Iowa basketball set to improve on stats

Iowa basketball’s season kicks off in less than a week, and there are a few stats to take note of.


David Harmantas

Iowa forward Tyler Cook looks to pass the ball against Indiana University at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. The Hoosiers defeated the Hawkeyes 84 to 82.

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

Heading into the 2018-19 season, one thing is clear for Iowa men’s basketball: There are a lot of things to improve on.

Fran McCaffery’s squad could put up points last season — there’s no question about that. However, the team could also give up unreal numbers of points, usually in bulk.

It’s a new season, though, so the Hawkeyes don’t have to settle for another 14-19 season that yielded just four victories in Big Ten play.

The potential is there, and after the players focused on defense in the offseason, there will be expectations for the new squad.

Let’s take a look at key places where the Hawkeyes can improve heading into the season.

Scoring margin — 1.0

The Hawkeyes boasted the third-best scoring offense in the Big Ten last season, trailing only perennial powers Purdue and Michigan State.

Iowa put up 79.7 points a game, while the Boilermakers and Spartans put up not quite a point more each game.

Defense, though, was where Iowa struggled most. The Hawkeyes gave up 78.7 points a game, 3.6 more than the next worst team and 15.4 more than Michigan, the conference’s best.

It’s also worth noting that teams knocked down shots against Iowa at a high rate. The Hawkeyes let opponents shoot 46.2 percent from the floor, 13th in the conference.

Three-point defense also killed Iowa, as opponents shot 37.6 percent from behind the arc, the worst mark in the Big Ten.

It’s a good thing for Iowa fans to hear that McCaffery and Company have focused on defense. Because without it, Iowa would be in for another long season.

Rebounding margin — 5.0

Rebounding is one thing Iowa did a good job of in 2017-18, and it will be a key this season. The Hawkeyes ranked second in the conference with a plus-5 rebounding margin, behind only Michigan State.

RELATED: Luka Garza, Jordan Bohannon among analytical heroes for Hawkeye hoops

Tyler Cook and Luka Garza played a big role on the boards, averaging 6.8 and 6.4, respectively.

Iowa and the Spartans finished last season as two of the four Big Ten teams better than plus-3 in rebounding, along with Ohio State and Maryland. All of the teams in the top four slots had winning records last season except the Hawkeyes. It’s a step in the right direction.

When a team wins the rebounding battle, it is more likely to win the game, so if the Hawkeyes can keep their prowess on the glass going, things could be looking up.

Players averaging double-digits — 4

Cook, Jordan Bohannon, Garza, and Isaiah Moss all scored better than 11 points per game last year, with Cook leading the way at 15.3.

After Moss, it drops to Jack Nunge and Cordell Pemsl at 5.7.

Four players in double figures each game isn’t the problem. It’s pretty good, actually, considering Michigan — a national title team and Big Ten champion — had three. However, the Wolverines had six players at 6 points or more. Iowa has its four.

There were times last season in which the Hawkeyes relied on one or two players to put the ball in the hoop, namely Cook and Bohannon, with Garza showing up on a few occasions.

The question isn’t whether Iowa has playmakers, because it’s clear it does. It’s just a case of tightening up a few details.