Numbers say Connor McCaffery is Iowa’s best facilitator

Iowa basketball is off to a much better start than last season, and that has to do with strong bench play and all-around improvement from its starters.

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Numbers say Connor McCaffery is Iowa’s best facilitator

Iowa guard Connor McCaffery drives towards the basket during Iowa's game against Wisconsin at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on November 30, 2018. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the Badgers 72-66.

Iowa guard Connor McCaffery drives towards the basket during Iowa's game against Wisconsin at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on November 30, 2018. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the Badgers 72-66.

Megan Nagorzanski

Iowa guard Connor McCaffery drives towards the basket during Iowa's game against Wisconsin at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on November 30, 2018. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the Badgers 72-66.

Megan Nagorzanski

Megan Nagorzanski

Iowa guard Connor McCaffery drives towards the basket during Iowa's game against Wisconsin at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on November 30, 2018. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the Badgers 72-66.

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

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Through nine games, one thing is clear for Iowa basketball: Connor McCaffery is the team’s best distributor.

The second-team point guard has a 29.8 assist percentage (percentage of teammate field goals he assisted on while on the floor) this season. The next best player in that category, Tyler Cook, clocks in at 18.2 percent — around an 11 percentage point difference.

Despite averaging 21.4 minutes while coming off the bench, McCaffery is Iowa’s assist leader at 3.6 assists per game.

Also, the redshirt freshman doesn’t turn the ball over on a regular basis. He has a 13.2 turnover percentage, the second-lowest (behind Luka Garza) of any player with at least 100 minutes this season.

His 1 turnover per game is the lowest from any Hawkeye player averaging at least 20 minutes per game.

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McCaffery can score, too. His season-high 19 points came on Nov. 16, when Iowa beat UConn in the 2K Empire Classic. He has scored in double figures twice besides that, netting 11 against Green Bay and 12 in Iowa’s most recent game, against Iowa State.

Another positive to his game is his ability to get to the free-throw line. He averages 5.2 free-throw attempts per game — second to Cook and the most of any bench player. He makes 85.1 percent of those attempts, a better percentage than Jordan Bohannon or Joe Wieskamp.

Points, rebounds, assists up for Tyler Cook

The season is still early, but Cook seems to have developed a well-rounded game compared with last season.

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Cook finished last season averaging 15.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. Those numbers have risen to 16.6, 8.4, and 2.6 this season.

The Hawkeyes use him the most (25.3 use percentage) of any starter. However, his use rate is actually down more than 1 percentage point from last season, which, while it doesn’t seem like much of a difference, is worth of note — Cook’s stats have increased in every major category.

Cook’s shooting percentage is also up this season. He’s hitting 56.8 percent of his shots, the best shooting percentage of any Hawkeye who has played in every game this season.

3-point defense on the rise

Last season, if opponents wanted to attack Iowa, the 3-point shot was an effective method.

Opponents hit shots from deep at a 37.6 percent clip, ranking Iowa’s 3-point defense 313th in the NCAA.

This season, that number is down 7 percentage points — opponents are hitting 3s at 30.6 percent. That’s good enough for 60th in the country, and while that’s not stellar defense, it’s a major improvement over last season.

Same 5 starters for every game

Last season, coach Fran McCaffery consistently played 11 players a game, and he danced with various starting lineups, starting a total of nine different players throughout the course of the year.

Through nine games this season, Fran McCaffery has used the same starting five lineup: Bohannon, Wieskamp, Isaiah Moss, Cook, and Garza.

He’s also trimmed down his rotation to essentially nine players, give or take injuries or surprise activations (such as Cordell Pemsl’s outing against Iowa State).

Fran McCaffery’s consistency has created a confident, reliable scoring five. Cook, Garza, Wieskamp, Bohannon, and Moss lead the team in scoring in that order.