little Rock). That turned out not to be the case and Iowa now moves on to a Second Round matchup with Villanova. It was gut-check time for the Hawkeyes and they clearly answered the bell.
  2. That said, Adam Woodbury pushed off. In real time, it looked like Iowa’s center cleared out considerable space on his game-winning rebound and tip-in. Replay only confirmed this fact. If called properly, Temple would have received free throws on the other end with only a couple of ticks left on the clock. It was a game-changing no-call with the outcome of the game hanging in the balance. Credit Temple coach Fran Dunphy and his players for taking the high road in the postgame press conference.
  3. Did Iowa get its mojo back? This question likely won’t be answered until Sunday’s game against Villanova. Head coach Fran McCaffery struck a positive, upbeat tone after the game, no doubt looking for some positive reinforcement after what has been a brutal month. Iowa survived and advanced which has to give it some confidence going forward, but the Hawkeyes only shot 35 percent for the game and were outrebounded by 11. Its saving grace was turnovers as Iowa gave it away only three times in a 45-minute game. That alone is incredibly impressive and a similar result on Sunday should keep Iowa in the game against Villanova.

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Levy’s Layup Line: Week 12

Posted by Adam Levy on February 26th, 2016

Need proof that the Big Ten is as watered down as it’s ever been? Only 15 – yes, 15 – of the 107 conference games played this year have been won by four points or less, or ended in overtime. That means just 14.0% percent of Big Ten games have been considered “close” – the third lowest percentage of all 32 Division I conferences. As sad as it is that the regular season is nearing its end, it’s nice to know that we soon won’t have to hear, see or think about Rutgers, Minnesota, Illinois, Northwestern, Nebraska and Penn State basketball until next fall. It’s Week 12 of the Layup Line.

Tom Izzo

Another year, another ho-hum top of the line finish for Tom Izzo and Michigan State. (Getty)


A: Michigan State Spartans

Deja vu for Tom Izzo’s boys. They hit a rough patch in mid-January, then destroyed seven of their next eight opponents. The Spartans completely worked Indiana, Wisconsin and Ohio State over the past couple of weeks and should have no issue running the table from here on out. Denzel Valentine has quietly put himself right back into the NPOY conversation, Matt Costello has solidified himself as the best rebounder in the conference (also 10th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage), and the Spartans, as a whole, are shooting a nation-best 43.2 percent from three. This team is going to the Final Four. You heard it here first. Or probably 101st, but whatever. In Izzo we trust.

A: Indiana Hoosiers

Back in December, if you thought Indiana was going to win a Big Ten title after its performances in Maui and at Duke, you were just lying. Nobody had that pick – not with Maryland and Michigan State coming in with those preseason expectations of theirs. But here we are on February 26, and Indiana is coming off a huge week after a home win over rival Purdue (only committed four turnovers for a 6.5 percent turnover rate – the lowest ever rate in a Big Ten game in the entire Tom Crean era in Bloomington, per Luke Winn) and a 27-point shellacking of Illinois in Champaign. Indiana is now 13-3 with a two game lead and two games left against Iowa and Maryland – both of whom are tied for second. Win one and the Hoosiers win at least a share of the title; win both and the title is theirs outright. Indiana control its own destiny.

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Evaluating Iowa’s Recent Slump

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 25th, 2016

In a home loss to surging Wisconsin last night, Iowa again refused to control its own destiny on the way to a Big Ten title. Every time Indiana or Maryland slips up and leaves the Hawkeyes with a big opening, Fran McCaffery’s team just can’t seem to string together a consistent 40 minutes. The loss to the Badgers is Iowa’s third in its last four outings, with the only win coming against cellar-dwelling Minnesota. The perplexing part of the Hawkeyes’ recent slide is that there hasn’t been a clear statistical reason for it — rebounding and turnovers, for example, have been within normal ranges. Rather, a consistent theme in the losses seems to be a relative lack of leadership and a diverse offensive tool kit which doesn’t expand much beyond the three-point shot. Let’s evaluate both of these concerns.

McCaffery's Hawkeyes need to prove they can win out-score their opponents in the half-court. (AP/C. Neibergall)

McCaffery’s Hawkeyes need to prove they can win out-score their opponents in the half-court. (AP/C. Neibergall)

  • Limited offensive game plan. A three-point percentage of 27.8 percent last night from a team that relies so heavily on the three-point shot is a troubling sign, but the bigger concern is limited shot selection from its sharp-shooters, Jared Uthoff and Peter Jok. While Jok prefers to be set up for this threes, Uthoff likes to create his own shot in isolation. Both of these maneuvers have become too predictable. The formula for defensive success here includes initially cutting off the corners and the trailing Hawkeye during transition. Once Iowa settles into the half-court, Mike Gesell usually tries to take his defender off the dribble, but smart defenders give him space to shoot a long two. Gesell is reluctant to shoot the three, so limiting his options to a shot at the top of the key is a much better strategy than letting him draw and dish to Jok or Uthoff in the corners. Putting Uthoff in isolation is another worthy defensive gamble because it typically extends the length of the offensive possession. Iowa’s average offensive possession length is 16.3 seconds, but isolation tends to slow down activity for everyone else without the ball. Uthoff shot a paltry 6-of-23 from beyond the arc during the recent three losses so he needs to be more mindful of defenses challenging him to put the ball on the floor rather than allowing him to line up open jump shots.

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Let’s Play Big Ten Secret Santa…

Posted by Patrick Engel (@PatrickEngel_) on December 25th, 2015

Your class, company, or family probably plays Secret Santa during the holidays. To get in the giving spirit this Christmas, we’ll play Secret Santa with the Big Ten’s 14 teams and coaches. As much fun as it would be to give Richard Pitino more hair gel or Tom Izzo some stilts, we’ll stick to practical basketball-related gifts that each Big Ten coach would be thrilled to unwrap.

Santa has a variety of interesting presents for Big Ten teams to unwrap

Santa has a variety of interesting presents for Big Ten teams to unwrap

Here are the gifts we gave each coach and team (in alphabetical order):

  • Illinois (John Groce): This is one of the easier teams to shop for: The injury bug has cursed Illinois, so it gets healthy players from Santa. The Fighting Illini are playing this season without their starting point guard (Tracy Abrams), power forward (Leron Black) and center (Mike Thorne, Jr.).
  • Indiana (Tom Crean): Another easy team to shop for. If you haven’t heard of Indiana’s horrific defensive efforts, you’ve been living under a rock. The Hoosiers gave up 70 points to Kennesaw State and 72 to Alcorn State, respectively. Those teams rank 322 and 349 in the KenPom ranks, and average 64.1 and 60.3 PPG, respectively. Crean needs to start thinking of new ways to get his players to play better defense. Santa gives him a “D-Fense” sign that he can throw at players after bad defensive efforts. Better loosen up your arm, Tom.
  • Iowa (Fran McCaffery): The Hawkeyes aren’t elite in any one area, but don’t have a lot of gaping holes. They do struggle to get to the foul line, with a 25.8 free throw rate, which ranks 337th in the nation, per KenPom. Santa gives Iowa more free throw chances, especially to Peter Jok. The junior wing is Iowa’s second-leading scorer, but has attempted just 23 free throws.
  • Maryland (Mark Turgeon): The one knock on the Terps has been turnovers. They turn it over on 20 percent of their possessions and have six players who turn the ball over at least 19 percent of their used possessions. Maryland finds sturdy handles under its tree this year.

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Big Ten M5: 11.30.15 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 30th, 2015


  1. Before the season started, Wisconsin was given the benefit of the doubt despite all of its personnel loses from the team a year ago. Things have not started out great for the Badgers, however, and they may have hit a new low on Sunday when they lost at Oklahoma by 17 after shooting a pedestrian 23.5 percent from the floor for the game. This has brought on some speculation as to whether Bo Ryan can get this year’s team rolling despite early struggles. If not, his string of top four finishes in Big Ten play, and a bid in the NCAA Tournament might be in jeopardy.
  2. Denzel Valentine has gotten the majority of the Michigan State publicity as the Spartans have rolled to a 7-0 start. But it can’t be ignored that Tom Izzo has one of the deepest rosters in the country. In their win in the Wooden Legacy Championship game Sunday night over Providence, the bench made a number of contributions to the win. Eron Harris was especially important, as the junior transfer from West Virginia made a number of key plays down the stretch. The potential for this team to get even better can be seen by the fact that Harris hasn’t been consistently good on offense yet. If he can get into a groove, this team could do some serious damage later on in the season.
  3. Having four seniors in your lineup makes the combination of playing a game at 9:00 AM local time and putting back-to-back losses in the rearview mirror a bit easier. Just ask Iowa, as the Hawkeyes shook off a disappointing start to the Advocare Invitational by beating Wichita State. The win was Fran McCaffery’s 100th career victory at the school. Iowa has more work to do in non-conference play, especially with a win over a depleted Wichita State team not looking particularly strong right now. Credit McCaffery and the senior leaders for being ready to play and gaining something from the event.
  4. Indiana is off to a staggering start this year in the turnover department. With some blown opportunities to pick up key non-conference wins in Maui, the Hoosiers need a quality win against Duke desperately. Tom Crean saw a silver lining in diagnosing what went wrong in islands, in that the problems with the offensive miscues came from “trying to make plays that weren’t there for others.” It did seem like the Hoosiers were trying too hard to play fast in their 1-2 trip to Hawaii. They were almost trying to make too many passes at times. This is an elite offense when they don’t turn the ball over, so it will be interesting to see what they can do on Wednesday night against the Blue Devils.
  5. Michigan started their trip to the Battle 4 Atlantis with a loss, but they ended the trip 2-1 after destroying Charlotte, and then hanging on against Shaka Smart and Texas Friday evening. The Maize and Blue are working in newcomers like Duncan Robinson and Moritz Wagner into the rotation, but holdovers like Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. made the key plays at the end of the Texas game when the Longhorns started to make a run. Michigan has to be given a pass with their three top players all coming off of either missing games last season, or having an injury in the off season. They could be a much better team once everyone regains full health, so starting 4-2 isn’t too shabby.
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Iowa’s Recipe for Surviving Without Aaron White

Posted by Patrick Engel on November 10th, 2015

Fran McCaffery built Iowa from Big Ten bottom-feeder into NCAA tournament team in three years. The Hawkeyes have now reached the Big Dance in two straight seasons and blew out Davidson in their most recent appearance. The challenge this winter will be to replace three seniors, most notably first-team all-Big Ten selection Aaron White. Repeating last year’s 12-6 conference record will probably be difficult with White, Josh Oglesby and Gabriel Olaseni all gone. While Iowa may be a notch below a slew of teams with legitimate Big Ten title aspirations, it’s still a threat in the league that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Here’s the recipe for Iowa to reach March Madness without its superstar, White.

Iowa seniors (from left) Jared Uthoff, Adam Woodbury and Mike Gesell will be a major part of the team's core this year after the loss of Aaron White. (AP)

Iowa seniors (from left) Jared Uthoff, Adam Woodbury and Mike Gesell will be a major part of the team’s core this year after the loss of Aaron White. (Photo: AP)

  • An experienced, talented frontcourt: White is gone, but Jared Uthoff became a star playing next to him and earned a third-team all-conference selection last year. Now, the former Wisconsin forward is ready to be the go-to scorer. Last season, he shot a higher percentage from three than White (37.2 to White’s 35.6), tied for the team lead in blocks per game (1.6) and turned the ball over a minuscule 10 percent of the time. Frontcourt running mate Adam Woodbury may not score a lot, but the 7-footer is a tough defender who cleans up on the glass well (5.2 rebounds per game in just 20.5 minutes in 2014-15). Junior college transfer Dale Jones will provide depth off the bench, filling the role that Olaseni did last season.

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Best of the B1G: Top Non-Conference December Games

Posted by Brendan Brody on October 29th, 2015

Note: Best of the B1G: Top Non-Conference November Games published earlier this week.

After the holiday tournaments come to a close at the end of November, the December non-conference slate in the Big Ten is clearly and unequivocally highlighted by the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge. These should be the two deepest basketball conferences in the land and the match-ups on tap should not disappoint. There are some other games after this event that are also worth checking out as well, several of which could have NCAA Tournament ramifications. Here are the best December games involving Big Ten teams.

December 1

Mark Turgeon and Maryland get a early chance to make a national statement. (USA TODAY Sports)

Mark Turgeon and Maryland get a early chance to make a national statement. (USA TODAY Sports)

  • Maryland-North Carolina: Two former ACC foes renew their longtime rivalry, and do so in a season where they are both expected to be title contenders. This game could not only be the best game in the B1G non-conference slate, but also potentially one of the best in all of college basketball.
  • Michigan-NC State: Two teams that barely missed a preseason ranking in the coaches poll, and two teams that will get up and down the floor. This game could loom large in March if either team is on the bubble at that time.
  • Ohio State-Virginia: There’s a very good chance that the Buckeyes will be 5-0 coming into this game, offering the first chance for the nation to see how Thad Matta’s youngsters can handle one of the best defenses around.

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NCAA Game Analysis: Third Round, Sunday

Posted by RTC Staff on March 22nd, 2015


For the majority of programs around the country, making the Sweet 16 is the start of what would be considered a “successful” season. While many of the programs set to participate in today’s Third Round have aspirations that extend well beyond the final 16, making it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament has always been a mark of accomplishment. After today, eight teams will punch their ticket to next week. Here are eight preview’s of Sunday’s games.

#2 Virginia vs. #7 Michigan State – East Region Second Round (at Charlotte, NC) – 12:10 PM ET on CBS

Virginia faces Michigan State for the second-straight March. (Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports)

Virginia faces Michigan State for the second-straight March. (Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports)

The good news for Virginia is that Justin Anderson – still recovering from a broken finger – looked more like his old self against Belmont on Friday, scoring 15 points on 4-for-6 shooting and earning several trips to the free throw line. The bad news is that its vaunted defense allowed the #15-seeded Bruins to shoot 59 percent from two-point range and hang around for most of the afternoon. Michigan State, meanwhile, made relatively easy work of Georgia. Which makes one wonder: Is an upset a-brewin’ in Charlotte? Belmont found success by using its three-point barrage to spread out the Cavaliers’ Pack-Line defense, then exploiting the resultant lanes. The Spartans – while not quite as deep-ball oriented – attempt over one-third of their shots from behind the arc and hit nearly 39 percent of the time. On top of that, Tom Izzo’s club is very effective on both the offensive and defensive glass, led by rejuvenated forward Branden Dawson (12 PPG, 9 RPG). If Michigan State can stretch the defense, penetrate those openings and create second-chance opportunities, it might be able to find success against America’s second-most-efficient defense. Unfortunately, if Anderson takes another step forward, that might not be enough. With the 6’6” wing knocking down perimeter jumpers and attacking the lane on Friday, Virginia scored 1.22 points per possession – its most since February 28th – and looked much closer to the patient-but-efficient offense that dominated opponents in December and January. No matter how well the Spartans spread the floor, they are never going to score at will against Tony Bennett’s defense – no one does – so their ability to get stops will become crucial. But if Anderson is earning trips to free throw line and scorching from behind the arc, I’m not sure Izzo’s bunch can get enough stops to win this game. Expect Michigan State to stay within striking distance for 35-plus minutes, but count on Anderson to make the difference in the end.

The RTC Certified Pick: Virginia

#1 Duke vs. #8 San Diego State — South Region Third Round (at Charlotte, NC) — 2:40 pm ET on CBS

Steve Fisher is Leading This Year's Aztecs to Unexpected Success (Getty Images/K. Horner)

Steve Fisher vs. Coach K? Sign me up! (Getty Images/K. Horner)

Duke and San Diego State will play for the first ever in what highlights as an extremely intriguing matchup. The Aztecs were clinical in discarding St. John’s Friday night, even showing an unusual accuracy from three-point range (9-of-22 on threes). When Steve Fisher’s team can find ways to score the basketball – from three-point range or elsewhere – they become a difficult team to beat. There is little inconsistency to the Aztecs’ efforts on the defensive end, where they regularly cause intense trauma to opponents. That defensive activity is what should have Coach K’s attention right about now. Duke guards Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones stand 6’2” and 6’1”, respectively; no Aztec guard is shorter than 6’3”, and wings like Winston Shepard (6’8”) and Dwayne Polee (6’7”) will also take turns harassing Duke’s pair of star guards. The Blue Devils did manage well against Virginia and their bigger group of guards, but San Diego State presents a longer, more athletic challenge than even the Cavaliers. Of course, the question on the flip side is one that has long plagued the Aztecs: How will SDSU score points? Duke’s defense has taken nights off this year, sure, but there should be some trust that Coach K can devise a game plan capable of removing easy-bucket opportunities. The Aztecs’ best bet may be a continuation of the long-range prowess they displayed Friday night. There are guys on the roster who can knock down those deep shots – Quinn, Shrigley and Polee prime among them. Can they hit enough to complement the terrifying SDSU defense?

San Diego State would be a more appealing pick to pull the stunner if this game were not being played in Charlotte. As is, they are faced with defeating a #1 seed in a virtual road game, a proposition that even the strongest of stylistic matchups can fail to enact. Duke should be scared – the Aztecs are a truly scary matchup in this spot – but expect San Diego State to fall a shot or two short of swinging the upset. Duke will leave the home cooking behind in advancing to Houston.

The RTC Certified Pick: Duke Read the rest of this entry »

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