Depth is a beautiful thing when your team has more of it.
And right now, the Iowa men’s basketball team has the most quality depth in the Big Ten, as it showed again Sunday.
Iowa had five players score in double figures, eight grabbed at least three rebounds and nine played at least 10 minutes during Sunday’s 94-73 victory over Minnesota at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Gophers did all they could to keep pace with Iowa’s depth, but they eventually ran out of answers for all the options that Fran McCaffery has at his disposal.
“They’ve got tremendous depth,” first-year Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said. “They keep coming with guys. They’ve done a great job of recruiting. And you look it as they go deeper and deeper into their bench there is no drop-off.
“And that’s a testament to (Fran), because it’s not easy to play a lot of guys. That’s a testament to them as a team and him as a coach.”
That’s quite a statement coming from any opposing Big Ten coach, but even more coming from Pitino, given his background as the son of Louisville coach Rick Pitino. The younger Pitino was raised among greatness and is used to seeing talented teams.
Everything Pitino said about Iowa and about McCaffery was spot on.
The fact that junior guard Josh Oglesby has caught fire from 3-point range — he made 5-of-7 treys during Sunday’s game — makes Iowa even deeper and addresses perhaps the biggest concern about the team, which is perimeter shooting.
“I think if anybody is playing good, the team is always going to be better,” senior guard Devyn Marble said after Sunday’s victory. “But I think in his case, it’s even more just because of the fact he is such a dynamic perimeter shooter that we need as a team on a consistent basis. I think in his case, when he’s shooting the ball well, it really opens up the rest of the offense.”
Iowa’s depth was a bigger factor in the first half, which ended with the Gophers clinging to a 43-41 lead after allowing Iowa to close the half with eight unanswered points. It felt as if Minnesota had blown a golden opportunity, not just by allowing Iowa’s late run to close the first half, but also by not taking more advantage of Marble and Iowa’s second leading scorer, Aaron White, combining for just one point in the first half.
You figured Marble and White would come out firing in the second half, and that’s exactly what happened. Their supporting cast kept Iowa within striking distance in the first half and Marble and White took over down the stretch. Marble scored 15 of his 16 points in the second half, while White scored all of his 18 points in the second half.
“We have depth, we have guys that can score the ball, and you don’t know who’s going to come in and score for you as far as night in and night out,” Marble said. “You have to prepare for literally all 10 people.
“So it’s tough to scout us. It’s tough to play against us. It really is.”
Jarrod Uthoff, a 6-foot-9 sophomore forward, might have the most upside of any player on the Iowa roster, but he only made one field goal and scored four points in Sunday’s game, and yet his team hardly missed a beat.
Sophomore center Adam Woodbury also was held scoreless Sunday, but his backup, junior Gabe Olaseni, picked up the slack with 12 points and seven rebounds.
“I think it’s just a further example of the talent that we have across the board,” McCaffery said.
Having depth is one thing, making it work on the court and in the minds of the players is another. With everything McCaffery has done since taking over the program in 2010, his ability to handle Iowa’s depth, as Pitino pointed out, is perhaps his greatest accomplishment.
It’s not easy convincing a bunch of highly competitive young men, who were all used to being stars on their high school teams, to sacrifice for a greater cause. McCaffery has a unique way of pushing the right buttons at just the right times.
The Big Ten will do its best to test Iowa’s depth with a game Wednesday at Michigan. The Wolverines prevailed Saturday at Wisconsin and are one of two teams still undefeated in conference play, Michigan State being the other.
Iowa could bring a top-10 ranking into the game, but that won’t matter nearly as much as the 10- or 11-man rotation that McCaffery brings to every game.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball