A general principle in sports states that a team forced to rely on its backup players for extended amounts of time is likely to fail. This seems obvious enough because if an individual is deemed unworthy of a starting spot they must not be able to contribute as much as their teammate ahead of them on the depth chart right?
The five bench players on the 2013-14 Iowa basketball team apparently don’t care about this common perception.
As the No. 22 ranked Hawkeyes have started off this season 9-1, a huge part of part of their success has been the play of the bench. In senior Zach McCabe, junior Gabe Olaseni, sophomores Jarrod Uthoff and Anthony Clemmons, and freshman Peter Jok, Iowa has a reserve player at each of the five positions that has proven to have the ability to impact the outcome of a game.
Going strictly by the numbers the Hawkeyes’ second unit has been playing like anything but. In fact, the five aforementioned players have put up some staggering statistics in their relatively limited time on the floor.
-The Iowa bench members each play anywhere from 13.4-20.9 minutes per game.
-Each player in the “second five” has averaged at least 5.3 ppg for a total of just over 39 points per contest.
-As a unit the group is shooting an impressive 47.4% from the field, 46.5% from three, and 79.9% from the foul line.
-Four of Iowa’s top six scorers come off of the bench, as do two of its top three rebounders, its top three 3-point shooters, three of its four most efficient shooters from the field, and finally five of its seven most reliable foul shooters.
-In Gabe Olaseni and Jarrod Uthoff, each of Iowa’s top two shot blockers come off of its bench providing over 1.7 bpg apiece.
-As a whole the unit also gives the Hawkeyes a reliable infusion of energy each and every time they take the court, forcing opponents to the point of exhaustion as they continue to push Iowa’s up-tempo pressing style of play.
The entire bench has found ways in some fashion or another throughout the entire season thus far to help propel the Iowa basketball team to its first national ranking in years. Once again people outside of the state and/or Big Ten country are taking notice of this unique team in black and gold.
The lone senior in the second unit, Zach McCabe is the definition of a player who puts the program ahead of himself. The rugged forward with a surprisingly deft shooting stroke was pressed into starting service early in his career as Iowa was still lacking the true influx of talent to make it a contender. The past two seasons McCabe has willingly come off of the bench, and his final season is proving to be his best one yet. The 6-7 Iowa native is nearly averaging double figures in scoring, and leads the team shooting 50% from behind the arc.
Gabe Olaseni has been one of the most impressive and improved players on the Hawkeye roster this season. The 6-10 junior while still raw, has seen his game grow by leaps and bounds with every second he is on the court. Olaseni leads Iowa and ranks fourth in the Big Ten in blocked shots with 2.3 per game, all the while continuing to make strides on the offensive end of the floor.
Anthony Clemmons is a sophomore who similarly to McCabe was thrown into the fire as a freshman, starting numerous games for the Hawkeyes. In multiple games this season he has come in and stabilized Iowa’s offense, dishing out almost 3.5 assists per game. Clemmons has also shown an improved shooting stroke, ranking third on the team in three point shooting.
Redshirt sophomore and Wisconsin transfer Jarrod Uthoff could definitely be considered as the most versatile member of the entire Iowa team. Not only has he transitioned seamlessly to the college game after sitting out for two whole years, but he has found his niche on the team without disturbing any of the preexisting chemistry. Uthoff’s impact has been noticeable to say the least, as he leads the Hawkeyes in rebounding, averages just over 10ppg, and leads or is second in blocks, free throw shooting, three point shooting, and field goal percentage.
Freshman guard Peter Jok adds the final piece to Iowa’s second wave. The swingman has been allowed to play exactly to his nature as a scorer, in large part due to the urging of head coach Fran McCaffery. As he continues to adjust to the intricacies of the college game such as decision making and defensive strategies, Jok has still been able to provide Iowa with another threat to put the ball in the basket that opponents must respect.
All in all the Iowa’s bench has proven itself to be a huge part of a team that should continue to rise in the national poles. It would be worthwhile for future opponents of the Hawkeyes to carefully consider how they are going to handle not only the starting unit, but also the equally imposing reserves that have served to devastate the nine different teams Iowa has come away victorious over thus far.
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