Iowa Men's Basketball

More CJ Fredrick means a bigger chance of Iowa men's basketball success

On a protective Iowa team in general, Fredrick has 0 turnovers in his last 10 games

Iowa guard CJ Fredrick drives during the Hawkeyes' 79-66 men's basketball win over Rutgers Wednesday at Carver-Hawkeye A
Iowa guard CJ Fredrick drives during the Hawkeyes’ 79-66 men’s basketball win over Rutgers Wednesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. (Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)

Ball protection matters. CJ Fredrick matters.

The Iowa men’s basketball team can tout being in a slew of high national rankings in offensive categories, things like points, 3-point field goals and assists per game. It has the nation’s leading scorer in Luka Garza.

But here’s a winning offensive stat that gets a bit less attention: The Hawkeyes are fourth in the nation in fewest turnovers per game, with 9.6. Iowa’s record-low in a season is 10.3, set in 2015-16.

Even better, the Hawkeyes are first in the nation in fewest turnovers per offensive play.

Then you factor in Fredrick, the sophomore guard who missed three of Iowa’s five games with a lower leg injury immediately before its 79-66 win over Rutgers Wednesday and didn’t play his normal number of minutes in the other two.

Besides being an excellent shooter, good passer and sound defender, Fredrick hasn’t had a turnover in his last 10 games covering 240 minutes of playing time.

No errant passes, no stepping out of bounds with the ball, no getting the ball stolen, no traveling or double-dribbling or palming infractions, no offensive fouls, no illegal screens, no 3-second or 5-second or 10-second violations.

The No. 15 Hawkeyes (14-6, 8-5 Big Ten) would welcome a continuation of that Saturday afternoon when they play at Michigan State (10-7, 4-7), and in games to come. Having Fredrick increases their chances of doing so. His absence over much of Iowa’s previous five games immediately before Wednesday’s correlated with losses in four of them.

“He’s a guy that just understands how to play,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said Friday. “He understands situations. He affects the game in a number of different ways. He doesn’t have to score because he’s a terrific passer, he’s a really good defender, he’s an athlete, he’s a tough kid.

“I’m really proud of him and how he’s persevered.”

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Iowa is different with Fredrick able to play to his capabilities. The Hawkeyes are 14-3 with him, 0-3 without.

“Just having good days, having bad days, it’s frustrating,” he said Wednesday after playing 17 minutes against Rutgers. “I would say the last week I’ve been just really feeling good.

“I thought I did everything I could out there today, and I feel pretty good after the game.”

On Friday, McCaffery reiterated that he didn’t want Fredrick to feel pressure to play until he felt well enough to do so comfortably.

“Sometimes you say ‘Oh, I gotta get back.’ You’ve got to get back when you’re ready to come back,” McCaffery said.

“He practiced Monday and he did a little bit on Tuesday, so he was able to play Wednesday. We’ll probably manage him that way the rest of the year and hopefully he’ll be able to play in all the games, but he might not. And if he can’t, he can’t, and next man up, and we’ll get him right for the next one after that.”

The Hawkeyes face a Michigan State team that is 2-0 since it lost 84-78 at Iowa on Feb. 2. The wins were at home against lower-rung Big Ten teams Nebraska (66-56) and Penn State (60-58).

This isn’t a typical Tom Izzo-coached club, normally a lock to reach the NCAA tournament and a contender for the Big Ten title, which it won in each of the last three seasons. But this game is at Breslin Center, where Iowa is 3-23 and hasn’t won since 2016.

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Despite no Izzone full of fired-up students and MSU not being the dynamo it so often has been, it still should be a tough game for the Hawkeyes. But winnable, it is.

Comments: (319) 398-8440; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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