Iowa basketball: The biggest takeaways from the 2021-22 season
Iowa’s NCAA Tournament run ended sooner than many expected as their offense went cold in a 67-63 loss to 12 seed Richmond in a Round 1 upset on Thursday afternoon. Iowa came into that matchup ranked near the top on the offensive end in just about any statistic or advanced metric, but the Hawkeyes struggled to score throughout the game.
Prior to the contest, the Hawkeyes ranked No. 4 nationally in points per game and if you’re more into the advanced analytics, they came in as the 2nd-ranked offense in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency.
That same offense scored just 63 points — the lowest total in nearly 2 months. Iowa’s defense typically is a weakness, but the Hawkeyes did enough on the defensive end to give them a shot to advance to Round 2, but offensively, Iowa could not take advantage.
The Hawkeyes finished the 2021-22 season with a 26-10 overall record, including 12-8 in conference play. The highlight? Obviously winning the Big Ten Tournament.
Remember, media picked Iowa to finish 9th in the league. Iowa improved so much down the stretch as it hit its stride in the middle of B1G play, but the single-elimination format of the NCAA Tournament has Hawkeyes fans wishing they had gotten more out of this group.
Looking back to the season, here’s a look at some of the team superlatives for the Iowa basketball program this year.
Team MVP: Keegan Murray
The Hawkeyes had a true college basketball star leading their roster once again as Keegan Murray put together an incredible season in his second year in the program. He led the team in points (23.5), rebounds (8.7) and blocks (1.9) per game and was named a consensus first-team All-American.
Murray was sensational all season, generally giving Iowa the best player on the floor in every game it was a part of. He played just 18 minutes per game as a freshman last year, starting just 4 games, and the improvement he made in one season was incredible to watch.
Murray shot well (55.4% overall, including 39.8% from the 3-point line in addition to 74.7% on free throws). He was extremely efficient in many aspects of his game and became an excellent rebounder.
Though it has yet to be made official, Murray will almost certainly declare for the NBA Draft as he continues to rise in just about any mock draft you find on the internet. He is set to be a high first-round pick with plenty of pro potential, and it’s a shame Iowa wasn’t able to go on a run because Murray is the type of player who can carry a team during the NCAA Tournament.
Newcomer of the Year: Filip Rebraca
The Hawkeyes landed the transfer from North Dakota. Filip Rebraca, 6-9, started all 36 games for Iowa this season. He wasn’t asked to score like he was with Fighting Hawks, where he averaged 16.8 points per game the previous season.
With Iowa, he attempted just 4.5 shots per game and did most of his damage as a rebounder, averaging 5.6 per game. Assuming he returns for next season, Rebraca will retain his starting role and probably become more involved in the offense.
Win of the Year: B1G Championship
Iowa ran through the B1G Tournament undefeated with 4 victories in as many days, claiming the title as the No. 5 seed. The Hawkeyes took down Northwestern (112-76), Rutgers (84-74), Hoosiers (80-77) and Purdue (75-66) in the title game.
Iowa’s victory over Purdue gave the Hawkeyes their first conference tournament win since 2006 season. It was the height of what the Hawkeyes would be able to do as they had won their 12th game in their previous 14 matchups, raising expectations heading into the big dance.
As unfair as it may be, seasons are largely judged on what happens during March Madness, and Iowa couldn’t get it done again a year after the Hawkeyes failed to reach the Sweet 16 as a No. 2 seed with National Player of the Year Luka Garza. Iowa’s streak continues as they have not reached the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend since 1999.
The Hawkeyes will lose numerous key pieces to this year’s roster, and the team will look completely different a year from now. Iowa had a window to make runs in the NCAA Tournament and failed. Head coach Fran McCaffery has plenty of work to do in order for the Hawkeyes to get back to this position.