Commentary: Iowa's bench players have already exceeded expectations


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A 61-point victory is always nice, but what does Iowa's 111-50 drubbing of Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Nov. 26 actually mean?

The Hawkeyes played a Cougar team that won five games last year and isn't any better this season, so don't pay much attention to the margin of victory. A 60-point win wasn't necessarily expected, but anything less than a blowout would have been a monumental disappointment.

If you take anything away from the bloodbath, then let it be Iowa's bench play. The Hawkeye supporting cast played a substantial chunk of the Edwardsville game and contributed 58 points to the onslaught.

In other words, Fran McCaffery would have walked out of Carver-Hawkeye Arena with a win even if he had played solely his substitutes all night.

Strong bench play isn't really anything new, either. The Black and Gold bench players are averaging 33.8 points per contest — 45 percent of the team's average total — and have scored the majority of the team's points on three separate occasions.

In Iowa's three wins, the bench is averaging 39.3 points, but in the team's three losses, the subs have put forward just 28.3 points. The simple explanation is that McCaffery has called on his starters to get the team back into games, but it's still a substantial drop-off.

What makes this especially interesting is that, just a few months ago, it seemed like there would be a big discrepancy in talent after Iowa's starting five and a few select subs. Most of the team's experienced players are starters, while the majority of the substitutes are freshmen, walk-ons, or both.

Still, one of those freshman walk-ons had a better night than anyone against Edwardsville. Little-used guard Branden Stubbs contributed 12 points in nine minutes without missing a shot, and did all that despite looking like he could be swallowed at any minute by a uniform 15 sizes too big for him.

McCaffery called Stubbs a "quality player" after the game, and he's just one of several pleasant surprises to come off the pine this year.

Junior Jordan Stoermer transferred from Kirkwood Community College and is doing all he can to become a fan favorite. He's from Coralville, played high-school ball at Iowa City West, and happens to be a good defender and excellent clutch shooter.

Devyn Marble has been solid, averaging 6.3 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. Most of his scoring has come in the second half of games, though, and he acknowledged a need to get off to faster starts.

Junior Andrew Brommer is by no means a superstar — he's arguably the Hawkeye that fits the most awkwardly into McCaffery's new offense — but he's shown a soft jump-hook from time to time and hustles more than most people on the team.

Of course, it's not especially likely that the lower subs on the totem poll (specifically Stubbs, Cody Cox, and T.J. Sayre) will see much action once Iowa starts playing real teams on a consistent basis.

But knowing the Hawkeyes have more than just a handful of "quality players" waiting on the bench is a security blanket for McCaffery.

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