A Quality Performance Today in Indianapolis is a Must For IowaPosted by Brendan Brody on March 13th, 2014
You could make a case for any number of Big Ten teams really needing to show out at the Big Ten Tournament if they hope to make a run in the bigger March tournament. Minnesota is situated squarely on the bubble after finishing with a conference record of 8-10. Nebraska was inhabiting the same patch of bubble real estate until their win over Wisconsin. They should be in the field of 68 now, but another win would be nice for their collective peace of mind. Michigan State wants to prove that they are worthy of the preseason hype they generated with their team all back from their different injuries. Indiana and Illinois need to win four games in four days to get there. But Iowa has the most to prove out of anybody in the field. They’ve plummeted from a potential #3 or #4 seed, to a team that with an early loss, could be looking at double-digit territory. So how do the Hawkeyes fix things to get back on track?
- Fix the Defense Immediately: Here’s a quick breakdown of what the Hawkeyes have given up in their last six games in terms of points per possession: 1.22, 22.214.171.124, 1.06, 1.26, and 1.12. Even in their lone victory in the bunch over Purdue, they still allowed the Boilermakers to shoot 49.1% from the field. On their KenPom page under defensive footprint, it says inconclusive. Nothing sums up their lack of a defensive identity better than that. They do a decent job blocking shots and Roy Devyn Marble and Mike Gesell do a pretty good job getting into the passing lanes and getting steals. But in their recent rough patch they’ve given up far too many easy baskets in the paint. Whether it means extending their zone press and getting more aggressive with it (which they have the depth to do), or just hanging back and sticking to either a man-to-man or a zone, Iowa needs to pick a style and go with it. I don’t know if their is confusion about what their responsibilities are, or that they just don’t care because they think they can outscore people. Either way, what they’re doing right now isn’t working, and hasn’t for a number of games.
- Shorten the Rotation: In November and December pundits were all over Iowa as a Final Four contender, mainly because of the amount of quality depth they had. Being able to run 11 players out there worked great against bad teams, but in Big Ten play the bench hasn’t has as much as an impact. Players like Jarrod Uthoff, Zach McCabe, and Anthony Clemmons thrived early on, but they’ve been largely ineffective lately. Unless Fran McCaffery employs the strategy above where he decides to just press for 40 minutes, he needs to shorten his bench now that the postseason is here. If Peter Jok and Gabriel Olaseni are better defenders, then they need to play more. No one on the team averages more than 30 minutes, but now is the time to stick with your best five and use the bench only when needed.
- Find a Consistent Second Scorer: Marble has been outstanding all season, and was named to the Big Ten First Team largely based on his consistency. Someone from the group of Aaron White, Gesell, and Josh Ogelsby needs to come through and give the team another double-digit scorer each game in the tournament for Iowa to keep advancing. The most likely candidate would be White, but he’s only taken more than 10 field goal attempts in one of his last six games. He hasn’t been as aggressive, and he needs to be confident taking and making open jump shots. Gesell has shown an ability to get to the rim and knock down open shots, but does neither regularly. Ogelsby looms as someone who could get hot if he hits a couple of deep ones early. Someone out of these three needs to string together a couple of great offensive games in a row to combine with the points they’ll get from Marble.