What Went Wrong For Iowa?
It doesn't take long for social media to get ugly after an Iowa loss. It actually happens before the game is even over. Although in the case of yesterday's Iowa loss to Oregon in the NCAA Tournament, you could argue the game was over just into the second half. Armchair coaches were grasping for answers. This wasn't supposed to happen to this Iowa team! We're too good for this! We're supposed to be in the Final Four! Really?
Listen, I get it. I'm disappointed too. But you know who else is? Every player and coach on that Iowa team. No one wanted to win more than they did. So to question their efforts or motivation is just plain stupid. What is not foolish to examine is why Iowa lost like they did, and in my mind the answer is pretty simple. Not enough athletes.
First of all, I'm not going to knock anyone too hard for earning a Division I basketball scholarship, but it was hard not to see the difference yesterday on the court between Iowa and Oregon. It's the same problem the Hawkeyes had with teams like Gonzaga, Michigan, and Illinois this season. Jordan Bohannon, CJ Fredrick, and Connor McCaffery didn't score a point yesterday. Not one. How is that possible? As good as those three have been at Iowa, they really have never been the type of player that can go get their own shot. They need help. A ball screen, or something to get them open. We learned afterwards that all three are walking wounded. Bohannon has two repaired hips. CJ has been battling lower leg injuries all year. And Connor is slated for off season hip surgery.
But even if all three of those players were healthy, Iowa wouldn't have won. Not facing a team like we saw in Oregon. Athleticism at all five positions. They weren't big, but man they were quick and everyone on that team could shoot. The Hawkeyes had two legit threats all year. Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp. Garza is a senior and is off to hopefully greener pastures. Wieskamp is a junior and has tested the NBA waters before. Will he be back for one more run? What is left for Fran McCaffery to work with next season?
There is much to be hopeful for. Keegan Murray is a rising star and I like the growth I've seen in Patrick McCaffery's game too. Young players like Tony Perkins and point guard Ahron Ullis are going to have to step up and play big minutes. Joe Toussaint will be back bringing his energy again next season. Jack Nunge will be back from injury to take over for Garza. But who else will emerge? Can Kris Murray develop alongside his brother? Will Josh Ogundele become an inside force? Will Connor McCaffery recover from his hip injuries and develop a consistent outside show? I'm sure all these questions and more are running through Fran McCaffery's head right now.
Iowa probably won't win as many games next season, but they actually could be a more competitive team. As many other Big Ten teams have learned this March, bigger isn't always better. Want to advance farther in the NCAA Tournament? Then next time come ready for anything!