Iowa Hoops: Inside the Numbers

Here is a look at some Iowa basketball statistics through 2/23.  One thing to note that each team has now played 15 conference games, so each has three remaining.

The Hawkeyes are still leading the Big Ten in free throw attempts as they have much of the year.  They have attempted 337 free throws, with Indiana having attempted 329 and Ohio State 317.  It’s not surprising to see the Buckeyes with that many attempts, but it remains a positive to see the Hawkeyes getting to the line so frequently given the fact that they don’t have a high number of slashers in the backcourt and despite being one of the more undersized teams in the league.  The Hawks are aggressive, namely their underclassmen, which bodes well for the future. However, Iowa is just 9th in the league in free-throw percentage, with Illinois at 10th, who is Iowa’s next opponent.

Iowa is last in the Big Ten in three-point field goal attempts at 208, but they have the second best three-point percentage in the league at .385. Much of that is due to Matt Gatens 39-81 shooting, which is 48.1%, the third best mark in the league. Of the top 15 three-point shooters in the league this year, Gatens has attempted the third highest number of three-point shots and his 39 trey’s are tied for the most in the league. Illinois is dead last in the league in three-point percentage as well as last in the league in three-point percentage defense.

Iowa is 7th in the league in rebounding margin with their next three opponents, Illinois, Nebraska and Northwestern among the bottom five in the league in this category.

Despite Iowa being a bit undersized in the front court, they are second in the league in blocked shots per game (4.2). The Hawks are also 4th in the league in steals.

Iowa is 8th in assist to turnover ratio with Illinois 12th; the Illini are 11th in the league in turnovers per game at 13.9 while Iowa is 10th at 13.1. Iowa averages 69.2 points per game, 4th in the league, and desires an uptempo style of game. Illinois averages 63.5 points per game and works more out of half court sets, so their turnover total speaks more to discipline than style of play.

Matt Gatens is averaging 16.7 points per game, the fifth best total in the league this year. It’s the highest conference scoring average for a Hawkeye since Adam Haluska in 2007. Aaron White is 21st and Devyn Marble is 22nd. White is also 6th in the league in rebounding and 8th in field goal percentage. Gatens is 12th in field goal percentage, hitting 49.4% of his shots, a rarity for a guard.

Bryce Cartwright is 3rd in the league in assists per game after leading the league last season and Marble is 9th. Gatens and Marble are tied for 6th in the league in steals. Melsahn Basabe and White are 6th and 7th in the league in blocked shots per game.

GATENS GOING OFF: Matt Gatens is having quite the senior season. He’s taken some heat during his career, which I have found to be unfair. He shot the ball real well during his freshman season, hitting better than 40% of his treys. After that year, Todd Lickliter asked him to put on a lot of weight to give Iowa some help on the inside and Gatens did that. It led to him shooting 32.8% from beyond the arc, clearly a result of the added bulk. He did grab a career best 138 rebounds that year and had 105 assists, by far the highest total in his career. In his junior year, still having some of that extra bulk from reshaping his body, he shot 33.1% from beyond the arc.

This last offseason, Gatens once again devoted a lot of time reshaping his body and what you see is a cut and more ‘guard looking’ physique. Gatens is in the best shape of his life, with Fran McCaffery routinely saying Gatens could play 80 minutes a night. In his then career-best 30 point output against Indiana, Gatens played the full 40 minutes.

Gatens is shooting a career best 42.1% from beyond the arc on the season, as well as the nearly 50% shooting in Big Ten play. Gatens made a sacrifice for the team to add that bulk, which was to his detriment and another legacy from the Lickliter era.

With his 33 point outburst against Wisconsin, Gatens surpassed Greg Brunner, Don Nelson and Andre Woolridge and moved into ninth place on Iowa’s all-time scoring chart with 1,536 points. Jess Settles is 6th on that list with 1,611 points and Ronnie Lester 5th with 1,675. Settles’ number is within reach while Lester’s mark is likely safe.

Some folks might have said or may still say ‘Yeah, Gatens scored a lot of points on bad teams because there wasn’t anyone else to do it.’ When you say that, you also overlook the fact that teams have focused their defensive attention on Gatens, making his job all the more difficult.

I have written and said that Gatens was the right player at the wrong time. I never felt like Gatens was meant to fill the sort of role he has been asked to play, as I felt he was more along the lines of a second or third scoring option on a Big Ten team. Sort of like a Jason Bohannon type we saw when he was at Wisconsin; hang around the three point line, knock down those shots and let other more capable players do more of the heavy lifting.

I believe I was wrong in that thought. If Gatens didn’t make the physical sacrifices for his team after his freshman year in putting on that weight, where would he be right now? If he didn’t have to ‘suffer’ through two years of the Lickliter era, where would his numbers be? What if he had played four years under Fran McCaffery or Tom Davis? Heck, four years under Steve Alford would have been much better for him than the two years he was in Lickliter’s system.

Greg Stokes is #2 all time on the Iowa scoring list with 1,779 points. Gatens has a shot to finish with more than 1,600. Is it crazy to think he could have eclipsed Stokes’ total?

Regardless what you believe there, Gatens has proven this year that he is a better player than most everyone thought. The leadership he is providing this season and down the stretch is amazing and could have long lasting effects for this program.

The underclassmen have seen his out of season work ethic. He’s the best shooter on the team and he probably worked harder at his game this offseason than any other Hawkeye. They don’t see someone sitting back on his laurels, comfortable with the ability he had amassed; they see someone constantly at work, trying to get better.

Nothing inspires a group of people like seeing their leader getting dirty in the trenches alongside them. Matt Gatens is the captain of this team in title as well as deed.

If you are a college basketball fanatic, you will have likely heard of Kentucky’s ‘Unforgettables’. That is what Wildcat fans call their 1992 team. Their program had fallen on hard times following scandal and a two-year post season ban handed down by the NCAA. Kentuckians Richie Farmer, John Pelphrey and Deron Feldhaus along with Sean Wood were seniors on that team, players who had childhood dreams of playing for Kentucky and tasting the success players had enjoyed as they group up watching the Wildcat legacy. They went through losing seasons and tough trials and it’s safe to say their first three years at Kentucky were nothing like they had dreamed up in their driveways.

Then in 1992, the team enjoyed a great deal of success, a total resurgence for the program. They nearled knocked off top seeded Duke, taking the late lead with less than three seconds to play against the Blue Devils. There was no fairy tale finish for the 1992 Wildcats, as Christian Laettner hit one of the most memorable shots in the history of the sport.

The jersey’s of those four ‘Unforgettables’ presently hang in the rafters at Rupp Arena not because they scored a lot of points or where among the greats in Wildcat history. It’s because they are remembered for sticking it out through the tough times and being an example to the underclassmen about how to work through the challenges, how to keep your head down and grit your teeth when the sun isn’t shining on you.

This Iowa team isn’t going to make it to a Regional Final like those Wildcats; an NIT bid would be a huge accomplishment. But if Fran McCaffery turns this program around to where NCAA tournament appearances are no longer the exception they have become over the past 12 years, Gatens name should be mentioned as being the cornerstone of the resurrection of the program.

  • BillikenHawk

    He also may be the player who was responsible for prompting the University to fire Lickliter, which lead to hiring Fran. If I recall, there were even more players threatening to leave the Iowa program right before Lick was fired. Wasn’t Gatens one of those players?  One of the primary reasons Lick was removed was because of the player attrition – including the players he recruited. I imagine that Gatens, a kid who grew up in IC dreaming of playing for Iowa – one of the most “loyal” type of recruits Iowa would ever get,  would really get the AD’s attention if he threatened to leave. 

    • TweeterHawk

      Re Lick firing: also didn’t hurt that Matt has as a father an Iowa alum and booster. That doesn’t detract from the fact Lick wasn’t getting it done and a change was needed.

    • TweeterHawk

      And to Jon’s points, congratulations to Matt for finishing his career strong. A great Hawkeye.

    • 1Hawkeye1

      Congrats Matt story, not a bash Lickliter story. Let it go man.

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