Franalysis: Iowa's Second Half Offense Overcomes Their Second Half Defense

By Matthew Lundeen on January 31, 2018 at 2:48 pm
A hot second half on offense for Iowa was enough to overcome some awful second half defense; for one night, at least.
© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
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A hot second half on offense for Iowa was enough to overcome some awful second half defense; for one night, at least.

points

Four Factors in Review

  Iowa 1st Half Minnesota 1st Half Iowa 2nd Half Minnesota 2nd Half Iowa Game Minnesota Game
Points Per Possession 1.09 0.98 1.57 1.29 1.34 1.14
Possessions 34 36 70

Shooting

Iowa 2PT FG 3PT FG FT
Attempts 58.3% 41.7% N/A
FG% 60.0% 48.0% 76.2%
Minnesota 2PT FG 3PT FG FT
Attempts 62.7% 37.3% N/A
FG% 54.8% 28.0% 65.0%

Note: For the second game in a row the play-by-play section in the official box score has decided not to really discern missed layups from missed jumpers. This is always a subjective endeavor in the first place, but with only three missed layups identified in the play-by-play last night, the numbers are even less reliable than usual. Thus, the table above has two-point field goals all counted as the same, no matter if they were from 20 feet out or two.

Shooting was the biggest difference between both teams in this one. Iowa outshot the Gophers in all aspects of the game, but the biggest disparity came from long range, where Iowa shot 48% from downtown compared to just 28% for Minnesota. Jordan Bohannon was his usual sharpshooting self (4-8 from three), but he also got help from Isaiah Moss (4-6) and Jack Nunge (2-3). That hot shooting from the outside led to a net-scorching 71% eFG% in the second half for the Hawkeyes, and  a 65% eFG% for the entire game. And even though Iowa's defense wasn't all that stellar in the second half, 71% from the floor in the final 20 minutes makes it difficult to lose a game. 

Advantage: Iowa

Turnovers

Team Turnovers Turnover% Steals % of Turnovers Forced by Steals Points Off Turnovers Pts Off Turnovers Per Turnover Forced
Iowa 8 11.4% 6 75.0% 10 1.25
Minnesota 8 11.4% 6 75.0% 11 1.38

Both teams were nearly identical in this category. There weren't a ton of turnovers in this game, but both teams were pretty efficient when it came to capitalizing on the limited mistakes made by each side. Turnovers were mostly forced by steals, and they quite often led to run out situations in which both teams capitalized fairly efficiently. Minnesota scored just one more point off turnovers than Iowa, but that small advantage isn't enough for me to give them the category here. Really, this factor was essentially a draw. 

Advantage: Push

Offensive Rebounding

Team Off. Rebounds Available Off. Rebounds Off. Rebound% 2nd Chance Points 2nd Chance Pts/Off. Rebound
Iowa 8 32 25.0% 11 1.38
Minnesota 14 41 34.1% 12 0.86

Jordan Murphy was a nuisance for Iowa when it came to rebounding. He hauled in seven of Minnesota's 14 offensive rebounds and scored six of their 12 second chance points. He also had 10 of their 24 defensive rebounds. In terms of quantity, Minnesota handled Iowa on the boards pretty easily. In terms of quality, however, the Gophers failed to take full advantage of their rebounding superiority and managed just 0.86 second chance points per offensive rebound. Iowa, on the other hand, managed just one fewer second chance point on six fewer offensive rebounds. That was enough to make sure that Iowa's final margin of victory didn't get inside single digits. 

Advantage: Push

Free Throws

Team FT Made FT Attempted FT% FT Rate (FTA/FGA)
Iowa 16 21 76.2% 35.0%
Minnesota 13 20 65.0% 29.9%

For a span of time in the second half, it felt as if Minnesota could get to the free throw line whenever they wanted and Iowa couldn't even breathe on them on defense without hearing a whistle. Luka Garza was forced to sit with three fouls on what looked like an awful blocking call with 16 minutes left in the second half, and Tyler Cook was forced to the bench with four fouls on a questionable call with seven minutes left in the game. Fortunately, Iowa had nine and seven-point leads during those times, which gave them a decent cushion.   

Even with that string of whistles, Iowa still won this battle in both quantity and quality. Iowa managed to get to the line more often and they made them when they got there, which pushed this factor solidly in their advantage. 

Advantage: Iowa

Overall: Iowa Won 2 of 4 Factors

Players

The offense was pretty fantastic in this one for Iowa, at least in the second half. The first half was basically the Tyler Cook show, while Jordan Bohannon only managed five points and Isaiah Moss saw the court for just seven minutes due to having two fouls. With Moss on the bench and no Brady Ellingson available, we saw some... well, let's just call them "interesting" lineups where guys like Nicholas Baer and Dom Uhl played the two spot. And, well, these experimental lineups went just about as well as you can imagine. 

The second half went much better when Jordan Bohannon decided to do his best Steph Curry impression.

Things also looked up when Isaiah Moss remembered that Iowa was playing Minnesota and he is contractually-obligated (don't tell the NCAA) to go off on the Gophers at least once per year. And once Fran wasn't running out lineups with Baer and Uhl at the two, the rotation was cut mainly to the starting five plus Cordell Pemsl and Jack Nunge, and things got rolling offensively. The 1.57 PPP scored by Iowa in the second half is second only to the 1.60 they scored in the first half against Northern Illinois earlier this season. All five starters finished with double-digit points and Cordell Pemsl was the sixth player off the bench to reach that mark. That's pretty good.

And, well, despite playing with a roster that is short on guards and bloated with forwards, you have to hand it to McCaffery because don't look now but his team is currently ranked 29th in the nation in Kenpom's adjusted offensive efficiency. And even when you take their soft non-conference schedule out of the mix, the Hawkeyes are averaging 1.10 PPP in Big Ten play, which is fourth behind only Purdue, Ohio State, and Michigan State. And even though Kenpom doesn't adjust the conference numbers for the strength of schedule that each team has played so far, Bart Torvik does, and his numbers still have Iowa fourth in the conference behind the same four teams. Any way you slice it, this Iowa offense -- although still inconsistent at times -- is trending in the right direction lately. (They were ranked 60th or so in the nation near the beginning of January, as I recall.) 

As for the defense, well... what can I really say at this point? Minnesota has one of the worst offenses in the Big Ten -- especially sans Amir Coffey -- and Iowa still gave up 1.29 PPP after halftime. Nate Mason struggled, which was good, but the quick Isaiah Washington (a younger version of Mason) had 13 points and four assists after the break. Jordan Murphy was a beast like we all expected he would be, while Davonte Fitzgerald decided to do his best Charles Buggs impression. Had this been a team that wasn't at rock bottom right now, this could have very well been similar to the Nebraska loss. Hell, if Coffey had played, this also could have been like the Nebraska game because he is a similar player to James Palmer Jr. 

All of this is to say that the offense is trending in the right direction, but the defense is running further away in the opposite. While Iowa is currently 29th, according to Kenpom's adjusted offensive efficiency rating, they are also 239th (!) in the nation in its defensive counterpart. Unsurprisingly, Iowa has the worst defense in the conference, and by a pretty large margin. Their conference adjusted defensive PPP allowed in Big Ten play is 1.10, while the second worst defense (Minnesota) sits at 1.02. Needless to say, this is a problem when Iowa isn't facing their fellow Big Ten cellar dwellers. 

For some context, only five teams this season are so bipolar in a manner that favors offense over defense, and none of them are Power Five teams. In fact, in order to find another Power Five team not named "Iowa" that looks so offense-heavy, you have to go down to numbers 37 and 38 on that list to find Marquette (#10 offense, #143 defense) and Mississippi (#36 offense and #164 defense). Of course, those teams don't have sub-200 ranked defenses. 

For further context, I went back to 2002 to check which teams had the biggest difference in rankings between adjusted offensive efficiency and adjusted defensive efficiency and to see how they fared those seasons. Again, most teams atop this list are mid-majors, as Power Five teams aren't supposed to be this bad on one side of the ball. But, alas, here we are and thankfully Iowa isn't quite alone in this area.

Rank Since 2002 Year Power 5 Team Adj. Off. Rank Adj. Def. Rank Difference W-L Conf. W-L
#20 2014 Boston College #32 #294 -268 8-24 4-14
#22 2007 Utah #38 #308 -267 11-19 6-10
#52 2015  Washington St. #77 #298 -242 13-18 7-11
#110 2011 Boston College #14 #225 -212 21-13 9-7
#122 2018  Iowa #29 #239 -210 12-12 3-8
#139 2015 Indiana #8 #200 -192 20-14 9-9

As you can see, being this bad on defense doesn't generally portend great success. Out of our small sample of Power Five teams (although Utah wasn't actually a Power Five school in 2007), only two of them finished with records above .500 in conference play, and that was 2011 Boston College and 2015 Indiana. What I think that demonstrates -- small sample size be damned -- is that the only way to really overcome a horrendous defense is to have an elite offense. Indiana made the NCAA Tournament in 2015 because they had the #8 offense in the country. Boston College didn't make the tournament, but they still finished with a winning conference record because they were 14th in the country in offense.

Iowa's offense has been pretty good all season and is trending into great territory right now, but reaching elite status after being so boom and bust for the majority of the season is probably highly unlikely. Sure, there is a possibility that everything is finally clicking for this team now, but it's also very likely that Iowa has been taking advantage of a lighter portion of their conference schedule recently. That softer schedule has come to an end, though, and over their next four they have to go to Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan, while also playing Michigan State at home. This Hawkeye squad would need to win five of their remaining seven games just to finish with a .500 record in Big Ten play. Their final three games (vs. Indiana, at Minnesota, vs. Northwestern) are winnable, but far from sure things. I'm not saying they can't win five of those last seven, but I sure as hell wouldn't put up any of my money against those odds. 

That being said, we have seen some of Fran's teams make some incredible runs at the end of the season -- the 2013, 2015, and 2017 teams all come to mind. On the other hand, we've also seen the 2014  and 2016 teams tank coming down to the finish line. This is the 2018 season, and well, let's just hope this team can buck that even season pattern.

Oh yeah, Tyler Cook had another dunk last night:

Tyler Cook Dunk-o-meter Games Dunks Dunks Per Game Made field goals Dunk Rate Estimated Season Total
Sophomore Year Tyler Cook 24 46 1.9 137 33.6% 59 (31 Games)
Sophomore Year Aaron White 38 56 1.5 140 40.0% 56
Tyler Cook Career 51 94 1.8 265 35.5% N/A
Aaron White Career 140 201 1.4 590 34.1% N/A
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