What Is Going on with Iowa's Last 5 Games?
Nothing like a nice drama-free week of Hawkeye sports, right folks? If it seems like the Iowa men's basketball team has been a bit off lately, that's because it has:
The above graph (and pretty much everything else in this article) was taken from Bart Torvik's website. He quantifies something called a "game score" which is basically a 1-100 scaled representation of how your team played in a given game (100 is best). Our game scores are shown with dots (squares = conference games, circles = non-conference games, green = wins, red = losses, dot size = opponent quality). The yellow line is our season average game score, about 80. That's good. Both Torvik and KenPom think we are about 30-35th, nationally. If you'd told me before the season that we'd be 30-35th in overall efficiency, I'd have been ecstatic. So why are we all so worried? Look at the five right-most dots in that graph. Since winning at Indiana, Iowa has been trending in the wrong direction. We've basically had three slightly below average games (@Rutgers, Maryland, Indiana) and two dramatically below average games (NW and OSU), resulting in us falling 10-15 spots in the overall efficiency rankings, depending on whether you look at Torvik or KenPom.
Why is this happening? To get some insight into this, I looked at Iowa's Adjusted Offensive Efficiency and Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (5 game rolling averages):
The dots that are arranged in a straight line indicate Iowa's season average for that statistic (about 118 for Adjusted Offense, 100 for Adjusted Defense). Pay particular attention to the dot on the far right that indicates our performance during the current five game stretch. Both the offense and the defense have been, on average, worse than their overall season-wide norms during the last five games. However, the defense has been significantly farther from the norm than the offense.
Should we be concerned about the offense? I'm not panicking yet.
I took a quick look at all of our players' offensive efficiency ratings (data not shown) over the last five games and the only player who has been in an obvious slump is Garza and he seems to be snapping out of it somewhat. He didn't play much (or get the ball much) against Ohio State but he did go 3/5 on two-point attempts and he had a nice game against Indiana. Let's look at our game by game performances:
Looking at the five right most data points (last five games), we see that three of the five games were pretty much right at our season average. Of the two games where we were below our season average, our offensive performances were still within the performance range that we've seen this season. They were our 7th and 8th worst offensive performances of the season. In our last game (at OSU), our adjusted offensive efficiency was 119, slightly above our season average. Based on all of this, I feel like Garza's slump had a lot to do with our slight down tick in offensive potency. The 3/10 and 1/7 shooting lines that he put up against Rutgers and Maryland are not the norm for him. Fortunately, he's been showing signs of life in the last two games (FG% of 50%+ in both) and I am optimistic that will continue.
As mentioned above, our defense has been farther from its season-wide average than our offense during the last five games. That is entirely due to Northwestern and OSU shredding our defense as can be seen here:
Looking at the five last games, there are three average (for Iowa) defensive games and two disasters (NW and @OSU were our 2nd and 3rd worst defensive performances of the year). An optimistic take on this is that the Maryland and Indiana games suggest that we still can play acceptable defense, Northwestern and @OSU were outliers, and we will soon revert to playing mediocre, but not catastrophically bad, defense. A more pessimistic take is that we aren't going to beat anyone with adjusted defensive efficiencies of 118.
The fact that our offense has been in line with our season average in three of the last five games and that our defense has been in line with our season average in three of the last five games makes me wonder if I'm getting worried about nothing. We will soon see which take is correct.