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Schwartz: Looking for Answers for Iowa Hoops

February 21, 2016

Written by David Schwartz

Hawkeye Nation

The question, “Is it too soon to worry about Iowa’s basketball team?” is too general.

A better question might be, “What about Iowa’s basketball team should worry us” following last week’s bumpy home win against Minnesota and loss at Penn State? The schools have a combined 6-22 Big Ten Conference record.

The Hawkeyes remain tied for first place. They haven’t suffered a major injury. Peter Jok’s emergence as one of the conference’s top scorers gives Iowa a legit force to partner with Jarrod Uthoff.

The sky is not falling.

Trembling a little, maybe. But it isn’t falling.

One might chalk up last week to fatigue, which would make their week off before this week’s Wisconsin game perfectly timed. Or maybe the Hawkeyes just had a bad week. In the scream-and-blame world of sports punditry, it’s not as sexy an explanation as past stressful Hawkeye moments. But sometimes it just happens. We all have bad weeks.

Still, it’s useful to look at the last two games for clues. For example:

Adam Woodbury’s disappearing offense

The senior center isn’t playing poorly on offense. He just isn’t playing offense at all.

Two weeks ago Woodbury transformed himself into a double-double machine, but against Minnesota and Penn State he was a combined 1-of-3 from the field (with a few attempts that turned into foul shots).

Three shots. That’s it—for a perimeter-oriented Hawkeye team that needs an inside game to open up outside shots.

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Even if Woodbury takes more shots and misses them, taking them has benefits. If he’s not going to shoot, there’s no reason for opposing teams to waste much effort guarding him.

The Hawkeyes’ lack of front-court depth means Dom Uhl, Uthoff, and Ahmad Wagner have to pick up Woodbury’s offensive slack. Uhl shot 1-of-6 against Minnesota, Uthoff spends a lot of his offensive effort shooting three-pointers, and Wagner is working hard but still figuring out college basketball.

Are the other players bored? Too deferential?

Uthoff and Jok took 62 of Iowa’s 108 field-goal attempts against Minnesota and Penn State. Two guys took 57 percent of the team’s total shots.

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That might be fine. Uthoff and Jok make a lot of shots and score a lot of points.

Or …

That leaves a total of 46 shots over two games for Woodbury, Nick Baer, Anthony Clemmons, Brady Ellingson, Mike Gesell, Uhl, and Wagner. Those seven guys are jockeying for, like, an average of 3-4 shots a game each.

So maybe now we know why Woodbury isn’t shooting much.

Uthoff and Jok are fantastic, but the Hawkeyes – any team, really – need to share the ball more to succeed. Feed the post. Drive to the basket.

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Be less predictable.

And prepare for that inevitable game when Uthoff or Jok can’t find his shot.

That free-throw shooting, my goodness

I’m not the first to mention this, but it’s worth talking about it until it improves: Iowa’s free-throw shooting has become a problem.

The Hawkeyes are 59-of-88 over their last three games, which means they’re missing one out of every three attempts.

There’s not really much to critique here. If Iowa keeps missing free throws at this clip, they won’t make it past the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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