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Not one, but many for Iowa basketball

BY JACOB SHEYKO | NOVEMBER 19, 2014 5:00 AM

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How would this team replace Devyn Marble?

That was the question facing the 2014-15 Iowa men’s basketball team. How would Iowa replace 560 points from last year?

If the trend of the first two games continues, the Hawkeyes won’t have to answer that question much longer.

In its two wins, Iowa’s offense looks like a whole different beast, swinging the ball around, when last year it might have stuck, and getting everyone involved in the process.

“I feel good about it,” head coach Fran McCaffery said of his offense following Iowa’s 87-56 victory over North Dakota State. “I feel comfortable. You never want to feel I’ve got a lineup out there that can’t score.”

Iowa’s performance thus far should be taken with a grain of salt. No team has ever been the same team it was after two games.

With that said, there are trends leaning in Iowa’s favor, such as assists.

Against Hampton and North Dakota State combined, Iowa has assisted on 40 of its 59 field goals. Through two games last season, Iowa assisted on just 31 of its 52 field goals.

On paper, it makes little sense for a team to improve offensively after losing its most offensively skilled player. But with a closer look, what Iowa has returned may outweigh what it lost.

In two games this season, nearly every Iowa player appears to have taken a step forward in some regard.

“I think that’s the great thing about our team,” Aaron White said. “Not one of us needs the ball in our hands constantly. We do a great job of swinging the ball back and forth. I think we do a great job of picking our spots and playing together.”

Another aspect that’s helped with the crispness of the offense has been the mere shot making.

Again, small sample size, but in last season’s first two games, Iowa made just 26.9 percent of its 3s. This season, it’s made 43.9 percent.

Yes, Iowa was missing Josh Oglesby early last season, but there’s more to it than that. The increased percentage is also due to Iowa’s perceived improvement down low with the big men and the sheer number of shooters the team brought back.

“It’s the best of both worlds; we just have to try to continue the good 3-point shooting we’re doing, and [the big men] have to continue to finish and make good decisions,” Gabe Olaseni said.

Unprompted, White brought up the San Antonio Spurs when talking about Iowa’s offense. He wasn’t comparing the Hawkeyes to the defending NBA champions but rather drawing a comparison to styles.

Like the Spurs, Iowa doesn’t have one dominant ball-handler. And that’s how White likes it.

Then again, it’s hard to draw too many conclusions after just two games. What will really test Iowa is a tough opponent, which Iowa will face in its matchup with No. 10 Texas Thursday.

“The key is when times get tough, you don’t put it on your shoulders,” White said. “You keep sharing the basketball and keep trusting your teammates, and keep playing together.

“Right now our offense is looking good. I’ll be able to tell you more when we play a top-10 team in Texas.”

Follow @JacobSheyko on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa men’s basketball team.


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