Preview: Iowa

Submitted by Ace on January 22nd, 2014 at 3:38 PM

Previously: Iowa From 1000 Feet


WHAT Michigan vs. Iowa
WHERE Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan
WHEN 7 pm Eastern, Wednesday
LINE Michigan -2 (KenPom)
TV BTN (PBP: Eric Collins; Analyst: Stephen Bardo)

Right: Fran McCaffery, delightfully unhinged.


Is canceled, unfortunately. The Big Ten went so far as to send out a press release last Thursday letting us know Gus Johnson would be joining Stephen Bardo on the BTN broadcast. However, Johnson's flight was canceled today (damn you, weather), so instead Eric Collins will be on the call. This shouldn't prevent the game from being wildly entertaining:

KenPom's thrill score doesn't even account for the inevitable Fran McCaffery tantrum. Speaking of...


Last year, Brian created the Bo Ryan Index:

THE BO RYAN INDEX. Take the first three rows of Google Image Search and calculate in what percentage of those shots is the coach looking enraged, incredulous, furious, or otherwise unpleasant to referees or his team. Bo Ryan's Bo Ryan Index: 65%, and I think some of the misses could be sarcastic smiling.

John Beilein checked in at 25%, Tom Izzo a shockingly low 19%, and since-fired Bill Carmody registered a zero. How you lookin', Fran? [click to embiggen]


Using the first-three-rows method (I couldn't help but include a fourth), Fran's Bo Ryan Index is at 52%, and that's giving him the benefit of the doubt regarding some incredulous-looking stares. Equally remarkable is that there's zero in-between for McCaffery—he's either chewing out an official or locked in a tearful embrace. Fran McCaffery may not be emotionally stable.

We're not done yet, either. The woman giving the proverbial WTF hands in the last row is, you guessed it, Mrs. McCaffery. They're quite a match:

Margaret McCaffery first made headlines in 2006 when she and her husband were ejected from a game at Hofstra. After Fran McCaffery was tossed for what he said was the first time in his career, his wife was ejected later in the game after a tirade at officials that included profanity. She was escorted from the arena by a security guard.

Long live the McCaffery dynasty.


Oh, right, the actual game. Iowa is a very deep squad that can throw out a variety of looks without losing effectiveness; 11 Hawkeyes have scored in double figures in a game this season—eight of them at least five times—and they'll roll out each of those 11 guys at some point in the game.

The straw that stirs the drink is 6'6" guard Roy Devyn Marble, who starts at shooting guard but also gets plenty of run at the point. He's the key to Iowa's transition game—more than a third of his shots and well over half his assists come in the first ten seconds of the shot clock, per hoop-math. While his shooting percentages are an underwhelming 44%/37%/65%, he's a solid passer, rarely turns the ball over, gets to the line frequently, and scores 19 points per game by virtue of carrying much of the halfcourt load—he's attempted almost twice as many non-transition shots as any other Hawkeye. Marble also boasts the #27 steal rate in the country, generating a lot of his own fast break opportunities.

Iowa's most efficient offensive player is 6'9" forward Aaron White, who will inevitably be called "deceptively athletic" because he's a white guy with mad bounce—YouTube features a preseason dunk-filled highlight mix set to DMX(!!!):

White averages 14 points per game despite picking his spots carefully, attempting just over seven field goals per game. He does this by being incredibly efficient, ranking second nationally in true shooting percentage thanks to a 69% mark from two and 86% rate on a considerably high number of free throws. Not only is he a great finisher at the tin (75%), he shoots an excellent 53% on two-point jumpers. Splitting time between the three and the four, White also rebounds quite well.

The obvious choice would be to stick Glenn Robinson III on White for the duration, but 6'7" rebounding machine Melsahn Basabe complicates matters greatly. Despite being two inches shorter than White, Basabe is the nominal starting power forward—yes, this team is big—and his primary attributes are stellar rebounding, shot-blocking, and a pretty decent post game, albeit in a low-usage role. He's enough of an interior presence that Iowa will occasionally play him at center.

6'1" sophomores Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons split time at the point, with Gesell starting and playing ~50% of the team's available minutes. Gesell's assist rate is just outside the top 100 and, unlike Marble, the vast majority of his dimes come in halfcourt sets. He doesn't add much else offensively—his 46.4 eFG% is not very good—but is second on the team in steals to Marble. Clemmons has seen his minutes wane in Big Ten play; over the last four games, he's played 28 minutes and scored one point—Gesell and Marble are absorbing most of his playing time against quality competition.

Iowa features three solid bigs in addition to Basabe. 7'1" center Adam Woodbury is the starter, though his rebounding and shot-blocking have taken a surprising plunge into mediocre territory after a solid freshman campaign last season. He's not much of a factor on offense, averaging 3.3 points against Big Ten teams not named Northwestern.

6'10" junior Gabriel Olaseni gets just about the same number of minutes; he'd rank third nationally in offensive rebounding rate (19.1%[!]) if he played just a tiny bit more to qualify, and his block rate would place within the top 50. While he's shooting just 46% from the field, he gets to the line at a very high rate and shoots 70% at the stripe.

6'9" sophomore Jared Uthoff plays over half of Iowa's minutes coming off the bench at both the four and the five; he's basically what Aaron White would be with more range and slightly less touch inside the arc, posting a 57%/52%/85% shooting split while getting to the line at a high rate. He's also an excellent defensive rebounder and shot-blocker.

The Hawkeyes also have plenty of depth on the wings. 6'7" small forward Zach McCabe is a 35% three-point shooter who crashes the boards well. After missing the team's first 12 games with a foot injury, 6'5" junior Josh Oglesby has shot a lights-out 12-for-20 from beyond the arc, though he could fall back to earth hard considering his career 31% mark; thus far this year he's thrived as a spot-up gunner in transition. He's taken a lot of minutes away from 6'6" freshman Peter Jok (just 16 minutes in Big Ten play), who hasn't done anything particularly well aside from making free throws.

There's your 11-man rotation. I need a Gatorade.

[11-man rotations require a jump. So... JUMP.]


While Iowa ranks #5 on KenPom, their resume isn't as strong as you'd think; their ten-point win at Ohio State easily stands out as their most impressive and that's looking less remarkable by the day. That's their only KP100 win to come on the road; the others are an overtime neutral-site win over #26 Xavier and home victories against #72 Notre Dame, #79 Nebraska, and #32 Minnesota (the Gopher win, granted, was a 21-point evisceration in their most recent game). The three Hawkeye losses have come away from home against quality competition—by five points in OT against #12 Villanova, three points at #19 Iowa State (we know that feel), and four points at #7 Wisconsin (muahahahahaha).


Now that we're partway into conference play, I'll start posting four factors charts for all the games and Big Ten games only, with sample size issues obviously coming into play on the latter for a while.

Four factors, all games (national ranks in parentheses):

  eFG% Turnover % Off. Reb. % FTA/FGA
Offense 52.6 (59) 15.9 (45) 38.6 (15) 50.0 (29)
Defense 42.5 (6) 19.4 (117) 29.0 (70) 33.4 (46)

Conference-only (five games, Big Ten ranks in parentheses):

  eFG% Turnover % Off. Reb. % FTA/FGA
Offense 52.1 (3) 16.4 (4) 35.4 (3) 57.6 (1)
Defense 44.4 (1) 18.9 (3) 28.9 (6) 43.0 (9)

First and foremost, Iowa's breakneck pace must be noted—they have the highest tempo and fastest offensive possession time in the conference by wide margins. While Iowa struggles a little inside the arc in halfcourt sets, their convert a high number of shots at the rim in transition and get out on the break enough to make that a real factor. While the Hawkeyes attempt fewer threes than any other Big Ten team, they're tops in the conference with a 40.1% three-point mark. Oh, and they rarely turn the ball over while grabbing a huge percentage of their misses. This all adds up to an offense ranked third in efficiency, one spot higher than Michigan.

The defense ranks 27th in efficiency, though Brian noted that much of that is by virtue of some poor competition and plenty of three-point luck, concluding:

The Nebraska and Wisconsin games seem like outliers amongst a general trend of Iowa giving up a lot of good shots from within the line. Meanwhile, Wisconsin was 10/22 from three and Nebraska 5 of 18. Conclusion: Iowa is benefiting from a healthy dose of luck when it comes to opponent three point shooting. Also, despite the height this defense looks like it can be had by Michigan's eviscerating pick and roll game.

Villanova defeated them while shooting 13/25 from two and 14/38 from three; Iowa State and Wisconsin also shot well from the outside while maintaining low turnover rates. This defense can be exploited.


Get back. Michigan eschewed any effort to crash the offensive boards against Wisconsin in favor of keeping the Badgers out of transition; against a team with the size, rebounding acumen, and fast break ability of Iowa, I'd expect to see a similar strategy tonight. Michigan's transition defense has been awful this year; staying out of a track meet is the top priority, even though the Wolverines have a very efficient transition offense themselves—Iowa has a much better transition defense and can keep their stars fresh with their deeper rotation.

Defend the boards. Yes, another rebounding-related key. When Iowa plays a big lineup—and I'd expect a lot of that—featuring White at the three, matchup nightmares abound for Michigan on defense. GRIII needs to have a very solid game on that end; Stauskas and LeVert must also carry some of the rebounding burden—BOX OUT, PLEASE—or there will be putbacks galore.

Free up the outside with screens. Brian noted that Michigan's pick-and-roll game should be effective. I'll add that generating points off of screens can happen not only inside the arc, but also outside:

With Iowa ceding a high number of three-point attempts, I'd love to see plenty of this type of action for Stauskas, where he has the option to pull up and shoot or curl to the rim if the defense overplays the outside shot.


Michigan by 2

Limit the Hawkeyes in transition—no easy task—or at least stay relatively even in that category and Michigan should come away with the win here.


UMHoops preview. Maize n Brew preview. UMHoops first look (please, please, please play 30% zone defense, Iowa). ESPN's Eamonn Brennan on Iowa's move to ludicrous speed. MnB Q&A with BHGP:

But the best way to stop Iowa's offense has been to get a strong offensive performance of your own; teams that have been able to make shots and set up their own defenses have generally been much more effective at stymieing Iowa's offense. Iowa's offense relies fairly heavily on getting in transition off defensive rebounds and turnovers; if you're able to slow that down and force Iowa to play in the half court more, you'll have a much better chance of slowing down Iowa's offense -- and winning.

For those who missed it this week, Nik Stauskas was featured on BTN's The Journey.

*I've always felt a little presumptuous calling these "protips"—even tongue-in-cheek—when I've never played at a high level, let alone coached, so these are now "keys" for lack of a better, equally concise term. Also, I'm probably never topping my #1 protip from the Wisconsin preview.

Unleash Stauskas. Wisconsin's defensive deficiencies appear ripe for exploitation by Nik Stauskas, especially with how well he's working the pick-and-roll with both big men in recent games. The Badgers will do everything they can to run him off the three-point line; that can open up gaps inside for Stauskas to drive or dish off to an open big. Caris LeVert could also get his penetration game going against Wisconsin—with their small backcourt, he's going to have a size advantage against whomever is defending him.

Yeah, gonna retire as a "pro" on that one.



January 22nd, 2014 at 3:59 PM ^

Was out of town and didn't read the Wiscy preview but that last part read like a game wrap not a preview, well done.

As for a prediction, Michigan by 2 sounds about right.  Which, duh, if it wasn't right Kenpom wouldn't say it.  82-80


January 22nd, 2014 at 4:10 PM ^

The guys on Iowa's free Scout board are awfully cocky and confident. Strange for a doormat program. Also, is it just me or has Melsahn Basabe been there for 8 years?


January 22nd, 2014 at 4:16 PM ^

If we turn the ball over tonight like we did against Wisconsin on Saturday then I think we lose. Way to many nonchalant passes. Let's play some mentally sound ball.


January 22nd, 2014 at 4:37 PM ^

to the miniscule turnover rate that Michigan and Wisconsin, as two of the least turnover-prone teams in the country, are wont to give up extra possessions as the result of errant passes, dumb violations and or other stupidities. 

In a contest where Iowa is desirous of getting as many possessions as possible and shooting quickly because it has this vast overhang of size advantage, turning the ball over repeatedly would be really stupid. But since Michigan doesn't really do that and has a coach who preaches offensive efficiency as a mantra that trumps defensive consideration, the idea that TO's will spell the difference as a forcal point of concern, really boggle as issue points. 

No, the point of reference tonight is the ability to get back on defense in transition and prevent easy baskets and prolong Iowa possessions, forcing them to become as perimeter-oriented as possible. When a team is not worried about shooting percentage or what kind of shot it gets, the idea that holding it hostage on turnovers is the turning point of the contest seems weird. How about rebounding better than it does and getting back fast on defense. Yeah, that males semse/ 


January 22nd, 2014 at 4:54 PM ^

I didn't bring up rebound because we have never been great a rebounding team under coach Belein. When Mitch is in he helps us alot in that category but overall we have never been considered a crash the glass type team over the past 5 years. Once Morgan and Horford fully graduate I expect coach B to go after more highly skillfull big men (like Mitch, but with some post up moves)

Go Blue in MN

January 22nd, 2014 at 5:02 PM ^

I did this exercise for John Beilein and even in some of the images that probably count among the 25%, I think he may be yelling encouragement to his players.  The images just don't have the same feel as some of the classic Fran/Bo Ryan apocalypse images do.  Fran is not being encouraging . . .               Edit:  Major FAIL at embedding photo


January 22nd, 2014 at 7:00 PM ^

What airline is responsible for leaving Gus at the altar, so to speak?  We need to know, so as to make sure none of us ever fly them again.  Simply unacceptable!