The Iowa basketball team’s defensive struggles have been well documented the past two seasons, but it hasn’t always been that way in the McCaffery era.
If you were to listen to Hawkeyes twitter, you would think that Fran McCaffery is the worst defensive coach of all time and the Iowa basketball team is literally falling into a fiery hot pit of flames as we speak, but that is quite the overreaction. The Iowa basketball team’s defense was absolutely atrocious last season, ranking 317th in the nation in points allowed per game and ranking 242nd according to KenPom in adjusted defensive efficiency margin.
This season, despite the recent struggles by the Iowa basketball team, the Hawks have improved. They are allowing 73.2 points per game (which is 227th in the nation), which is 5.5 points less per game than last season and their adjusted defensive efficiency margin has them ranked 133rd in the nation.
What’s crazy to me though is how many fans forget that it hasn’t always been this way when they attempt to evaluate Fran McCaffery’s nine years in Iowa City.
When looking at previous years, it begins to paint a picture that maybe it’s not Fran’s system, but maybe it’s the players in it.
Here’s the breakdown of each of Fran McCaffery’s nine years with the Iowa basketball program. The first number is Iowa’s adjusted defensive efficiency margin ranking according to KenPom and the second is the points allowed by Iowa per game.
2019 – 133rd, 73.2 ppg
2018 – 242nd, 78.7 ppg
2017 – 123rd, 78.1 ppg
2016 – 30th, 69.3 ppg
2015 – 34th, 62.3 ppg
2014 – 77th, 70.3 ppg
2013 – 24th, 62.8 ppg
2012 – 205th, 72.5 ppg
2011 – 56th, 68.1 ppg
This breakdown is by no means an excuse for Fran McCaffery though. While his players aren’t performing appropriately on the court, it’s his job as the head coach to figure out what to do to get them in the right position game in and game out.
That being said, his job is a bit more difficult the last few seasons with the players he has (that he recruited mind you). Jordan Bohannon is a severe defensive liability, Luka Garza can be pushed around with ease, and Tyler Cook is an athletic freak who isn’t as good at crashing the boards as his 8.1 rebounds per might suggest.
Again, this is no excuse for the Iowa basketball team’s defensive performance this year or the last two, but it is a gentle reminder that Fran’s defensive system has worked quite well before. Sometimes it just takes looking at the broader picture to realize that.