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Local Sports

KenPom is not for me

I will be the first one to admit that I am not an analytics guy. I also will admit I think it has its place in college athletics.

When listening to a Des Moines sports radio show talk about Iowa basketball and Fran McCaffery recently, one of the hosts pointed out that the Hawks were 0-3 in Big Ten Conference play and was predicted by KenPom to lose eight of its next nine games.

If everyone went by KenPom, we’d all be firing coaches just for their predictions. It’s nonsense to me. But I get why some folks go to the website for reference.

KenPom has Iowa 36th right now in its rankings. The Hawkeyes’ three losses have been against KenPom’s third-ranked team (Michigan State), 11th-ranked team (Wisconsin) and 17th-ranked team (Purdue).

Iowa also has a win over KenPom’s 13th-ranked team in Iowa State. And a win over 45th-ranked UConn.

I have no issues with radio hosts or fans or media members criticizing McCaffery and the Iowa program.

But when a radio hosts uses KenPom as a reference for why he didn’t think Iowa could turn things around and get back on track, that’s where you lose me.

So because KenPom, an analytical website, projects Iowa would lose eight of its next nine games, the Hawkeyes should have just packed it in and gave up? The season is over? Why even play the games?

So far, KenPom is dead wrong. Iowa did not lose eight of its next nine games. The Hawkeyes are 2-0 at the beginning of that stretch. They got wins over KenPom’s 16th-ranked team (Nebraska) at home and won at its 60th-ranked team (Northwestern) on Wednesday night.

I suppose Iowa could lose seven of nine instead of eight of nine from here on out. But I don’t understand those projections when that stretch of games includes a home game with Illinois (111) and road games with Penn State (61) and Minnesota (57).

The other ones include home games with Michigan State and Michigan (7) and at Indiana (28).

Iowa can get another big win Saturday when it hosts Ohio State (27). Tyler Cook did not play in the Hawkeyes’ 10-point road win over Northwestern. Cook leads the team in scoring and rebounding.

Winning a road game against Northwestern without Cook wasn’t easy, but Iowa got it done. And showed that KenPom might indeed have some flaws.

McCaffery’s seat should be hot. The Hawkeyes need to make the tournament this season for him to get back to warm or cold. Whether or not Iowa can do that remains to be seen, but I surely won’t be relying 100 percent on KenPom telling me what the final answer will be.

Joe Wieskamp showed why he was Mr. Iowa Basketball last season in the state of Iowa. He was fantastic in leading Iowa to the win over Northwestern.

It is time to make Wieskamp a more focal point of this team and not just a role player who may score 20 points in a game.

I think the No. 1 option needs to be Cook when he’s healthy. But Wieskamp should be right up there with Luka Garza for that next best option.

The Muscatine native can shoot it, is capable of driving to the bucket and also makes a lot of free throws. His rebounding is underrated, too, as he goes up and grabs boards without fear.

I remember having a discussion with someone about Wieskamp this summer. He told me he didn’t think he would play at all at Iowa. I told him he would start Day 1.

I am not right very often but that was a no brainer to me.

Wieskamp joined an Iowa team which struggled the season before. And he was a top 50 national recruit. What about that leads you to believe he wouldn’t play?

Contact Troy Hyde

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