Iowa Feeling Good Again After Big Road Win at UNC

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 4th, 2014

Albert Einstein once defined insanity as the act of “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Fans have called Fran McCaffery crazy before, but the way his Iowa team finished last season had to leave the Hawkeyes head man questioning his own sanity. After a 19-6 beginning to 2013-14, his team lost seven of its final eight games, and the lone win in that stretch came against Big Ten bottom-feeder Purdue. Time and time again, McCaffery sent out the same talented group that had racked up points and wins in bunches all the way through January, and time and time again they would retreat to the locker room defeated. The collapse came late enough so as not to prevent Iowa from making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006, but a bitter taste lingered. What happened to the Hawkeyes?

Mike Gesell (right), Adam Woodbury and Jared Uthoff All Played Key Roles In A Potentially Season-Shaping Win For The Hawkeyes Wednesday. (Photo Credit: AP)

Mike Gesell (right), Adam Woodbury and Jared Uthoff All Played Key Roles In A Potentially Season-Shaping Win For The Hawkeyes Wednesday. (Photo Credit: AP)

New seasons have a way of washing away the memories of the last one. Jubilant title runs dissolve into the tumult of the mixing and matching of a new group of players, while stinging too-soon-to-end Tournament stays are banished from memory banks by fast starts. The latter was supposed to be the case in Iowa City, where McCaffery returned another team talented enough to make some noise in the Big Ten. Unfinished business from last season was now finished; unanswered questions now irrelevant. This was a new band of Hawkeyes. And then the season started. Iowa dropped its only two games against reasonable competition in November, losing to Texas and Syracuse on back-to-back nights in New York. Sure, they handled their business elsewhere (5-0 in other games, but all against teams outside of KenPom’s top 125), but the doubts, the questioning – they were slowly creeping back. Even McCaffery and his team had to be wondering if there was just some very hidden fundamental flaw with the Iowa Hawkeyes.

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Big Ten M5: Opening Night Edition

Posted by Eric Clark on November 14th, 2014

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  1. Jarrod Uthoff is set to make his first start as a Hawkeye on Friday night as Iowa begins life after Devyn Marble. Most of the media has tabbed Aaron White to succeed Marble as “the man” in Iowa City, but Uthoff has some serious potential as a top contributor as well. He admitted that insecurity regarding his role on the team led to some of last year’s struggles, but said that he’s playing with more confidence now. Head coach Fran McCaffery wants Uthoff to think less and shoot more, a theme that seems to follow many of Iowa’s forwards. If a recent exhibition against Northwood was any indication of how Uthoff will fare this season (15 points and seven boards in just 17 minutes), Hawkeyes fans should be extremely excited about this team’s potential.
  2. There’s plenty of early fanfare surrounding Melo Trimble‘s first season at Maryland, and head coach Mark Turgeon said he thinks Trimble is feeling but handling the pressure. With senior Dez Wells and junior Jake Layman as two of the team’s more experienced leaders, Trimble feels comfortable in a situation that would make almost any freshman’s knees shake – starting at the point guard position on opening night. The Terrapins aren’t exactly facing an elite college basketball power tonight in Wagner, but the Seahawks were fairly competitive with Penn State and St. John’s last year. Maryland’s first real test will come against Arizona State on November 24.
  3. Minnesota’s Joey King will have his hands full tonight as he’s been tasked with the unenviable job of guarding Louisville’s behemoth power forward, Montrezl Harrell. King, who added 15 pounds to his frame this summer, will guard Harrell, but stopping him will be a complete team effort, according to head coach Richard Pitino. The Gophers’ other options include Mo Walker, who was the expected starting center before a hamstring injury sidelined him, and Elliot Eliason. Harrell’s likely going to get a handful of points, but limiting his rebounds is what may prove more difficult for the Gophers.
  4. Kendrick Nunn has been cleared for action in Illinois’ opener tonight versus Georgia Southern after he received a plasma injection to relieve tendinitis in his right knee. Head coach John Groce said the training staff would be extra attentive to Nunn’s knee early on, especially as the Illini play six games in the first 15 days of the season. But Illinois has no legitimate reason to rush Nunn back into the lineup for the first four games of the season. Its priority should instead be to get Nunn rested for a November 28 match-up versus either Baylor or Memphis and beyond. The Illini will then face Miami, Oregon, Villanova and Missouri in December, and with the loss of Tracy Abrams to injury and their relatively unproven body of guards, Nunn can make a big difference in the team’s non-conference success.
  5. Sam Dekker tweaked an ankle in October, leading him to miss Wisconsin’s open-scrimmage and exhibition game versus Wisconsin-Parkside. Dekker downplayed the injury, saying that his ankle “feels good” and “nothing else really needs to be said about that.” The Badgers will be without Duje Dukan after the NCAA required that he miss the first two games of the season, but Dekker is expected to be in the lineup tonight against Northern Kentucky. Besides the absence of Dukan, Wisconsin will look much like last season’s Final Four squad, as their only loss from that team is Ben Brust.
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The Seven Most Surprising Big Ten Players So Far This Season

Posted by Brendan Brody on December 13th, 2013

With the season now a little over a month old, it’s time to take a look at how different players are performing in accordance with their preseason expectations. I’m always more of a good news first kind of guy, so I’ll start with the guys who are making a better-than-expected impact first, with the disappointments coming next week. Many of these players are transfers, although some are simply just producing more in additional minutes. The common thread with all seven of these Big Ten breakout players is that they are heavily contributing to wins in more than one way, and doing so at a high level.

Frank Kaminsky has played his way into B1G Player of the Year consideration (Getty)

Frank Kaminsky has played his way into B1G Player of the Year consideration (Getty)

  • Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin (14.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.1 BPG, 1.1 SPG, 42.9% 3FG, 55.4% FG). “Frank the Tank” is leading the Badgers in scoring, steals and blocks. People thought that he’d be able to have an impact with more minutes due to the graduation of Jared Berggren, but no one thought he’d be capable of dropping 43 points in a single game. Kaminsky leads a balanced attack on the offensive end that has five different players capable of scoring 20 on a given night, and he’s a defensive presence to the tune of blocking 7.06 percent of all opponents’ field goal attempts. Wisconsin in general has been a surprise, but Kaminsky has been an even bigger one.
  • Eliott Eliason, Minnesota (5.7 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.5 BPG). Eliason got lost in the shuffle last season with Trevor Mkakwe and Rodney Williams getting most of the frontcourt minutes in 2012-13. This year he has emerged as a major rebounding and shot-blocking threat for the Gophers. Eliason is currently third in the league in defensive rebounding rate (26.5%), sixth in offensive rebounding rate (12.6%), and third in block rate (11.74%). On a team that frequently features a three-guard attack, it is vital that someone can clear the glass and protect the rim, which Eliason is doing at an elite level in the early going.

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Iowa’s Depth Gives Hawkeyes an Element Most Teams Don’t Have

Posted 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.

Roy Devyn Marble is the headliner, but Iowa has been getting contributions from everyone in the midst of their 4-0 start. (Photo: Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports)

Roy Devyn Marble is the headliner, but Iowa has been getting contributions from everyone in the midst of their 4-0 start. (Photo: Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports)

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.

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Big Ten M5: 10.24.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 24th, 2013

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  1. The last time Michigan State won the national title, they had a big man named Andre Hutson, who was assertive in the paint, especially on the defensive end. This season, his squad is one of the favorites to win the title, and he has a freshman – Gavin Schilling – who is drawing comparisons to Hutson. The 6’9″, 240 lb forward, said his focus is to “run, rebound and defend” this season. Schilling will start out as a backup to Adreian Payne and Alex Gauna, but he may be able to provide some serviceable minutes in case one of the forwards gets into foul trouble going up against a rugged conference in January or February. If he ends up being as good as advertised, then he could be another piece that helps Michigan State make a run at another national title.
  2. Speaking of freshmen having an impact, Michigan has two terrific guards – Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin – who could contribute within John Beilein’s rotation. Both of them have the offensive skillset to help the Wolverines, but Beilein has enough scorers in Ann Arbor – he needs them to help on the defensive end as well. According to the coaching staff, both of them are quickly picking up the defensive principles, which should help them gain significant playing time this season. Irvin’s 6’6″ frame will help him guard the combo guards such as Gary Harris and Lenzelle Smith Jr during conference play. The Wolverines can score effectively, but if Irvin steps up on defense, he could elevate them to compete for a Final Four or beyond.
  3. The Hoosier fan base is very familiar with Eric Gordon’s offensive skills as he led Indiana to an NCAA Tournament during his freshman season in Bloomington. Gordon could score with the best of them, but his brother, Evan Gordon, is ready to show his skills to the Hoosier faithful. Gordon, a transfer guard, can provide an offensive spark and complement Yogi Ferrell’s production in the backcourt, as Tom Crean needs an experienced scorer on a team full of talented freshmen such as Noah Vonleh. Crean said, “He has to take his game to another level. He’s got to see his game rise on both sides of the court, offensively and defensively, and see that leadership rise. “
  4. Gordon is not the only transfer who can help his team in the Big Ten this year. Iowa’s Jared Uthoff sat out last year after transferring from Wisconsin, and will be ready to help the Hawkeyes return to the NCAA Tournament. Uthoff, a former Mr. Basketball in Iowa, is excited about the opportunity to play for the Hawkeyes. “It’s going to be a very special moment for me when I can step out on the court with this Hawkeye uniform on,’’ Uthoff said. Devyn Marble (15 PPG) will be the primary scoring option for the Hawkeyes, but if Uthoff can chip in offensively to back him up, that’ll be a huge boost this season.
  5. Scoring won’t be an issue for the Penn State backcourt of Tim Frazier and D.J.Newbill. Both of them can fill up the stat sheet, even though Frazier is coming from an injury. Penn State’s basketball program may not make any headlines but head coach, Pat Chambers, is doing his best to keep an upbeat attitude entering into his third season at Happy Valley. It is very likely that Chambers may not lead the Nittany Lions back to the NCAA Tournament over the next two years, but his ability to connect with the players will help on the recruiting trail and eventually lead the program back to relevancy in the Big Ten.
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Big Ten Weekly Five: 06.07.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on June 7th, 2012

  1. After all the publicity (most of it unwanted in Wisconsin and Bo Ryan‘s case), Jared Uthoff is going to stay in the Big Ten after all, officially transferring from Wisconsin to Iowa. Uthoff told the Associated Press on Wednesday that he’s joining the Hawkeyes even though Ryan restricted Iowa from contacting him. Uthoff will have to pay his own way next year at Iowa and will also have to sit out the 2012-13 season because of transfer rules.
  2. Michigan State lost a key piece when Branden Dawson went down with a torn ACL toward the end of last season, but it looks like he is on his way back to making it for the 2012-13 campaign. The sophomore-to-be is doing well in his rehab, from what Tom Izzo told The Lansing State Journal, with an expected return in September if not sooner.
  3. It looks like we won’t soon have a repeat of arguably the best game of the year last season. Indiana and Kentucky still can’t come to terms for a meeting next season — whether a home-and-home or at a neutral site — and it’s turned into a bickering session between coaches and athletic directors. Said Kentucky coach John Calipari when asked about it most recently: “Like I told Tommy (Crean), ‘Tommy, move on. It’s done. We’re good. I’m good, you’re good. You have your schedule, we have our schedule.’ “
  4. New Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague is making Tubby Smith one of his first orders of business. Teague, who has not even officially taken office yet, is already thinking about a contract extension for the Golden Gophers’ coach, who has two years left in a seven-year contract that pays him $1.75 million annually. “I think we’re pretty far down the road on that and I’ve felt good about that, getting him solidified there and completing that process,” Teague told The Star Tribune. “It’s not done yet, but hopefully it’s something that will be done very soon.”
  5. Indiana‘s Cody Zeller could have been a lottery pick if he had opted for the NBA Draft after last season, and he could very well be a lottery pick if he leaves now after his sophomore campaign. The Bleacher Report thinks Zeller could very easily regret his decision to return to school, but the Indianapolis Star‘s Terry Hutchens disagrees.
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Morning Five: 06.07.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 7th, 2012

  1. Coaches who are fired from their plum head coaching positions have to end up somewhere, and two former power conference guys who were not quite able to get it done at that level have resurfaced this week at a pair of unusual destinations. First, former rising star Todd Lickliter, the NABC Coach of the Year at Butler in 2007 but a miserable failure subsequently at Iowa with an overall record of 38-57, was formally hired on Wednesday as the new head coach at NAIA school Marian University, located in the same part of Indianapolis as the program he helped put on the college basketball map a decade ago. Lickliter spent last season as an assistant at Miami (OH), but will look to re-legitimize himself in the NAIA before no doubt angling for future D-I head coaching positions.
  2. The other unusual coaching hire this week was former Colorado and Northern Illinois head coach Ricardo Patton taking a high school gig as the top man at Central High School in Memphis, Tennessee. Patton spent last season as an assistant at Maryland-Eastern Shore, but he has ties to the Memphis area and was interestingly enough a candidate for the Memphis (University of) head coaching position there 15 years ago. The Memphis area churns out top-notch recruits annually so the cynical side of us wonders if Patton is looking for some kind of package deal in the next few years with some future star player he latches on to at Central HS.
  3. An article posited in a recent volume of The Chronicle of Higher Education suggests that conference realignment – at least from the years of 2004-11 – could actually have a significant and measurable impact on the academic standing of the school in addition to the undisputed benefits to the athletic side of things. Really? The authors state that subsequent to realignment colleges became generally more selective, their admissions yield rates were higher, and their incoming college admissions scores were greater. All of those things, if controlled for in the study, make sense, but are we really supposed to believe that Missouri’s move to the SEC or Houston’s to the Big East will make those institutions better academic schools? We’ll wait on the follow-up studies before buying into this one.
  4. Did the ACC recently shoot itself in the foot – either willfully or wantonly – when it decided to include its third-tier media rights in its latest television package with ESPN for an estimated $238 million per year? Forbes’ Chris Smith argues that the league made a grievous error in failing to exclude those properties because it essentially amounts to the conference leaving money on the table and exposes it to future poaching by other leagues (ahem, Big 12) with richer deals. As he puts it, “the ACC is giving away more and getting back less.” Of course, Smith’s analysis fails to take into account the obvious academic benefits, such as BC’s 37% increase in applications after joining the ACC, right?
  5. Wisconsin’s Jared Uthoff made a lot of headlines in April for his personal battle with Bo Ryan and Wisconsin over his transfer papers. Well, the redshirt freshman decided that the battle was for naught as he will move on to Iowa as his next destination and will have to sit out a year regardless of any restrictions imposed upon him by that school in Madison. No disrespect to Ryan and the Badgers intended, but Uthoff’s transfer is something that we encourage among more than everyone involved in college basketball. Let’s hope that he finds the success he hopes for at his next destination.
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