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Wednesday, March 23, 2005
 
Freeman Update
Iowa's top recruit for next year, 6'0" guard Tony Freeman, was in Chicago to play in Tuesday night's Roundball Classic, a high school all-star game that featured some of the top players in the country.

Freeman played 25 of the game's 48 minutes and produced to following line:

1-7 FG, 1-5 3P, 2-4 FT, 1 reb, 3 ast, 1 TO, 2 blk, 1 stl, 5 pts

His line was one of the weaker ones in the game (box score here), but it was hard to expect a big game against some of the best talent around. It was just nice to see him selected for the game. His three assists tied for his team's lead, which was nice to see, as next year's team could use a steady pass-first point guard (in my opinion). Assuming he's as talented as some people say, I'd really like to see him come in next year and take over at point guard. Ideally, he would create shots for the rest of the team and allow Jeff Horner to spend more time at shooting guard, with Mike Henderson providing a scoring option from the bench (though Henderson's defensive reputation will likely earn him plenty of minutes).

Notes
Freeman was only a second team all-state selection in Illinois, but last month Michael O'Brien of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote that Freeman has a good national reputation and has outplayed some of the states more heralded guards.

Game Recaps
Chicago Tribune
AP
Sunday, March 20, 2005
 
Cincinnati 76, Iowa 64
Just wanted to let you know that I am indeed back in Iowa City, despite the absence suggested by my recent lack of posts. I'm usually at a loss for writing topics following Iowa losses, and Thursday's season-ender is no different.

Against Cincinnati, Iowa did a decent job in most facets of the game except that which matters most - putting the ball in the basket. The initial reaction was that Iowa did a horrible job on offense, based mainly on the team's 34% shooting, but I don't entirely agree with that. They did enough little things to bring the overall offensive performance to average, but Cincinnati's offense was exceptional (or Iowa's defense was very poor, take your pick).

This game had roughly 64 possessions, and Iowa scored 64 points, for an easy-to-calculate 100 offensive rating. Not great, certainly, but not bad either. They achieved that rating with great rebounding, decent free throw shooting, and by hanging onto the basketball.

Led by strong efforts from Greg Brunner (again) and Doug Thomas (again), Iowa pulled in 16 offensive rebounds to Cincy's 27 defensive boards, meaning Iowa rebounded 37% of their misses, which is about what Michigan State averaged while leading the Big Ten in offensive rebounding. Thomas led the way with 5 offensive rebounds in just 23 minutes, while Brunner chipped in 4 of his own. Iowa made 19 free throws compared to 59 field goal attempts, a 0.322 ratio that bettered Indiana's Big Ten-leading mark. Finally, the Hawks turned the ball over 11 times, or on about 17% of their possessions, a rate that would've placed them second in the Big Ten behind Illinois (who just happened to finish third in the country in turnover rate).

Excellence in three of Dean Oliver's Four Factors will be enough to win most games, unless you struggle mightily at the most important skill - shooting (or play poor defense, of course). Iowa's 38% adjFG% was downright woeful (and to continue the pattern - a team shooting that poorly for a season would've been easily outdistanced by Penn State). When your most consistent scorer barely breaks 40% for the game, but still leads the team, you better be playing some lock-down defense if you want a chance to win. Brunner hit just 7 of 17 shots, while Jeff Horner and always-efficient Adam Haluska each struggled their way to 4-13 shooting nights. Mike Henderson's repeated attempts to shoot in the lane were repeatedly thwarted by Jason Maxiell, and Iowa's recently added scoring option made just 1 of 8 attemtps. Brutal.

Defensively, Iowa did an excellent job of keeping Cincy off the offensive glass, but little else. The Bearcats managed just 9 offensive rebounds to Iowa's 27 defensive, or a 25% rate. Cincinnati fell well below their season average of 39%, which was one of the top 35 rates in the country. Brunner and Thomas were big contributors to the rebounding effort, but Horner, Haluska, and even Erek Hansen got their hands on 4 defensive rebounds.

Iowa didn't give up a ton of free throws, which I was worried they would, but Cincy's offense made their shots and didn't turn the ball over, which is usually enough to overcome any rebounding shortcomings. I can't say I fault Iowa's defensive strategy, or even their effort. They played back and forced Cincinnati to shoot from the outside, which seemed like a good idea against a team without a 40% 3-point shooter. It just plain backfired when every Cincy player decided he was a shooter.

Here's how Cincy's guys shot their threes coming into the game, and how they shot on Thursday.

Player............................3pt%, (season)................3ptM-3ptA, (Thur)
James White.......................0.386......................................2-5
Armein Kirkland...................0.373......................................1-2
Nick Williams.......................0.370......................................3-5
Jihad Muhammed................0.353......................................1-3
Jason Maxiell.......................0.000......................................2-2

When the opponent's center knocks down his first two threes of the season, it's a good sign that it's just not your day.

In summary, Iowa played OK on offense (but not terribly, as you may have read elsewhere), but their strengths were not enough to overcome their awful shooting, or let alone the hot hands that made an appearance on Cincinnati's roster.

Now What?
Now that Iowa's basketball season is over, you might wonder what might possibly be written about at Hawkeye Hoops. Well, I'm not exactly sure myself. I plan to enjoy the ongoing NCAA Tournament for the next couple weeks, and comment on a few of the games/matchups I find interesting. After that, I'll probably write some kind of season in review, and a little later, I'll look ahead to next season. But in-between and after, I don't quite know what will fill this space. I'm open to suggestions regarding any ideas you'd like to read about here.

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