I’ve had my share of issues with Todd Lickliter and the Hawkeye basketball team. I’ve questioned the “live and die by the three ball” offensive scheme and his lack of creating a post presence. Although I think Lickliter might have his best season with the Hawkeyes this coming year, I still don’t understand his logic.
Don’t get me wrong, Lickliter seems to be a gifted defensive coach. He has gotten his players to buy into a part of the game that some coaches don’t even focus on (ala John Calipari). In his tenure as the Hawkeye head coach his defenses are only giving up an average of 63 points per game. A pretty respectable stat.
The only problem is that Lickliter’s offenses are only scoring 60 points per game (which is a directly correlated to his losing record here at Iowa).
In three seasons under Lickliter, the Hawkeyes have put up 2,304 two-point attempts, while tallying up 2,012 3-point attempts. They are shooting the three ball 47% of the time and only making them 34% of the time. This year Iowa is ranked 9th in the nation for attempted three point field goals. That’s not appealing basketball.
Now I have a very John Calipari-esque mentality about this game. I believe that a dominating post presence and the ability to push the ball up the sidelines are the most important things for a college offense. There is nothing scarier than having an overly physical post player that creates mismatches and a guard that can grab a rebound and take it coast to coast.
So I ask you, what do Tim Abromaitis (Notre Dame, 49% from three), Mickey McConnell (Saint Mary’s, 51% from three), Darius Johnson-Odum (Marquette, 49% from three), and Jared Stohl (Portland, 47% from three) all have in common (besides the fact that they have all taken over 100 three pointers this season)?
Take a minute…. Think about it… It’s something Iowa doesn’t have….
They all have dominate post players that need to be focused on at all times. Tim Abromaitis has the polar bear Luke Harangody (24.1 points per game), Mickey McConnell has Omar Samhan (21.1 points per game), Darius Johnson-Odum has Lazar Hayward (18.3 points per game), and Jared Stohl has Robin Smeulders (13 points per game). If you take a look at the top three-point shooters in the NCAA, you can find a post player that gives apposing defenses fits. A guy that demands double teams and continuous help down low.
Feeding the big man continuously allows for the post up/kick out option, something that you never really see with the young Hawkeyes. Jarryd Cole, who was being compared to a more agile D.J. White out of high school, spends most of his time roaming the free throw line, instead of posting up and creating miss-matches for Matt Gatens (36% from three), Eric May (30% from three), Devan Bawinkel (who has only taken five, yes FIVE shots inside the arc during his career at Iowa), and Cully Payne (33% from three).
Speaking of BIG MEN, take a look at Brennan Cougill for instance. He is 6-9 and listed at 260 pounds (although I think that is a bit light). Seems like a decent sized kid that could create some problems on the block. Not in the Lickliter offense. The kid (and I can say that because he’s only a freshmen) has taken 45 three pointers and has only put up 49 two-point field goals. Sure he has made 40% from range, but this kid is 6-9, “260” pounds. He should be using his body down low. He should be learning post moves instead of shooting jump shots with the guards. Him and Cole should be going at one another on the block and developing beautiful five foot baby hooks, not 22-foot jumpers.
I would like someone who has more time on their hands then me to count how many shots Cougill has taken from eight feet and in. I would bet it’s less than 15.
Lickliter isn’t going out there and fooling anyone with his style. It’s so simple to guard. If the apposing team has decent perimeter defenders, they are going to stop the Hawkeyes every game. Sure they have to be able to stop the occasional dribble-drive, but other than that it’s effortless. It’s four guys standing around the arc while Cole runs around like a mad man setting screens. The shot clock will run out (and it always does), and Gatens or May will be forced to jack up a long range jumper.
Living and dying by the jump shot has never really worked, especially late in seasons when player’s legs are all but fresh. I don’t see that changing for the Hawks anytime soon.
Fast break points, quick defense, points on turnovers, offensive rebounding (something Aaron Fuller is amazing at, and if he played most of his time in the post I guarantee his 72 offensive boards would increase quickly), and points in the paint are how you win in college basketball. Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse, Villanova, Kansas State, Michigan State, Purdue, Illinois all have something in common; they all push the ball, play quick on both sides of the ball, and have guys that can create and score in the paint.
I think I can count on one hand how many times Iowa has created a fast break in Lickliter’s tenure; and half of them were started by Tony Freeman who was showing his frustration and hatred for his new coach’s offensive style.
As I said before, Lickliter needs one more year. He has a pretty solid recruiting class coming in with his kind of guys. His approach worked at Butler, so I think I can muster up a little more patience; but then again all of that success came against members of the Horizon League where Butler and Milwaukee were the only teams to enter the tournament more then once from 2000-2009.