College Mens Basketball

Iowa basketball: Making the Grade, Big Ten Week 1

Hawkeyes lose another pair of games and offense is the main culprit

Iowa Hawkeyes forward Tyler Cook (5) tries to make a post move against Indiana Hoosiers forward De'Ron Davis (20) and forward Juwan Morgan (13) Monday night at Assembly Hall. (Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports)
Iowa Hawkeyes forward Tyler Cook (5) tries to make a post move against Indiana Hoosiers forward De'Ron Davis (20) and forward Juwan Morgan (13) Monday night at Assembly Hall. (Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports)

Finals week is fast approaching, and if the Iowa men’s basketball team took home the grades it’s about to get in this week’s entry, academic probation might be on the table. There have been worse stretches of Hawkeye basketball in the past, but only led by a guy named Todd.

Each week of the season, we’ll break down the Hawkeyes’ offensive and defensive performance and give them grades, as we’ll as highlight each player who contributed significantly and his individual performance. This week’s Iowa Hoops: Making the Grade highlights Game 8 and 9 against Penn State and Indiana.


Iowa vs. Penn State, L, 77-73

Iowa at Indiana, L, 77-64


D-Why: This grade originally was an F, but the Hawkeyes can’t be completely panned for their offensive week, considering they did have a real chance to win against Penn State. That said, one of the biggest reasons Iowa was down in that game to begin with and why it couldn’t get over the hump were mistakes made on offense.

The Hawkeyes made poor, lazy decisions in both games. They didn’t value the ball. The motion offense only really worked in short spurts in a couple moments across both games. The difference between the first six minutes of the second half at Indiana and the rest of that game offensively was an ocean.

Before that stretch, the Iowa offense looked more like a YMCA pickup game than motion they’d practiced. Seemingly every possession, guys weren’t where they needed to be, Jordan Bohannon had to wait to get the ball moving and then when it did move, the defense was already set. Bohannon and several others were trying to do too much at once. When Maishe Dailey was running the point, the offense flowed and that unit ran the offense — which resulted in an 11-0 run and Iowa getting to within one. Dailey didn’t do anything special other than take what the defense gave him, but had his teammates moving without the ball to get open.

This isn’t all on Bohannon. You try running the zigzag drill full court for 35 minutes and see if you can stand, let alone run an offense or shoot effectively from 22 feet. This group is plenty capable of being effective in their actions and their motion, but it seems like they each want to get all they can when they can whenever they touch the ball, and as a result, everything is haywire. Not even transition can work without mistakes.


Turnovers have been a plague upon the house, and getting sped up or trying too hard has been the biggest cause.


C-Why: If this were based on the start to the Penn State game, then this grade would be an F-. Or like a G or H or M. Something really, really bad. But because Iowa shored up during that game and started the Indiana game pretty well — both halves of that game, actually — this is the grade.

The start to the Penn State game was bizarre. The Hawkeyes looked subdued, with no real energy on defense. The Nittany Lions got open shots against man-to-man and zone, and while they were admittedly on fire shooting-wise, that was in no small part to do with the fact that Iowa wasn’t closing out or rotating properly.

It wasn’t much better against Indiana. The Hawkeyes tried to run more zone on Monday because the Hoosiers aren’t a great shooting team, but the guys in red repeatedly got behind the zone and either got wide open — not just open, but, five feet of room open — outside or bad switches led to uncontested dunks. Ball pressure was up and down, rotations were good one possession and bad the next.

Help defense saved Iowa against Penn State and rebounding was a positive in both games. But until communication and anticipation improves, those easy, open shots are going to be normal.

Players (in last two games)


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Tyler Cook, forward — I’m not going to wax poetic on whether or not Fran McCaffery’s policy of benching guys with two fouls does or doesn’t work, except to say the following: you either trust your guys or you don’t. Maybe it’s situational, but given Cook is the best player Iowa has right now, they needed him on the floor at the end of the first half against Indiana. Even if he’s been a bit careless or sped up with the ball at times, 14 minutes can’t happen again, and even McCaffery acknowledged that.

Brady Ellingson, guard — Ellingson’s Indiana performance was very good. The problem is that’s the outlier so far this year and not the norm. What made it so good was that he was able to play off the ball, where he’s comfortable, and didn’t hesitate. Without his points, the Hawkeyes lose by a lot more than 13.

Jordan Bohannon, guard — Things have not been going well for Bohannon, and his body language swings that message home like a sledgehammer. He blamed himself, again, for the loss after Indiana, just as he did after Virginia Tech. There’s no doubt he’s making mistakes and no doubt he needs to be sharper. But watching his tape shows a kid trying really hard to live up to his own expectations, let alone the ones everyone else has. As long as he’s pressing, the turnovers will continue to happen.

Isaiah Moss, guard — It looked like he was back to his pre-Virginia Tech form against Penn State, but was part of the message-sending against Indiana. One of his strengths had been in transition, and he can’t seem to get out of his own way in that area right now. He also hasn’t handled pressure very well recently.

Jack Nunge, forward — Nunge was a bright spot against Indiana. His shooting was solid and he took care of the ball better than most. He was part of the group that brought Iowa back in the second half. He wasn’t as good against Penn State, but has been the most consistent freshman by far to this point of the season.

Cordell Pemsl, forward — Pemsl was one of the worst offenders against Indiana in terms of trying to do too much too fast when he got the ball. It’s a positive he feels like he needs to be one the Hawkeyes can rely on, but like Bohannon, the more he tries to be that for Iowa, the worse it’s been. He’s working hard on the boards and it’s paying off, but everything else needs to slow down a bit.

Luka Garza, forward — Garza clearly is having trouble adjusting to the speed of the Big Ten so far. McCaffery pointed out he was behind quite a bit against Indiana. Some of those open 3s in the corner were because other defenders were covering for or helping him inside and couldn’t recover quick enough outside.


Ryan Kriener, forward — In just seven minutes against Penn State, Kriener had five points on 2 of 3 shooting, four rebounds, two assists and no turnovers. He nailed his only 3. He was a major spark for the Hawkeyes … then took a blow to the head, then the face, flipped the ball up and in and that was it. He was out with a concussion. He should be ready for Iowa State on Thursday, and Iowa will need him.

Nicholas Baer, forward — I have to give Baer a little credit. Picking up two fouls in less than a minute of game play is pretty hard to do when you’re not just out there to intentionally foul at the end of a game to keep it going. The block that picked up his fourth foul against Indiana looked clean on replay, but those are the breaks sometimes.

Ahmad Wagner, forward — Wagner’s work on the boards is phenomenal. The way he uses his body both physically and in positioning has made him a tremendously effective rebounder. Where he needs to improve — and in a hurry — is finishing when he gets those rebounds on the offensive end. It’s a skill to go back up in traffic, and if he can master that, he’ll be on the floor a lot.

Maishe Dailey, guard — Maybe Iowa’s newest point guard? Not that Dailey will or even should replace Bohannon at the one, but Dailey could be a very good backup option if he can play at the one the way he did against Indiana. He said he hasn’t practiced there much, but with Connor McCaffery out and likely not himself for a while, Dailey could’ve found his role. He’s clearly not yet a reliable shooter, but four assists, five rebounds and no turnovers is nothing to sneeze at.

Upcoming Games

Iowa at Iowa State, 7 p.m. Dec. 7 at Hilton Coliseum, Ames (ESPN2)

Iowa vs. Southern, 4 p.m. Dec. 10 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena (BTN)

*Full disclosure on grades: First things first, that’s by subjective view after covering and re-watching games. Second, grades are an aggregate of the week, based on an 11-point scale. A is worth 11, A- 10, and so on through F, which is 0. Offense and defense are given a grade for each game and then averaged for the week.

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