Observations: Iowa’s turnaround led by improved play of Jarrod Uthoff

Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff has become a player you don’t want to miss watching every time he takes the floor.

And Uthoff is starting to make it look easy.

Confident, smooth, and well seasoned, Uthoff has been the primary reason why Iowa hasn’t lost since Dec. 10 at Iowa State.

The 6-foot-9 forward can take opponents outside and also attack the rim, but he always plays at a pace that suits his liking. Uthoff never gets sped up and almost appears like he sees the game a possession or two ahead of the team that he’s playing against.

In Sunday’s win over Purdue the senior forward had 22 points, the fifth time in the last six games he’s scored 20 or more. Uthoff has also made multiple 3-point shots in five straight games and is 15-of-27 from long distance during that span.

Uthoff could be another Keith Van Horn — seriously.

The Hawkeyes are 16-3 overall and will next travel to Maryland on Thursday.

Dillon Brooks may be the best player in college basketball that nobody knows about

The Ducks currently have four different players averaging between 12.3 points and 16.3 points, but despite that balance Dillon Brooks is the guy that people will need to learn about as this team evolves moving forward.

The 6-6 forward can play multiple positions on the floor and knows how to use angles well on offense. Brooks is the type of guy who scores 10 points when he falls out bed in the morning because he’s got so many ways to put the ball in the basket.

A native of Canada, Brooks is currently leading Oregon in scoring (16.5) and is second on the team in rebounding (6.5) all while shooting 47.5 percent from the field.

Dana Altman’s team is 16-4 overall and next visits Arizona on Thursday night in Tucson.

The road has brought out the best in Providence

The Friars’ overtime triumph at Villanova on Sunday was an epic victory, but it really only magnified what Ed Cooley’s team has been able to do away from home.

Providence is now 5-0 in true road games this season which includes triumphs in some of the more difficult atmospheres in the Big East such as Butler, Creighton, and Villanova.

That doesn’t count the Friars’ neutral site victory over Arizona in November or a two-point win at in-state rival Rhode Island during the non-conference portion of the schedule.

Providence has one of the best one-two punches in college basketball with Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil (31 points, 12 rebounds vs. Villanova), but this team also has grit and that’s been reiterated by the way the Friars have responded when they haven’t played at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

In its Big East opener against Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse, Providence was down by a significant margin in the first half before rallying for a win. Then a week and a half ago at Creighton the Friars were stuck in the mud the entire game before a buzzer beater by Dunn allowed them to escape Omaha with a victory.

To win in March you have to be able to advance when you’re playing your best and when you’re playing a notch or two below that.

Providence has been able to do both away from its home floor.

The Friars are 17-3 overall and will next host Xavier on Tuesday.

This and That

  • Kentucky’s Derek Willis is averaging 9.8 points and 7.5 rebounds over his last four games while shooting 41.0 percent from 3-point range during that span. The 6-9 junior has waited patiently for this opportunity and he’s clearly making the most of it. The Wildcats have significantly better spacing with Willis on the floor as a stretch power forward and his presence has made Kentucky a better offensive team.
  • A word to the wise: keep an eye on Michigan. The Wolverines are 15-5 overall with a 5-2 mark in Big Ten play and are about to enter a very favorable part of their schedule. John Beilein’s squad hosts Rutgers Wednesday then plays Penn State in Madison Square Garden before returning home to play back-to-back games against Indiana and Michigan State. The next game after that is at Minnesota. This team has some real opportunities to make some national noise over the next few weeks.
  • The most impressive part of Oklahoma’s 82-72 win at Baylor on Saturday was that the Sooners got separation from the Bears in the first half when Buddy Hield was on the bench with foul trouble. How did that happen? Jordan Woodard. The junior point guard finished with 20 points, seven assists, four steals, and just one turnover in 32 minutes of work. This guy might be pound-for-pound the most improved player in college basketball.
  • The raw emotion thatMichigan State’s Matt Costello showed at the end of the Spartans’ win over Maryland on Saturday is what separates college basketball from other sports. There are certain moments in a season that stands out from the rest — this was one of them.
  • Greg McDermott’s move to build Creighton via transfers post-Doug McDermott is looking like a stroke of genius. The Bluejays are 14-6 overall and 5-2 in Big East play following this weekend’s win over Butler and have gotten major pop from a pair of transfers in Mo Watson (Boston University) and Cole Huff (Nevada). Another thing to remember? Former Kansas State star Marcus Foster is sitting out for Creighton this year and will be eligible for the 2016-17 season.
  • Cal’s Sam Singer has 11 assists and just four turnovers in the two games he’s played since Tyrone Wallace has been out of the Bears’ lineup with a hand injury. This guy gets his teammates shots. Cuonzo Martin’s squad is 14-6 overall and 4-3 in Pac-12 play.
  • Max Bielfeldt is quietly having a very productive season for Indiana. The fifth-year transfer from Michigan is averaging 8.2 points and 4.9 rebounds while shooting 58.3 percent from the floor and 47.8 percent from 3-point range. Bielfeldt averaged 5.1 points and 3.6 rebounds a year ago for the Wolverines while shooting 48.1 percent from the field and 26.7 percent from long range.
  • My colleague Brent Stover asked me Saturday if San Diego State could win the Mountain West Conference and still be kept out of the NCAA Tournament. My answer? Absolutely. When you’re evaluating teams for the field of 68 you have to dissect their key wins and bad losses. The Aztecs have beaten Cal on a neutral floor and lost to Arkansas-Little Rock at home as well as San Diego on a neutral floor. Remember: if you’re a bubble team then you’re competing against bubble teams from all over the country — not just the other ones in your respective league.
  • Manhattan’s Steve Masiello quickly reminded folks that his team won the past two MAAC titles after the Jaspers beat Monmouth last Thursday. Manhattan hasn’t gotten the same buzz as the Hawks or Iona, but will definitely be a factor in the conference tournament in March. Manhattan is 8-10 overall and will face the Gaels Friday night in New Rochelle.
  • South Florida got a major steal in freshman Jahmal McMurray. The 6-foot guard scored 30 points in Saturday’s upset win at Houston and is averaging 14.6 points this season. If Roddy Peters can get back to the lineup healthy next season then the Bulls could have one of the more prolific back courts in the American Conference.

Iowa's Jarrod Uthoff is shooting 55 percent on 3-pointers in the last five games. (USATSI)
Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff is shooting 55 percent on 3-pointers in the last five games. (USATSI)

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