The Men's Basketball season is only about halfway over, but I think one thing is pretty clear. This year's team is better than last year's team. Now, I'm not going to make this post into a Lick-bashing/Fran-loving one, I'm simply curious as to what this year's team is doing better so far. In order to figure that out, I compared the numbers of this year's team and last year's team vs their non-conference opponents. Let's take a look.
First, the 2009-2010 Offense:
So, as you can see, Iowa was an above average shooting team last year against their non-conference opponents. Their rating of 108 means they shot 8% better than the NCAA D1 average in effective FG%. They were also above average at sharing the ball, averaging 19% more in assists to field goals made ratio than NCAA average. They also gave the ball away 7% less than the average NCAA team last year. However, they did have trouble getting second chance opportunities, as they were 13% worse than average at grabbing offensive rebounds. Not to mention, that they struggled getting to the free throw line. Their free throws attempted to field goals attempted ratio was 15% below NCAA average.
Let's compare that to this year's offense vs non-conference opponents:
First off, shooting was slightly below average this year, but 9% worse than last year's team. The next thing that pops out to me is that Iowa is a much better offensive rebounding team this year. They grabbed offensive rebounds at a clip of 14% better than NCAA average vs their non-conference opponents. That's a 27% increase from last year. That's an enormous turnaround. They also had a large turnaround in free throw rate this year. They got to the line 5% more than the NCAA average, and 20% better than last year. The 2010-2011 Iowa Hawkeyes gave up the ball more than last year's team did. They finished their non-conference schedule 2% under NCAA average. This year's team is also a lot worse at dishing out assists than last year's. For the most part, this year's offense is about average. In the three categories they are below average, they are only slightly below average. Add that to offensive rebounding and getting to the free throw line (they still struggle making them at times though) this offense seems to be more well rounded than last year's. Last year's team was very extreme highs or low's, and no in between.
Moving onto the defense, here is last year's:
Well, they broke my freaking graph. Notice this one is on a slightly different scale as the defense was also pretty bi-polar. Iowa was obviously below average at stopping their opponent from scoring, as their non-conference opponents shot 8% better than NCAA average vs them last year. Forcing turnovers was also a problem, as they were an enormous 21% worse than NCAA average at creating them. The only things they did really well were limit second chances by holding their non-conference opponents 36% under NCAA average on offensive rebounds. They were also good at keeping their opponent off the free throw line. However, when you can't force turnovers and you allow your opponents to shoot that well against you, then you're going to have a hard time winning.
Let's compare that to this year's defense:
Ummm yeah. That looks a lot better than last year. This year's defense is more well rounded. They aren't as good as last year's team at limiting opponent offensive rebounds, but they are still damn good. But, more importantly the 2010-2011 version of the Hawkeyes held non-conference opponents to 8% worse than NCAA average shooting, which is a 16% improvement from last year. They also created turnovers this year, something last year's version struggled with. They only thing Iowa is below average on is their opponents are averaging 2% more assists than the NCAA average against them. However, 2% is not that big of a deal.
So, what do we make of all this? Well, Iowa has been more well rounded on offense this year. Instead of being very good at a skill or very bad at a skill, this year they are pretty much an average offense. However, they have been much better on defense. Non-conference opponents shot worse and turned the ball over a lot more this year against Iowa. Last year in non-conference play Iowa scored 1.02 points per possession, but allowed 1.03. This year the Hawkeyes averaged 1.01 points per possession, and gave up 0.87. I think we've found the key to Iowa's improvement. When a team plays good defense they can keep a mediocre offense in the game, and that's exactly what has happened this year.