Friday, December 11, 2015

Morning News: Breaking Down Iowa State's Win Over Iowa

Iowa State Wins A Thriller Unfortunately for Iowa fans, there were no other particularly interesting games last night, which means that I'm going to go deep into a game that was a real heartbreaker for them. But I'll give you guys a *SPOILER ALERT*, which is that I have a nice silver lining for Iowa at the end of this.

First of all, as I've said about a billion times with Iowa, they are so dependent on jump shooting. When those jump shots go in they look great, but when those jump shots don't go in they look exceedingly mediocre. So what happened here? Iowa hit 50% of their jump shots in the first half but only 28% in the second half (38% total). Defense has an impact on jump shooting percentages, but not much - Iowa hit plenty of contested jumpers in the first half and missed plenty of wide open jumpers in the second half. At one point, Iowa missed 14 of 17 shots. If they just hit one more, they'd have won.

That said, Iowa State was simply a better team in the second half. They had 10 offensive rebounds vs only 1 turnover in the second half, leading to five more field goal attempts and five more free throw attempts than Iowa. It's easy to outscore a team when you get to throw the ball at the rim ten extra times. Iowa's offense down the stretch was also awful. They went into the Prevent Offense on several possessions, which always ended up with Mike Gesell taking an ill-advised shot. Jarrod Uthoff had 30 points in the first half but then took only two shots in the final eight minutes of the game.

Iowa State fans were constantly mad about the lack of foul calls in this game, but the fact is that Iowa State hasn't been drawing fouls all season long. They have a FTRate of 21.5%, which is 348th in the nation. Considering that Iowa actually takes an above-average fraction of their shots at the rim and plays at a fast tempo, you would think they would be above-average at getting to the free throw line, which they generally were under Fred Hoiberg. You have to wonder if part of it is a fear of contact for a team hitting just 63.5% at the line.

Despite Iowa State coming into this game ranked #4 in the nation with Iowa only drawing a handful of Top 25 votes, the computers all had these as two very even teams. And coming out of this game, I'm not sure how you can disagree with that. In fact, Iowa moved a little bit closer to Iowa State in the computers, now up to 14th in Pomeroy (compared to 13th for Iowa State) and up to 16th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR (compared to 14th for Iowa State). It's early, and things change, but I think Iowa fans have to come out of this game feeling a little silver lining from the fact that they provided yet more evidence that they one of the 25 best teams in the nation.

As a side note, an Iowa State beat reporter broke a bone during the court storming after the game (he wasn't trampled as he was to the side of the arena, but one person walked past him and they locked legs and tripped). As expected, the media is up in arms about one of its favorite topics: banning court storming. I wrote a long piece about this not long ago, so you can read it here. The fact is that humans are absolutely terrible at judging risk. We're all scared of plane crashes and don't think twice about driving cars, even though cars are much more dangerous. We are scared to death of terrorism but don't think twice about drinking alcohol, even though alcohol is thousands of times more likely to kill us than terrorism.

Rushing a court is one of the safest things students can do. Many, many more will suffer serious injury on their way to and from the stadium than rushing the court. If you are really serious about taking away dangerous activities, banning foods containing peanuts from the concession stands will prevent far more serious health problems than banning court stormings. Taking away a really fun activity that has a microscopic risk to health is a perfect example of an irrational policy directed at a very visible activity with a sexy media narrative, as opposed to a rational policy directed at a real problem.

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