Iowa Basketball: Tyler Cook And The Hawkeyes Can Only Go Up In 2018

It’s safe to say that 2017 wasn’t a good year for the Iowa Hawkeyes basketball team. Finishing with a losing record was one thing, but they were only one spot away from being the worst team in the Big Ten in terms of record. That title went, somewhat unsurprisingly, to Rutgers. Still, to outsiders, it was likely surprising that Iowa fell this far. After all, they’re usually, at worst, a middling team.

But if you look at their record last year, you’ll notice a trend of big losses in conference play. Most of their wins came against teams from conferences like the WAC, SWAC, MAC, and Big Sky. In the Big Ten, though? They only picked up four wins. Looking at the quality, or lack thereof, of the teams that they did beat makes Iowa look even worse last year.

Things really can only go up, barring a collapse and another disaster of a season. Let’s look at some of the losses Iowa suffered. 77-64 on the road at Indiana, 91-73 on the road at Maryland, 80-64 at Rutgers, 85-67 at home against Wisconsin, 82-58 at Penn State. One trend was that the results were worse off away from home.

Fortunately, however, the team isn’t near as young this year. Top two scorers Tyler Cook and Jordan Bohannon were sophomores last year and both of them are returning, and bringing their team leading 15.3 and 13.5 point per game scoring performances with them. Bohannon is a guard and Cook is a small forward that should be one of the better ones in the Big Ten, in addition to one of the most used players.

Whether or not Iowa wins, Cook is an exciting player to watch. He’s the type of small forward that plays well around the basket and if you’re watching Iowa, you should expect to see him trying to get under the basket to dunk for a score. Most of his jumpshots will be from mid range, and Cook’s 56% field goal percentage might be inflated from his tendency to score right underneath the basket.

Out of their players that had a big impact last season, just about everyone is back. Cook and Bohannon, however, will be their big duo as both players bring scoring but outside of that, they specialize in two key areas. Cook is a better rebounder with a team high 6.8 per game, and Bohannon led the assists column with 5.4 per game.

Sophomore forward Luka Garza should also be expected to play a role as the second leading rebounder on the team with an average of 6.4 per game as well as 12.1 points per game, and redshirt senior Nicholas Baer might see more playing time with 5.0 rebounds per game.

The verdict here? Iowa was bad last season. Really bad at times, and they were blown out a number of times both at home and especially on the road. However, they were a younger team that was led by sophomores and a freshman, and with all of those players coming back, including their leader who could be a standout in the conference as a whole, they should take a step up.

It might not be a huge step up, but anything would be an improvement from what they are now.

Big Ten: Big Stakes In Saturday’s Penn State Versus Iowa Game

The two current favorites to win the Big Ten, Michigan and Ohio State, are both on bye weeks right now. It seems like this slate of games isn’t the best one. Nebraska will face FCS Bethune-Cookman, and while the Huskers are struggling, an upset isn’t something you should bet on. Purdue faces Michigan State after defeating the Buckeyes, but both teams are unranked and aren’t considered to be in the hunt for the conference title.

But there are important games. You just have to look past the teams that are near the top of the polls.

Wisconsin faces Northwestern for the lead in the Big Ten West, but the Badgers will enter as the favorites and only one of the teams in this game is ranked. However, there is one matchup between ranked teams, and that’s Penn State versus Iowa. Of all the games nationally this weekend, it’s the one that shouldn’t be overlooked, because it will definitely change the trajectory for both teams and maybe even a few others, regardless of who wins.

Iowa is in a four way race with Wisconsin, Purdue, and Northwestern, all three teams possessing one loss this season. Northwestern is in the lead by virtue of playing one more game than Wisconsin, but if they lose and Iowa defeats Penn State, it would put Iowa on even footing with Wisconsin and Northwestern behind both teams after gaining their second loss in the conference. If Northwestern and Iowa both win, the Wildcats stay in first place and Iowa would be right behind them.

Purdue is also in the equation but they would need a win against Michigan State to stay in the hunt for now, and despite their win over the second ranked team in the country, Michigan State shouldn’t be written off. They’re less of a mistake prone team than Ohio State is this season and they played Michigan close for much of the game last week.

Of course, Iowa jumping ahead of Purdue and Wisconsin assumes that they beat Penn State, which wouldn’t be entirely unreasonable but also isn’t a given. The Nittany Lions managed to string together two straight losses fairly recently, around the same time they pulled it off last season. They also didn’t do as much as they could have against Indiana, and Iowa was one of the teams that gave them trouble last year. Could the Hawkeyes actually get the win here? It’s pretty reasonable to predict that they will, given Penn State’s past three outings.

Penn State is already out of the chase for the conference title, but which bowl game they go to this year will depend on what they do with the rest of the season and they need to win out to salvage things and get into a good bowl. There will likely be more challenges directed at James Franklin’s job if they lose here, meaning there’s a lot on the line for both teams. Penn State wants to get to a good bowl, and Iowa can move up in a race that, right now, involves four teams.

Only one team will get what they want from this game… But either way, the result will influence an entire division.

Iowa Football: Can Nate Stanley Do What Others Couldn’t?

It seems like Iowa is always a factor in the Big Ten, whether they’re in contention to win it or not. Even if Iowa themselves aren’t one of the contenders to win, Kinnick Stadium has gained a fearsome reputation among visiting teams. As Ohio State learned last season, back when they were ranked number six in the country, anyone can fall victim to the upset when playing away at Iowa.

Still, Iowa needs more than just a home field advantage to get back to the conference title game, which they lost after going 8-0 during conference play during the 2015 season. A good quarterback is absolutely essential to that goal, and they might just have that on hand with Nate Stanley. Stanley managed to take the starting job as a sophomore, and put up good numbers.

Despite being new to the role, his 2,432 yards came in at number seven in the conference. That’s not bad, considering that some of the names just above him in the rankings are much more well-known: Alex Hornibrook, Brian Lewerke, and J.T. Barrett. Of course, Barrett has graduated by now, and another name from the list, Tanner Lee, can be removed because of the NFL Draft.

In Stanley’s junior season, he should be expected to step up and perform like one of the conference’s best four or five quarterbacks. More accurately, he needs to perform like a top five quarterback for Iowa to sneak past their rivals in Wisconsin and make it back to a Big Ten title game. The Wisconsin team this year is just too good for Iowa to get by otherwise.

When you look at Stanley’s game, accuracy stands out as an area to improve. It’s based off of a couple of things. The first is his completion percentage, which was only 55.8% last year. Good enough to get him in the top ten of the conference, but poor enough that he ended up at number nine in completion percentage rather than in the top five.

The second thing to look at is his throwing mechanics. Stanley has power in his arm, but strangely enough, doesn’t seem to generate as much velocity as some of the other top quarterbacks. His passes sometimes use more of a lobbing style, and while this is useful in some situations, it also gives defenders more time to get in position and break up or intercept the pass.

His short and medium accuracy, though, is better than his deep accuracy. It’s also worth considering his pocket presence. While Stanley is fully capable of rolling out, something that’s useful on play action passes, most of his throws come from within the pocket. Even when playing defenses such as Penn State and Ohio State, who broke through the offensive line on some occasions, Stanley played smart enough to not take unnecessary sacks.

Against the Buckeyes, for example, a couple of Stanley’s touchdowns were thrown with defenders all around him. Most notably, he had one of the best highlight reel plays of the game when he threw a touchdown while Sam Hubbard was still holding onto his leg. It wasn’t the only big play he made under pressure, in either the win over Ohio State or the close game with Penn State.

So what should Hawkeyes fans expect this year from Stanley? He probably won’t be the top quarterback in the conference, but he has the tools to be among the best when he makes some improvements entering his junior year. The difference between a first and second year starter can be huge depending on the player, and at least some of Stanley’s weak spots should show less this season.

Iowa isn’t the Big Ten school that most fans associate with quarterback play, but this year, their fans can rest knowing that their signal caller isn’t intimidated in the slightest by the tough defenses that Iowa will have to face in their hunt for the conference crown.

Big Ten Bold Prediction: Which Team Will Suffer The First Early Season Upset?

We’re less than ten weeks away from the return of college football, and it’s time to look into one of the game’s most exciting subjects: upsets. An early upset can be a turning point for the winner and can derail a season for the loser, but it’s hard to predict exactly when they’ll happen.

However, it’s possible to look at offseason roster changes and results from last year and make a decent guess. Based on that, here’s a game that might just be the first Big Ten upset of the season. This isn’t a prediction saying that it will definitely happen, but that’s the point of a bold prediction.

This is a case for why the unlikely outcome might play out early in the season for one of the Big Ten’s better teams.

Iowa Hawkeyes vs Northern Illinois Huskies

The month of September will begin with a slew of college football games, including one where the Northern Illinois Huskies travel to Kinnick Stadium. Iowa fans might be sleeping on Northern Illinois, which is a small school with a “directional” name, but the Huskies are worth taking a second look at.

NIU finished 8-5 last year, but they did lose their quarterback early on. It took them awhile to figure out their quarterback situation and that cost them games, but the QB position isn’t the focal point of their team. If anything, it’s the defense that’s carrying the quarterback.

The Huskies had the MAC’s top defense in 2017 and defensive end Sutton Smith, who is returning, was the MAC Defensive Player of the Year. His 14 sacks was a conference topping number, and while the defense loses key players, the offensive line retains a number of players including their star tackles, Max Sharping and Jordan Steckler. Both players made All-Conference teams, with Sharping on the first team and Steckler on the third team.

Marcus Childers stabilized the QB position once the job landed at his feet, throwing for 1,674 yards as a freshman. Even if NIU isn’t the type of team that wins behind their quarterback, Childers should allow them to not lose games because of the position. As he was a freshman last year, we also haven’t seen him at his full potential, nor have we seen what he can do without being thrust into the starting job midway into the season.

Iowa also has a quarterback with only one year of starting experience under his belt. It will be interesting to see how Nate Stanley matches up with the NIU defense, and how Iowa’s defense replaces cornerback Josh Jackson and linebacker Josey Jewell.  Just like NIU, Iowa is replacing defensive talents and lost a lot at the linebacker position with graduations.

So can NIU get the upset win? This is a bold prediction for a reason. Iowa will be favored by a safe margin, and the odds are against the Huskies. But NIU may have the best defense in the MAC again, and should have on of the better offensive lines in the conference. That offensive line will face a weakened Iowa linebacker corps and a defense that, as a whole, is trying to make up for losing some very skilled players.

It’s quite possible that if anyone beats the Hawkeyes during their non-conference slate, it will be NIU.  They have a solid chance to contend for the MAC this year, and they’re not good enough to warrant extra attention from Iowa but they also aren’t bad enough to write off. Those types of teams can be the most dangerous when it comes to upsets, and if the Hawkeyes overlook NIU and look ahead to their rivalry game with Iowa State, they can expect to have a bad time.