Big Ten Geeks: Iowa taking bite out of Big Apple

While most have been focused on the drama that has led to this weekend’s Final Four (which we will preview Friday), Iowa has quietly been dispatching solid teams in the NIT. The Hawkeyes had a relatively easy time with Maryland last night and will face Baylor in the championship Thursday night.

The most impressive aspect of this postseason run has been the return of Iowa’s non-conference offense. Over four NIT games, the Hawkeyes have scored a cumulative 1.12 points per trip, a level of output that Iowa surpassed only five times in 20 games against Big Ten foes. The driver of this outburst has been the inspired play of Roy Devyn Marble, who is averaging 24 points on 16 shots per game. Even more impressive is that this run has come against a series of solid defenses–Indiana State ranks 61st in adjusted defensive efficiency, and the other three opponents are all in the top 40.

In this sense, the championship matchup with Baylor might be a bit of a relief, as the Bears rank just 78th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Of course, there is the small matter of stopping Baylor’s offense, which has been just as impressive as Iowa’s in the run to the title game. We should get an entertaining battle in Madison Square Garden.

As pointed out by Ken Pomeroy last night, there’s still an outside chance that the NIT champ ends up with a higher KenPom rating than the NCAA tournament champ. The Hawkeyes are now just decimal points behind Wichita State in the rating, illustrating both how well Fran McCaffery’s team has played this season and how well it has played in March.

Iowa KenPom Over Time

Even if Iowa wins the NIT final over Baylor on Thursday and finishes in the KenPom top 20, the Hawkeyes probably still won’t end up the highest-rated non-NCAA tournament team of the tempo-free era. The following table lists the best non-NCAA team from each of the past 11 seasons:

Team

Season

KenPom Rank

Next season KenPom

Next season NCAA?

South Carolina

2006

15

102

Georgia*

2003

18

64

Iowa

2013

20

??

??

Mississippi State

2007

24

33

Y

Dayton

2010

26

100

Wichita State

2011

26

9

Y

Florida State

2004

27

87

Georgetown

2009

27

13

Y

Vanderbilt

2005

29

49

Ohio State

2008

29

37

Y

Stanford

2012

32

50

One note: that 2002-03 Georgia team is an exception, as it had a post-season ban and likely would have been in the NCAA tournament otherwise. The 2005-06 NIT champion South Carolina Gamecocks finished 15th in KenPom, a lofty perch that Iowa probably won’t reach. Still, the Hawkeyes could become just the second team of the KenPom era to be passed over for the NCAA tournament and still finish in the KenPom top 20.

You’d expect this list of teams to generally be successful the next season, but that hasn’t really been the case. Of the nine teams (excluding 2002-03 Georgia), just four made the NCAA tournament the next season. Two of those teams pulled that feat despite finishing worse in KenPom. In all, just two of these teams actually finished higher in KenPom the following season: 2011-12 Wichita State and 2009-10 Georgetown.

Now, this analysis ignores a lot of pertinent data as pertains to the 2013-14 Iowa Hawkeyes. Many of the teams on this list had significant personnel losses, which Iowa should not suffer. Still, this serves as a cautionary tale–Iowa fans shouldn’t be counting on a top-20 finish next season just yet.

Of course, there will be plenty of time to talk about next season later. For now, the Hawkeyes should enjoy the opportunity to be that rare college basketball team that finishes the season with a win, in Madison Square Garden no less. There are worse fates.

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Show Comments (4 Comments)
4 Post Your Comment
Brad on 4/3/2013 @ 12:11pm EDT Said:

This NIT run has been a blessing for Iowa. The improvement made over these four games has been astounding. Can’t wait for the 13/14 season to start.

Charles Taylor on 4/3/2013 @ 12:52pm EDT Said:

Beautiful, interesting analysis. Thank you from a Hawkeye fan. We love this team, win or lose.

rlc on 4/4/2013 @ 2:09pm EDT Said:

The NIT is such a great opportunity for a young team. I certainly expect Iowa to be in the top half of the conference and the NCAA tournament next year.

Dennis on 4/11/2013 @ 1:28pm EDT Said:

Basking in the glory of the NIT? Yes and I am looking forward to the end of the Obama presidency. NIT means Not In Tournament (NCAA’s) so it is like winning the JV conference tournament. Way to set you standards high Iowa

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