Many people consider the Big Ten to be the best conference in college basketball this season. This is proved by many of the teams that highlight the conference (Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois). With this being said, there is one school that has looked the best — the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Iowa entered the year as the fifth-ranked team in the country, and they still reside in this spot. Iowa’s success has been largely due to their ability to play as a complete team. It also helps that the potential National Player of the Year, Luka Garza, leads the team.
Luka Garza Has Thrived
Luka Garza looks like the best player in college basketball this season. Iowa’s offense and defense runs through Garza. He currently sits at first in the country in point per game (27.5), first in 30-point games (5) and first in field goals made (111). Garza has been named to all of the major preseason all-american teams and has since been named to the mid-season Wooden Award list.
What makes Garza a leading candidate to win the Wooden Award is a smoothness to his game. The big man is listed at 6-11, 265 lbs, but moves like a guard. He has the ability to step outside of the paint and hit both mid-range and three-point jump shots. With his size, Garza averages just under 10 rebounds per game, with 40% of the rebounds being on the offensive side of the ball. Garza also shows a exceptional ability to pass the ball and find open teammates when other teams key on him.
Garza also dominates on the defensive side of the ball. He possess an intimidating presence inside, where he can shut down the opposing team’s big man. This allows for Iowa’s guards to gamble more on steals and traps because Garza is there to back up anyone that leaks through.
Iowa Basketball Supporting Cast
Garza’s supporting cast is one of the best in the NCAA. Iowa basketball features a trio of guards who have a lot of experience playing in the Big Ten. Joe Wieskamp is a Junior who is the second-leading scorer on the team. Jordan Bohannon is a Senior, who is shooting 35% from the three-point line this season. C.J. Fredrick is a sophomore that shoots over 50% from the field this season.
The Hawkeyes’ starting lineup consists of Garza and four guards. With Garza attracting so much of the attention from opposing teams, the guards are forced to make shots when Garza is out of the game. This has consistently been the case, as Iowa is averaging 93 points per game, shooting 48% from the field and 37% from three.
Iowa is coached by 61-year-old, Fran McCaffery, who played at both Wake Forest and Penn. He went on to coach at Lehigh, Notre Dame, UNC Greensboro and Siena. He won MAAC coach of the year in 2009 at Siena. Hired in 2010, McCaffery has undoubtedly made Iowa into one of the best programs in the country. This looks like his best team at Iowa and should make him a household name among college basketball coaches.
Iowa Basketball Outlook
Outside of Gonzaga, Iowa has a good of chance as anyone to make the Final Four. With wins over North Carolina, Northwestern and Rutgers, Iowa already has one of the best resumes in the country. They did play the aforementioned Gonzaga team and gave them as tight of a game as we have seen all year, ultimately losing 99-88.
Iowa looks like one of the best teams in the country. With their experienced roster and excellent coach, Iowa should come into the tournament as a one or two seed. Barring injury, Luka Garza should win National Player of the Year and lead Iowa to a Final Four appearance. It’ll be up to the role players to bring Iowa to glory and take home their first National Championship.