The More the Merrier: Iowa's 11 Man Rotation

Matthew Holst

Fran McCaffery has only 4 players averaging 20+ minutes this season and the Hawkeyes are winning.

If you watch enough basketball, you seem to see everything. From players making shots from the other free throw line to players calling timeouts when they have none left, there seems to be something new you'll see every season. So far this season for me, it's Iowa's depth. The Hawkeyes are constantly rolling out 10 to 11 players per game and they're winning.

Iowa is currently using an eleven-man rotation and it doesn't seem to be stopping any time soon. In their most recent game against Nebraska (a 10 point win) they used 11 players in a very odd way. Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White played 68 of the 200 possible minutes played. This means that the other 9 players only averaged about 15 minutes in the game.

This seems to be a normal occurrence for the Hawkeyes against the stiffer competition. Against Iowa State and Villanova, Marble and White played 67 total minutes in each game with at least 8 other players in rotation. Against the Fighting Irish, these two played 72 minutes and 10 total players were used in the game.

It is expected for the best few players to see significantly less minutes in games where they are up by 20-30 points, but I'm not sure how to explain the 18 TOTAL minutes played by White and Marble against Arkansas Pine-Bluff. I know the Hawkeyes were up big early in that game, but Fred McCaffery obviously has something up his sleeve.

The Hawkeyes high minutes players are obviously Roy Devyn Marble (26.3 minutes per game) and Aaron White (24.4mpg), but they only have two others averaging over 20 minutes this season. Those two are Jarrod Uthoff (20.9mpg) and Mike Gesell (20.4mpg). If you think all of those numbers seem low then you are correct. Purdue is the most comparable team in minutes with their top two players playing 28.6 and 25.6mpg. Pretty much every other team has multiple players over 28-30 minutes.

So, why all of this jibber jabber about minutes? Well, there has to be a reason why McCaffery rolls his players out there this way. Whenever someone does something against the grain, I ask myself why? I'm no Dick Vitale, but here is why I think the Hawkeyes are being used the way they are.

It's Working

Everyone has heard the phrase "if it ain't broke then don't fix it" and I think that is entirely the case here. Iowa has run out to a 12-2 start and a top 25 ranking. The schedule has had its fair share of easy games, but the Hawkeyes have played very well against Iowa State, Villanova, Xavier, and Notre Dame and came out with 2 wins and 2 losses by 8 total points.

Iowa is an Older Team

The top 5 Hawkeyes' scorers are senior, junior, sophomore, senior, and senior. It is smart of McCaffery to get his younger players like Jok, Woodbury, Clemmons, and Gessell significant minutes so they can keep this team rolling next season. Most, if not all, of those guys need game minutes to get better. A guy like Adam Woodbury, who Kevin Dlugos discussed in Iowa's mid-season roundup, can really benefit from seeing low stress minutes. A team like Iowa has to be able to rely on their current young players to make a difference by the time they are juniors and seniors due to recruiting being tough. Iowa is currently ranked as the 85th best class for 2014 on 247 Sports.

Well-Balanced is Their Identity

Right now, it's easy to point out Marble and White as guys who deserve 30+ minutes in every game that remains close. Besides that though, Iowa is a team that uses their freshness to their advantage. A bench player like Jarrod Uthoff is averaging almost 11 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Those are great numbers for 21 minutes per game and you should expect an even better line if he were to play 30mpg. But, I don't think that is necessarily the case. If you prorate his numbers to 30 minutes, Uthoff turns into a 16 and 10 guy. A good coach knows his teams' identity and how to maximize his players' ability.

The same can be said for guys like Melsahn Basabe, and Gabriel Olaseni (who also comes off the bench). Those three would all be averaging double doubles according to their numbers averaged out to 30mpg, but most of the time coaches do these things for a reason.

Positioning for a B1G Championship

It's not out of the question to say that Iowa could pull off a B1G Tournament championship. The Hawkeyes were only 3 points away from beating Michigan State and getting to the semi-finals last season. This season isn't even half way complete, but it doesn't seem out of the question to peg the Hawkeyes as a top 5 B1G team and if they can get inside the top 4 then they'll see a bye in the first round of the B1G Tournament.

The Hawkeyes could be a real tough team to play if they are fresh and have 10 to 11 players with real experience. Injuries are sure to happen to everyone this season (they already have for a few teams) and if Iowa loses a guy it'll be easier to replace them with so many players being used. Lastly, by the time the postseason is here, Iowa will know who their best players truly are and can use them appropriately in their biggest games of the season.

Final Thoughts

The Iowa Hawkeyes showed a lot of promise last season going to the NIT championship game and finished with 25 wins. They have done a nice job this season winning against teams they should beat and beating some very solid teams as well. With the way these players are being used, the Hawkeyes should be conditioned very well to make a move late in the season when most teams will be injured and hurting from playing a lot of minutes.

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