Monday, January 16, 2017

I Was Wrong About Iowa Basketball

Going into this season, I thought that the Iowa Hawkeyes were going to be awful at basketball. Early on in the season, I felt vindicated as Iowa couldn't beat a good team to save their lives. They couldn't beat Seton Hall at home, and more embarrassingly, they only manged 41 points against Virginia, then followed that by giving up 100 points to Memphis. Their offense depended on everybody being hot from the outside, and their defense was nonexistent. They followed those two games by getting beat by Notre Dame before hitting rock bottom and losing to University of Nebraska...Omaha. Iowa wasn't going to struggle this year; they were going to be abysmal.

Then something weird happened. They beat the 25th ranked, Iowa State Cyclones. I didn't think they'd be good enough to win a game like that, but it was a rivalry game, and as the cliche goes, you can throw the record books out when those two teams get together. Then, something even more odd happened when Iowa totally handled Northern Iowa. Even if UNI wasn't strong this year, Iowa shouldn't have been able to dominate them like that.

And since then, outside of a beating they took from Purdue on the road, Iowa looks like a real basketball team, and that is something I did not see coming. In fact, they even avenged the beating that Purdue gave them by getting a win over the Boilermakers at home. I thought they were going to be the hottest garbage, but I really underestimated the talents of this team.

First, there was Peter Jok. It's not that I really underestimated Jok, because I've always been a huge fan, but I saw what he is doing this year as the absolute height of his potential; I didn't think he'd actually reach it. But the dude has been phenomenal and deserves national attention for his play so far this year. He's an incredible scorer, and he's really stepped up in his ability to contribute in other areas this season which is not easy to do while doing most of the heavy lifting on offense.

On production alone, I had Tyler Cook pegged fairly well, as nothing he has done has really surprised me, but how he is doing it is more impressive than I anticipated. He's just so damn...smooth. Everything he does in his actions are very fluid, and as he adds strength and some bulk, he's going to be very tough to deal with for any team facing the Hawkeyes.

The guy I missed the biggest on was Jordan Bohannon. Like, he's a Bohannon, so I knew he'd be able to shoot, but I did not think he'd be a competent facilitator as a true freshman. It's incredible how far he has exceeded my expectations in running the offense, as I thought Christian Williams would have to run point with Bohannon playing the off guard position to run around screens and shoot up threes. He's been way more than that, and this is an excellent sign for Iowa's future.

The guy that everybody underestimated was Cordell Pemsl. I didn't really expect him to get any minutes this year, but he's been great. He's basically what I dreamed that Ahmad Wagner would become this year. He's like a poor man's Corliss Williamson (who was one of my favorite college players ever). I don't think Pemsl has the highest ceiling, but if he could just do this for four years and maybe improve his free throw shooting, that's a really nice college player.

I also didn't expect much from Isaiah Moss who may have the most potential of any of the freshman (non Tyler Cook edition). He's athletic and can make threes fairly well, which is a really good starting point for a college player. When Jok leaves, Moss is going to get a chance to shine much brighter, and i think he'll do just that.

On top of that, you have Nicholas Baer being the ultimate hustle guy; Brady Ellingson is nailing threes like it's nobody's business; Ahmad Wagner still being a solid big that can take some minutes off the bench and do good things; Christian Williams puts in quality minutes while running the offense and playing strong defense; Dom Uhl....well, Uhl has kind of taken a step back, but he's still long and athletic; and Kriener and Dailey are a-okay young fellas.

I know I'm talking about this Iowa team as if they are real contenders, and they're not that yet. The Big Ten is down this year, but Iowa has gone from a team that I expected to win 4-5 games in conference play to a team that could be right around .500. Instead of them getting blown away consistently, they have shown they can compete, although they are inexperienced enough where the occasional blowout is going to still happen. Most importantly, this team is super fun, and they're only going to get better. I thought I was going to be excited about the future of Iowa basketball; I didn't know I'd be so excited about the present.

Sometimes it's good to be wrong.

(And of course after I wrote this, Iowa immediately got blown out by Northwestern, because I can somehow never be right about this team)

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