Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Iowa 75, The Citadel 53
Iowa's basketball season is once again underway, and the team's opening night victory got me fired up enough that I figured I'd sneak out of my semi-retirement and bang on the ol' keyboard for a while.
Without further ado, I'll present the same points per possession grid that I used frequently last season. This might be new to some of you, but it's pretty simple after a few minutes, and hopefully rather informative. The table tells you how many points Iowa scored and allowed while each player was on and off the court, as well as how many possessions each player was either in the game or on the bench. For example, Tony Freeman was on the court for 57 of Iowa's 71 offensive possessions, during which time the team scored 55 points, which works out to a not-so-stellar 96.5 points per 100 possessions (PPP). When he was out of the game, Iowa got hot and scored 20 points on just 14 possessions.
It's kind of difficult to draw too much excitement from a win over The Citadel no matter the final margin, given that they've been one of D-I's worst teams for several years and that their roster included just one player above 6-foot-6, but one game might be enough to affirm some of the suspicions I had during the offseason.
First, I think Iowa has the necessary parts to put together another strong defensive team. The losses from last year were significant, because Iowa must replace a great defensive rebounder (Greg Brunner) and an outstanding shot blocker (Erek Hansen), but I'm still optimistic.
The guys who will be filling those minutes each have something going for them. Seth Gorney, if nothing else, has good size at 7-0, 250. As I recall, that was about all Jeff Hagen had going for him when he manned the middle during Minnesota's stellar defensive campaign of 2004-05. Kurt Looby stands 6-10 with long shot-blocker's arms, and enough quickness and spring in his step to track down a few rebounds. In addition to the 14 boards he grabbed against The Citadel, Looby also led the Prime Time League in rebounding this summer. Cyrus Tate looks fairly strong - he also led Region IX (NE, CO, WY, MT) junior college players in rebounding, and he played for the regions top FG% defense. Everyone raves about freshman Tyler Smith's athleticism, and that can be very effective if properly harnessed by the coaching staff.
As you can see from the table above, Iowa's defense was better when either one of Looby or Gorney were on the court (no doubt because of The Citadel's size issues). But when both played together, Iowa's defense was particularly devastating. The pair shared the court for 26 defensive possessions, during which time The Citadel managed only 5 points on 2 of 19 shooting! Interestingly, when Looby played without Gorney, Iowa allowed 28 points on 21 possessions (133.3 PPP). When Gorney was in without the lanky Antiguan, Iowa's defense allowed a stingier 80.0 PPP. Perhaps Looby isn't strong enough to patrol the lane by himself, but give him a 7-footer to stand by and you might just have a formidable barrier to the basket!
Another thing I'm very excited about this year - Iowa's best offensive player will finally be it's primary scoring option! Two years ago, Iowa was all about he who will not be named, who took something like a third of the team's shots. Last year, everything went through Brunner and Jeff Horner while Adam Haluska was at times an afterthought. OK, that's probably overstating it, but at least admit that Haluska's combination of skills (3pt shooting, driving, foul shooting, posting up) was the most likely to succeed when used in high volume (as opposed to Horner's Hail Mary threes and Brunner's 45% shooting). Anyway, it was good to see Haluska off to a hot start Monday night when rained in 29 points with a 68.8 efg% to go with an impressive 6 dimes and 5 rebounds. Whatever happens this year, it should be fun watching him put up big numbers. He'll have the green light all year.
Unfortunately, that's all there's time for right now. . . . .