Defensive Issues Haunt the Hawkeyes

February 22, 2018

Written by Jon Miller

Iowa is 12-18 on this disappointing season, with one regular season game remaining. They may finish in last place in the Big Ten standings, where they presently reside.

We’ve discussed a number of issues with this team, since November, knowing that the key issues that plagued them would not likely be solved in-season.

One of the biggest problems for Iowa is their defense, or rather, lack there of.

This team ranks 27th in the nation in Offensive Efficiency. That means they are in the Top 92 percentile for offensive teams in the sport. That’s really good. Here is are the Top 27 offensive teams, ranked according to that stat, from KenPom.com:

Notice that Iowa is the only team in the Top 27 with a losing record. Four other teams are four to six games above .500, but after that, no other team on this list is worse than nine games above .500. Not surprising, 16 of these 27 teams rank in Pomeroy’s Top 25. (more commentary below)

Notice the column on the far right, which is Adjusted Defensive efficiency. Iowa’s poor numbers stick out like a sore thumb.

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I then sorted Pomeroy’s numbers according to Defensive efficiency. Iowa ranks 249 out of 351. Washington State’s 252 ranking, just three spots worse than Iowa, is all that keeps the Hawkeyes from having the worst defensive efficiency grade of any Power 5 team. Then next highest on the rung is Vanderbilt at 200, and they are 11-17 on the year. Then we see California at 191 and they are 8-19 on the season. Then Pittsburgh comes next at 161 and they are 8-21 on the season.

See a theme here?

Oh, how about this?

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To compete on the road, you have to pack a defense…and Iowa doesn’t have one to pack.

As we think ahead towards next year, and we have a lot of months to do that, the conversation should begin and end with how does this team improve on it’s defense? How do they go from being nearly the worst Power 5 team in defense to being even a middle of the pack Power 5 team defensively? Because if they can just do that, combined with the offensive inefficiencies they have, even if they are still undermanned at guard, they can win several more games in 2018-2019.

But in order to improve, Fran McCaffery is going to have to come to grips with what he doesn’t have, and that is a team that can play man to man defense night in and night out. Unless they pick up a couple of lock down perimeter defenders this offseason, with scholarships they do not presently have to give, they need to commit to being a zone team for next year and that commitment needs to happen sometime next week, after this season mercifully comes to an end.

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