The Iowa basketball team just secured their 20th win of the season, but they are breaking convention with their winning ways.
Heading into this season, we all knew the Iowa basketball team needed to fix its defense. Last year, despite having one of the nations’ top offenses, the Hawks horrendous defense resulted in an extremely disappointing 14-19 campaign.
Coming into the season, head coach Fran McCaffery preached about the renewed focus to the defensive side of the ball, and although there has been quite an improvement from last year, statistically speaking, the Hawkeyes defense is still a work in progress.
Last season, the Iowa basketball team was ranked 317th in the nation in points allowed per game. This year, they have jumped up nearly 100 spots to 223rd while allowing 5.6 fewer points per game. Better, but not good.
Moreover, according to KenPom, the Iowa basketball squad has jumped up 122 spots from last year to this year as they now rank 120th in defensive adjusted efficiency margin. Again, better but not good.
In spite of all of this, the Iowa basketball team is currently ranked 21st in the nation, and they are 20-5 with an opportunity to finish the regular season with the most regular season wins in the Fran McCaffery era.
It’s pretty impressive when you compare Iowa to other top teams in the country. Only two teams above the Iowa basketball team in the AP Top-25 are allowing more points per game (UNC – 73.3 ppg and LSU – 73.5 ppg), and only two of the other eighteen teams rank outside the top-100 in points allowed per game.
Advanced analytics paint an even uglier picture. According to KenPom, the Iowa basketball team’s defense is ranked 120th in the nation. Only five teams in the top-25 rank outside the top 34 teams in adjusted deficiency margin (Purdue, Villanova, LSU, Tennessee, and Marquette). Villanova is the worst of the bunch ranking 75th, but that’s still 45 spots higher than Iowa’s ranking.
Thankfully, Iowa’s inconsistent defense is held up by an explosive offensive attack featuring five guys who can score at will at any point during a game. The Hawk’s offense is ranked 8th in the entire nation in adjusted efficiency margin.
While all that ultimately matters is wins, this is worth noting as the Iowa basketball team prepares for its first NCAA tournament appearance in three years. The glimmer of hope that I have is that we’ve seen the Hawks play solid defense at times, it’s just too inconsistent. If they can lock in come March, this ball team will be extremely dangerous.