January 26, 2021

Hawkeye hoops hysteria

I am all in with Iowa basketball right now. I celebrate every point like it’s for a championship. And I get disgusted with every turnover.

Total fandom. But it’s been a fun year so far. There have been many more highs than lows. The only losses came to the best team in the country and to a ranked Minnesota team on the road.

The Hawkeyes blew that game in Minneapolis though. They led by seven with 35 seconds to play and lost in overtime. That can’t happen.

But since that loss Iowa has defeated then-ranked Northwestern at home, ranked Rutgers on the road and Maryland on the road. They also took down the Gophers at home in the rematch on Sunday.

Iowa is now 11-2 overall and 5-1 in the Big Ten Conference.

The Hawkeyes are fifth in the current Associated Press poll, ranked sixth in the NET rankings and Ken Pom has Iowa ranked third.

They have the probable National Player of the Year in Luka Garza. All he did Sunday against Minnesota was score 33 points. In two games against the Gophers, Garza averaged 32 points per game.

Garza leads the Big Ten in scoring at more than 27 per game. He will get his almost every night.

The Hawkeyes’ ultimate success in March and April will come down to how the other guys play though.

On Sunday, Jordan Bohannon was masterful, finishing with 19 points, a career-high 14 assists and seven rebounds. And he had zero turnovers. Can you imagine playing most of a college basketball game, dishing out 14 assists and not having one turnover?

The Hawkeyes aren’t just Garza and Bohannon though. Joe Wieskamp broke out of his mini slump with 20 points on Sunday. Jack Nunge wasn’t great offensively on Sunday but hit a big jumper and grabbed 10 boards.

We didn’t get to see what Keegan Murray could do off the bench because of some unfortunate whistles by an officiating crew that had a tough day at the office.

C.J. Fredrick has been quiet lately. But when asked to hit shots from outside, he’s capable. And I don’t think we’ve seen the last from him. He will have a big night when others just don’t have it.

After that, the depth is crazy with Connor McCaffery, Patrick McCaffery and Joe Toussaint all capable of giving great minutes.

The McCaffery brothers take a lot bullets but they clearly help this team and their presence in the rotation is felt. Connor is one of the best passers in all of basketball. And he’s shown in recent games that he can hit an open 3.

Patrick is smart like his brother. They both know the game. And they both know their limits.

Not every player on every team is going to score 20 points a night. The mix this Hawkeye team has from scoring, passing, rebounding, toughness and athleticism is a perfect combination.

Many fans wanted to see more Toussaint and less Bohannon. I’m not sure many are saying that now. I wanted to see more Toussaint, but it was not any one player’s expense. I even wouldn’t mind seeing Toussaint and Bohannon on the floor together.

That’s the issue for head coach Fran McCaffery. To play someone more means others will have to play less. Who exactly do you give less minutes to?

Murray needs more minutes. I would say that would come at the expense of Nunge or Connor McCaffery. But when Connor is on the floor, the offense just looks better. So therein lies the problem.

There will be more bumps in the road. The winner of the Big Ten could lose five or six games in conference play. The conference is loaded with very few nights off.

In the latest NET rankings, Nebraska is the only Big Ten program not in the top 60.

My prediction for the rest of the way is simple. I think Iowa wins every home game on their schedule. And games at Northwestern, at Illinois, at Indiana, at Michigan State, at Wisconsin, at Ohio State and at Michigan are all games that could end in losses.

They likely won’t all be losses. But even winning half of those road games puts the Hawkeyes at four or five losses. And that might be enough to win the conference.

Contact Troy Hyde at thyde@shawmedia.com