On December 13th, Iowa was ranked first in adjusted offense (1.149 PPP) and 106th in adjusted defense (0.968 PPP). Overall, Ken Pomeroy's algorithm thought Iowa was the 24th best team in the country. This was the day after the beatdown of Iowa State, the last game that Jordan Bohannon played for Iowa this season. Rumors were swirling at that time around Bohannon’s injury status and, unfortunately, they were soon confirmed. Bohannon would miss the rest of the season with hip surgery. At the time, it was unclear exactly what impact his absence would have. He wasn’t in top form this season but he was still obviously a major piece for us. A number of players were going to have to play larger roles and it wasn’t clear exactly how that was going to work. I wrote an article at the time making the argument that Iowa's offense would fall off but that we would also see a defensive improvement.
What has happened in the interim?
Iowa has played eight games since Bohannon decided to redshirt. During that time, our overall Ken Pomeroy ranking has improved from 24th to 14th at the time of this writing. Iowa's adjusted offense currently ranks 3rd (1.187 PPP) while the defense has improved to 85th (0.977 PPP). You might think it odd that the offensive PPP has gone up but the ranking has gone down while the defensive PPP has gone up but the ranking has improved. The reason for this is that college teams generally become better on offense over the course of the season. So the “offensive environment” in which Iowa finds itself is constantly improving.
For example, on December 13th, the #1 offense was Iowa with 1.149 PPP. Today it’s Gonzaga with 1.201 PPP. The #176 ranked offense (right in the middle of the 353 D1 teams) was UMass with 0.999 PPP. Today, #176 is Tulane with 1.03 PPP. Thus the current 0.977 adjusted DPPP is actually better than the 0.968 adjusted DPPP that Iowa had on December 13th and this is reflected in the improved defensive ranking. In the possessions that I have tracked from the Cincinnati game until present, Iowa is actually scoring 0.04 more PPP, and allowing 0.05 less PPP, than they did up through December 13th. The bottom line is this: Iowa's defense is better than it was and the offense has not fallen off very much at all.
It is not surprising that Toussaint and Evelyn are proving to be better defenders than a hobbled Bohannon was. What is surprising is that Iowa's offense hasn’t really skipped a beat. Although no longer ranked #1, Iowa is certainly still an elite offensive team. The rest of this article will focus on that question, examining changes in the usage rate and effectiveness of certain players. There are a few players who stand out in terms of performance improvement from December 13th until now: Joe Wieskamp, Ryan Kriener and Bakari Evelyn.
Let's start by looking at who has been doing the scoring for our team during two periods of time: everything through December 13th and everything since.
As you can see, Iowa has maintained our 80 points per game scoring average. This is largely because two players have increased their scoring output: Joe Wieskamp and Ryan Kriener, who have gone from combining for 18.3 PPG to combining for 29.5 PPG. Both players have seen improvements in their shooting accuracy over this time period. Wieskamp's effective field goal percentage (eFG%), calculated as (FGM + 0.5*3PM)/FGA, was 52% on December 13th. Since then, it has been 58%. Likewise, Kriener's eFG% was 59% and has been 77% since. All of these numbers are outstanding and they will hopefully continue.
There is another player who I think has also been critical for our success over the last eight games, Bakari Evelyn, but it requires the use of advanced metrics to appreciate his contributions. Here is a table of minutes per game, usage rate (the percentage of possessions that end with a particular player doing something, while that player is on the court) and the O Rtg, which is an overall metric of offensive effectiveness that factors in a wide range of statistics (like shooting percentage, free throw rate, assists, turnovers, offensive rebounds etc.). These stats are from Bart Torvik's website.
|MPG (Dec 13)||MPG (Since)||Usage Rate (Dec 13)||Usage Rate (Since)||O Rtg (Dec 13)||O Rtg (Since)|
The player with the most dramatic improvement by these metrics is Bakari Evelyn, who has seen a massive increase in O Rtg from a dreadful 58.1 to a still-not-great but passable 91.9. Another way of measuring effectiveness is to measure how the team performs when that player is on the court. The graph below shows how many points per possession Iowa scored and allowed when each of our players is on the court, again divided into all of the games through December 13th and all of the games since.
|O PPP (Dec 13)||D PPP (Dec 13)||O PPP (Since)||D PPP (Since)|
On December 13th, Iowa was averaging 1.04 points per possession when Evelyn was on the court, considerably worse than our overall 1.15 PPP at that time. Since then, Evelyn has improved substantially, evidenced by our team scoring 1.15 PPP with him since December 13th. Another player who stands out in this metric is Kriener. Iowa was scoring 1.08 PPP with Kriener on the court as of December 13th, since then Iowa has been scoring 1.21 PPP.
Since Bohannon went out, almost all of our minutes at point guard have been going to the combination of Joe Toussaint and Bakari Evelyn. Toussaint has been bipolar: either really good (e.g., Penn State and Rutgers) or, uh, not good (e.g., Cincinnati). None of this should come as a surprise for a freshman playing against a very tough schedule. The point is that Evelyn has been able to give us solid minutes in the games where Toussaint is "off". Usually, one of Evelyn and Toussaint appears to be effective early in the game and Fran uses that player more throughout the game. As long as Iowa gets decent play from one of these guys, they have a good chance at victory on any given night.
Garza is certainly Iowa's best player, and possibly the best collegiate player in the entire country; he has been phenomenal over the entire season. When focusing on the question of "who has stepped up to fill the void left by Bohannon?" The answer appears to be Wieskamp, Kriener and Evelyn. Hopefully they keep playing like this and Iowa keeps winning.