Oh, Iowa. In the most Iowa fashion possible, the Hawkeyes were just starting to build serious momentum after last season's collapse down the stretch that led the Hawkeyes to the First Four and a loss in the first round to Tennessee. After winning the final six Big Ten regular season games, the Hawkeyes were handed their first loss since February 15th at the hands of Penn State and D.J. Newbill. Despite this minor setback, the Hawkeyes should be very proud of their regular season and still have all to play for in NCAA tournament.
Iowa jumped out of the gate winning 8 of their first 10 games, including a monstrous road win at North Carolina while holding the Tar Heels to 55 points. Losses to both Iowa State and Northern Iowa are nothing to be ashamed of, and a win at Ohio State improved the Hawkeyes to 10-4. The Hawkeyes hovered around .500 for most of the Big Ten season, with losses to Wisconsin twice and Purdue and wins at Michigan and at home to Northwestern.
Two bad losses followed, with Iowa dropping games to Minnesota and at Northwestern in overtime to move them 15-10 and 6-6 in the Big Ten. What followed was Iowa hitting its stride over a 6 game winning streak with wins at Indiana and a 34-point demolishing of Rutgers. Sure, Iowa dropped a game against Penn State that will hurt their seeding, but a 21-11 record including 12-6 in the Big Ten is a great regular season. We take a look at Iowa's key players that helped put the Hawkeyes in position to make an NCAA tournament run.
Aaron White: Iowa's best player lived up to the hype this season, as White averaged 16 points and 7.5 rebounds in 31 minutes per game. Unlike other teams' best players, White has tremendous shot selection, shooting 51% from the floor and 81.5% from the line. White has recently had monster games, including 29 points on 8-13 shooting against Illinois, and 21 points and 14 rebounds against Penn State. White has scored at least 20 points in the last five games, and this could be a recipe for Iowa's success in the NCAA tournament. White has had a remarkable senior season, and he will want to make sure the Hawkeyes can keep playing deep into March.
Jared Uthoff: White's frontcourt mate has made tremendous strides to become one of the Big Ten's most improved players, averaging 12 points, 6 rebounds and nearly 2 blocks per game. Uthoff only averaged 8 points and 5 rebounds in 18 minutes per game last season, but Fran McCaffrey has increased that total up to 30 minutes, and Uthoff has responded in a big way. Like White, Uthoff has had a few breakout games, including 25 points at Northwestern and 22 in a home win against Minnesota. My biggest fear about Uthoff is if Iowa gets matched up against a smaller team. Uthoff could have trouble guarding a smaller small forward, even though he will have success at the offensive end against the smaller player. If Uthoff can keep his play up, Iowa is sure to make some noise.
Gabriel Olaseni: While Uthoff and White get more of the accolades, Olaseni is the glue guy off the bench that anchors the defense on the second unit. Olaseni averages 8 points and 5 rebounds in 19 minutes per game, shooting 53% from the floor and 76% from the line. My love for Olaseni has been well documented, and him unanimously winning the Sixth Man of the Year in the Big Ten shows that both the media and coaches share the same love that I do. The Hawkeyes don't run plays for him, but he still finds way to be productive. Olaseni's best two games came back to back in January, in which he had 18 points each against Nebraska and Michigan State. The most impressive statistic is the 20-22 on free throws during these games. While Adam Woodbury is the starter, I expect to see Olaseni closing out games in the NCAA tournament for the Hawkeyes.
Mike Gesell: It seems like Gesell has been at Iowa since the mid-2000's, but Gesell is actually only a junior. He averages 7 points, 4 assists and 2 rebounds, and keep the offense running smoothly. Gesell doesn't do anything amazingly well, but he's a remarkably consistent player that gets it. Gesell has the ability to take over games, including an 18-point output at Purdue, but plays great defense and gives Iowa 25 minutes a gave of solid effort. Gesell will need to play his best in the NCAA tournament like the aforementioned players, and I expect him to keep the Hawkeyes in every tournament game.
Adam Woodbury: I couldn't have an Iowa recap without mentioning Woodbury, the Houdini of eye-poking and the master of ethically questionable defense. Woodbury's cheapshot antics have overshadowed what has been a very efficient season for the 7'1 junior. Woodbury averages 7 points and 5 rebounds a game for Iowa in the starting lineup, but has found a way to piss off the entire Big Ten with his eye-poking. Here's to hoping Woodbury finds a way to play legal defense in the NCAA tournament.
Peter Jok, Anthony Clemmons, Josh Oglesby: The three-headed monster at shooting guard continues to be a position by committee for Iowa. All three players average between 19 and 20 minutes per game, with Jok leading the way with 7 points. Clemmons averages 5 and Oglesby averages 3.5, but all three have the ability to have breakout games. Jok's best game was a 16-point output at Minnesota, Clemmons had 14 points against Northern Illinois, and Oglesby had 12 points against Penn State. All three can stretch the floor and knock down the deep ball, and Fran McCaffrey has a luxury to have all three in the rotation.
Season Recap and Forecast:
Iowa's final record of 21-11 and 12-6 in the Big Ten was good enough to earn the Hawkeyes a 7 seed in the NCAA tournament and a matchup with Davidson. Look for Uthoff, White, Woodbury and Olaseni to outmuscle the Wildcats frontcourt. Davidson does have playmaker Tyler Kalinoski and is extremely disciplined under Bob McKillop, but if the plethora of Iowa shooting guards can knock down shots, Iowa should be in good position to win the game.