Observations: Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff has been a key player for Hawkeyes

Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff is performing like a first-team All-Big Ten player

The 6-foot-9 forward has waited two years to years to be the Hawkeyes’ go-to guy and now with Aaron White no longer in Iowa’s program he’s stepping to the forefront.

Uthoff is averaging 18.2 points and 6.4 rebounds for Iowa (7-2), which faces in-state rival Iowa State at 7:30 p.m. ET Thursday at Hilton Coliseum.

The unique thing about Uthoff?

He’s a 3-point shooter on offense (48.8 percent) while also serving as a capable shot-blocker on defense (3.6 blocks).

You don’t see that every day.

Uthoff has also become significantly more efficient at the offensive end of the floor.

Last year as a sophomore he shot 43.0 percent, 37.2 percent from 3-point range, and 73.7 percent from the free-throw line. Through nine games this season Uthoff is shooting 50.4 on two-point field goals, 48.8 percent from long distance, and 81.5 percent from the stripe.

It will be interesting to see how this guy performs Thursday against one of better front courts in the country in the Cyclones’ tandem of Georges Niang and Jameel McKay.

SMU is still the team to beat in the American

The Ponies aren’t eligible to play in the postseason next spring, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to hold serve in their own conference.

SMU (7-0) beat Michigan by 24 points on Tuesday night and Markus Kennedy — an All-AAC first-team player — didn’t score a point or grab a single rebound because he left the game early with an ankle injury.

This is all happening without Larry Brown, who will return to the bench on late-December after serving a nine-game NCAA suspension.

The Ponies have one of the better point guards in the country in Nic Moore, two veteran big men in Kennedy and Jordan Tolbert as well as several capable perimeter players in Keith Frazier, Sterling Brown, and freshman Shake Milton.

There’s a strong chance that this team could enter league play undefeated as long as it gets by a potential game with Colorado at the Las Vegas Classic when Brown returns in December.

SMU won’t be able to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, but until Cincinnati and UConn prove otherwise this is still the team to beat in the American Conference.

The Atlantic 10 has built some real equity

This league isn’t trending quite the same way as it did during the 2013-14 season when it had six teams in the NCAA Tournament, but the Atlantic 10 is positioning itself to be well represented in the field of 68.

During the first month of the season George Washington has beaten Virginia, Richmond beat Cal on a neutral floor while also winning at Wake Forest, and just last night Dayton beat Vanderbilt in Nashville.

That’s some real impressive victories for a conference that’s not regularly mentioned among the top leagues in the country.

Why is this so important?

Not only do these wins by the three programs listed above help elevate their own potential NCAA resumes, but they also now become a more worthy opponent for teams in the Atlantic 10 who need quality wins.

Teams like VCU, Rhode Island and Davidson all have NCAA Tournament aspirations while Saint Joseph’s has quietly gotten off to a 6-2 start and has the conference’s best player in DeAndre Bembry. Beating one of the three teams listed above — George Washington, Richmond, or Dayton — now qualifies as a win that could move the needle because of what those teams did nationally early in the season.

Don’t be shocked in the Atlantic 10 winds up getting at least four teams in the field of 68 come March.

This Just In

Auburn’s Tahj Shasid-Deen (shoulder) will not play Saturday against Middle Tennessee, Bruce Pearl told CBS Sports.

NC State’s Terry Henderson (ankle) won’t return until mid-January or possibly February, Mark Gottfried told CBS Sports. Henderson has only played a total of seven minutes this season.

Iowa's Jarrod Uthoff (USATSI)
Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff has emerged as a key player for the Hawkeyes. (USATSI)

This and That

Virginia found its best front court lineup on Tuesday night against West Virginia when Isaiah Wilkins stepped in next to Anthony Gill up front and Mike Tobey went to the bench. This type of look gave the Cavaliers more versatility on defense and more flexibility on offense. Look for Tony Bennett to use this alignment more moving forward as this team gets closer and closer to ACC play. Virginia is 8-1 overall.

Very few big man in college basketball have Ryan Spangler’s feel for the game. The fifth-year senior never rushes, uses angles well around the basket, and is an extremely underrated passer. He’s currently averaging 12.3 points and 9.5 rebounds for Oklahoma while shooting a career-best 62.2 percent and 45.5 percent from 3-point range. Buddy Hield may be the Sooners’ focal point, but this is their rock. Lon Kruger’s team is 6-0 overall and will next host Oral Roberts on Saturday in Norman.

In two of UConn’s last three games Kevin Ollie opted to go with freshman Jalen Adams down the stretch at point guard with Sterling Gibbs on the bench. I’m starting to see a trend here. Give Adams another month and he’ll be ready to steer the Huskies’ ship at a really high level. UConn (5-3) will next host Ohio State on Saturday. Tip off is at noon ET on CBS.

Northwestern freshman Aaron Falzon has made at least one 3-point shot in each of the Wildcats’ first eight games. This is a pivotal piece for Chris Collins’ club heading into the Big Ten. Falzon is currently averaging 9.4 points for Northwestern, who has a real chance to enter conference play at 12-1. The Wildcats are 7-1 heading into Sunday night’s game against Chicago State.

Dan Hurley deserves credit for the way he’s rallied Rhode Island after losing E.C. Matthews for the season with a torn ACL. The Rams (6-3) lost two games on the final possession (Valpo, Providence) and beat an upstart Houston team on Tuesday night in Kingston. This team’s next three games — at Nebraska, Iona, at Old Dominion — may ultimately determine its long-term fate. If Rhode Island can survive this stretch, it’s going to be one battle tested team when Atlantic 10 play begins in early January.

Baylor’s Lester Medford is to this Bears’ team what Tweety Carter was to the 2010 squad that lost to Duke in the Elite Eight. Just like Carter, Medford is Scott Drew’s sole option at point guard and he’s responding to that responsibility with flying colors. The 5-10 senior has 21 assists and just one turnover in Baylor’s last three games and his overall assist-to-turnover ratio is slightly above three-to-one on the season.

Villanova needs more offensive efficiency from Phil Booth. The 6-3 sophomore is shooting just 34.5 percent from the field and 28.1 percent from 3-point range while averaging 7.4 points in 23.3 minutes. Last season as a freshman Booth averaged 5.8 points in 14.5 minutes while shooting 56.3 percent on two-point field goals and 48.5 percent from long distance.

The transition for Gonzaga at point guard post-Kevin Pangos has been an arduous one out of the gate. Through the Bulldogs first eight games, Josh Perkins currently has handed out 26 assists while committing 29 turnovers. This team’s perimeter is a real work in progress. Gonzaga (6-2) next hosts UCLA on Saturday in Spokane.

Looking for a mid-major player you don’t know now, but will need to by March? Try Montana’s Martin Breunig. The 6-10 forward started his career at Washington, but has found a home with the Grizzlies under second-year coach Travis DeCuire. Breunig is currently averaging 20.6 points and 8.9 rebounds while shooting 69.3 percent from the field.

Ohio State may wear Ohio State on the front its jersey, but the Buckeyes’ early season struggles shouldn’t be a major surprise. Over the last three years Thad Matta had three players — Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott, and D’Angelo Russell — manning the point guard spot. This year Ohio State has two true freshmen — JaQuan Lyle and A.J. Harris — attempting to hold down the most important position on the floor. That is what you call a drop off.

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