Leistikow: 4 fun Iowa basketball topics, including the record-book pursuits of Luka Garza and Jordan Bohannon
Thursday will mark exactly five years since Iowa’s last win against the Michigan State men’s basketball team. It was a memorable night in early 2016, as the Hawkeyes roared into East Lansing and snapped an 18-game Breslin Center losing streak with a 76-59 rout.
Perhaps the humming Hawkeyes can celebrate that five-year anniversary by winning Thursday's 8 p.m. matchup against Tom Izzo’s Spartans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Michigan State has won five straight against Iowa and 19 of the past 22 meetings. The Spartans’ dominance against Iowa is not a fun topic.
But this year, so far, has been a lot of fun for the eighth-ranked Hawkeyes. They’re the ones jockeying for the top spot in the Big Ten Conference at 11-2 overall and 5-1 in league play … while the Spartans (8-4, 2-4) are off to an uncharacteristically slow start.
As we wait for that matchup (Ken Pomeroy's computer rankings system has Iowa winning by 10 in its first meeting against — get this — an unranked Michigan State team since 2006), here are some fun topics to monitor.
Luka Garza is quickly approaching Roy Marble on Iowa’s all-time scoring list.
A friend texted after Iowa’s 86-71 win Sunday against Minnesota, delighted about the dominant performances from Joe Wieskamp and Jordan Bohannon, and noted that Garza “had a quiet 33 (points). Unreal. We are lucky to witness this.”
It was a great observation, because Garza’s prolific scoring has become so expected that we sometimes don't take the time to appreciate it. He’s up to 1,918 points for his career, meaning the countdown has reached 199 points for him to pass Marble’s school-record 2,116 that has stood for 32 years. Although 199 may still seem like a lot, if Garza continues his current scoring pace — 27.6 points per game — he’ll only need eight games to get there (that game being Feb. 10 at home against Rutgers). If he can average 28½ points, he’ll pass Marble in seven (Feb. 7 at Indiana).
Iowa has 14 regular-season games left, plus the postseason. With good health, Garza’s going to easily blow past 2,116.
Well, it’s not easy. He just makes it look that way. Based on realistic projections, Garza has a good shot to pass Rick Mount (2,323 points) for No. 6 on the Big Ten's all-time list. With a long postseason run, he could track down No. 3 Glen Rice (2,442), No. 4 Mike McGee (2,439) and No. 5 Steve Alford (2,438).
Another major school record could fall soon, courtesy of Bohannon.
The fifth-year senior’s career-high 14 assists against Minnesota launched him from fifth to third, past Dean Oliver and Mike Gesell, on Iowa’s all-time assists list. Known more for his gaudy 3-point numbers, Bohannon now has 568 assists in his 125-game Iowa career and is just seven away from No. 2 Andre Wooldridge’s 575 (which, should be noted, were amassed in just three seasons).
And with 45 more assists, Bohannon would break Jeff Horner’s school-record 612. Considering Bohannon is averaging 4.9 assists per game this season, it’s feasible that he surpasses Horner on the same night Garza surpasses Marble. And it’s possible that those achievements could occur on a single play — an assist from Bohannon to Garza, which happened 10 times against Minnesota.
Wouldn’t that be something?
It’ll take continued hot shooting on a nightly basis for Bohannon to set the Big Ten’s career record for 3-pointers.
Bohannon has scored 74 points during Iowa’s four-game winning streak, with blistering 19-for-30 accuracy from 3-point land (63.3%). He’s now at 320 career 3-pointers, which is easily a school record. Suddenly, the Big Ten mark of 374 set by Ohio State’s Jon Diebler from 2008-11 is within his sights.
Let’s say the Hawkeyes play all 14 remaining regular-season games (perhaps a stretch in the COVID-19 era) and four additional postseason games (which, you’d hope, is a conservative estimate) and Bohannon stays healthy. He would need to average three 3-pointers a game to tie Diebler. That’s only slightly more than his torrid average as a freshman/sophomore (2.76 per game), before hip injuries slowed his career.
But he’s almost certain to reach at least No. 2 on that all-time list … maybe by the end of the month. Bohannon needs 20 more 3s to break a tie for seventh with Craig Moore (320) and pass five other names on the list: Michigan’s Louis Bullock (339), Penn State’s Shep Garner (336), Penn State’s Pete Lisicky (332), Michigan State’s Shawn Respert (331) and Illinois’ Cory Bradford (328).
Keep in mind, Bohannon could blow all these records out of the water if he chooses to return for a sixth season at Iowa. I don’t expect it; but don’t 100% rule it out, either.
Lastly, let’s huddle up about the latest NCAA NET rankings.
The Hawkeyes were No. 5 as of Tuesday morning, behind only Gonzaga, Baylor, Tennessee and Michigan. This is the metric that is used to guide seeding in the NCAA Tournament, so it’s an important one to track. It’s a good sign that Iowa is No. 5 despite a modest 2-2 record in “Quad 1” games.
Looking ahead, Iowa only has one Quad 1 game in its next four — on Monday, at reeling Northwestern. Thursday’s date vs. Michigan State will remarkably be Iowa’s first Quad 3 game of the season. The Hawkeyes need to take care of business in following home games against Indiana (Quad 2) and Nebraska (Quad 4).
Then, the degree of difficulty ramps up.
At this moment, Iowa will have seven Quad 1 games (and three in Quad 2) in the back half of the 20-game Big Ten schedule. That’ll be a challenging grind for a team what wants to win a conference title, but there’s a lot of good news there, too.
In the event of Quad 1 losses, Iowa wouldn’t be dinged as much in the NET rankings. And in the event of lots of Quad 1 wins, Iowa could firmly place itself in the conversation to be one of four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
That’d be a fun topic.
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 26 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.