What to Expect: Iowa
After the game was postponed last week, Indiana returns to Assembly Hall on Thursday for a primetime matchup with No. 20 Iowa. The Hawkeyes are 19-8 overall and 8-6 in the Big Ten.
The game will be broadcast at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN and on the IU radio network (Sirius 91, XM 91):
The originally preview for Indiana-Iowa led with discussion of the Hawkeyes as a remaining contender for the Big Ten title. Much has obviously changed since that time.
The Hawkeyes traveled to Bloomington last Monday, Feb. 17 for their game with the Hoosiers that was scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 18, only to have it called off after a beam fell into the seats in Assembly Hall.
So Iowa went back to Iowa City on Tuesday night and prepared for a home game against Wisconsin, which it lost, and then went on the road to Minneapolis on Tuesday night and lost again. And with those setbacks, any talk of the Hawkeyes as a member of the conference title race has dissipated.
For Indiana, this is the second of a three-game stretch against ranked teams and the first of three straight contests at home. This is the type of game Indiana has played its best in over the past few seasons: Big stage, ranked opponent and what should be a lively home atmosphere. Will the Hoosiers deal the Hawkeyes their third straight loss?
When Fran McCaffery took over a depleted Iowa program for Todd Lickliter, this is the year he was building toward. It’s year four in Iowa City and McCaffery has constructed a roster that is deep, versatile and experienced enough to make a run in March.
McCaffery isn’t piling up highly rated recruiting classes, but he’s assembled talent that is now seasoned enough to finish in the top three of another brutally tough Big Ten. And while Iowa’s future appears stable, this is probably as good of a year as any for the Hawkeyes to make a run as their best offensive player, Roy Devyn Marble, is a senior.
In league play, Iowa is playing nine guys 15 or more minutes per contest and a tenth man, Anthony Clemmons, is playing about eight per contest. The offense, the second best in the Big Ten with 1.14 points per possession, is led by Marble, who is averaging 18.2 points in conference play with an effective field goal percentage of 50.2. Marble is using 28 percent of Iowa’s possessions, which hurts his efficiency a bit, but he’s good enough to take over a game.
Iowa’s most efficient player is junior forward Aaron White, a teammate of Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey over the summer in the World University Games. White is making 64.1 percent of his 2s in Big Ten play and his free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 60.6 is third in the conference.
In addition to White, Iowa’s frontcourt rotation also features senior Melsahn Basabe, Gabrial Olaseni and Adam Woodbury. This trio has the potential to cause major foul issues for Noah Vonleh, so it’ll be interesting to see how McCaffery chooses to attack the paint. Iowa is getting more than 20 points and 15 rebounds a game in Big Ten games from Basabe, Olaseni and Woodbury and the depth gives the Hawkeyes plenty of options if one of the three is having an off night.
Sophomore point guard Mike Gesell is Iowa’s third leading scorer in conference play with 9.9 points per game and his assist rate of 32.2 tops the league.
Jarrod Uthoff, Josh Oglesby and Zach McCabe will all contribute off the bench. Oglesby, who was recruited to be a 3-point specialist, has found the range this season as he’s hitting 43.2 percent of his 3s in conference play.
Both teams are excellent on the glass and at getting to the foul line, but Iowa is the far superior shooting team and is also significantly better at taking care of the ball despite playing the Big Ten’s fastest pace.
Indiana is going to have to win this game on the defensive end as getting into an up-and-down contest with a team that can fill it up like Iowa is unlikely to yield favorable results.
The Hoosiers were successful in devising a game plan to slow down another potent offense (Michigan) earlier this month, but that performance was also aided by a huge shooting night from Yogi Ferrell. The Wolverines were also a much weaker team defensively than Iowa is, so Indiana is going to need notable offensive contributions from more than just Ferrell.
WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO
Pomeroy likes Iowa by 5, Sagarin likes the Hawkeyes by 4.5, while the Vegas line currently favors Iowa by 5 after opening at 4. Indiana is 3-3 at home in conference play thus far with wins over Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin and losses to Northwestern, Michigan State and Penn State.
When playing its best, Indiana can play with any team in the conference in Assembly Hall, but the Hoosiers have also had home missteps against Penn State and Northwestern, teams they beat on the road. Indiana actually enters this game playing relatively well after a strong performance in Evanston and an 11-point loss to Wisconsin in Madison on Tuesday.
As I iterated earlier, this is typically a spot where Indiana is at its best. The Hoosiers are the underdog and this is a primetime spot with ESPN in Assembly Hall. The NCAA tournament is no longer a realistic goal (short of a run through the Big Ten tournament), but there’s still plenty at stake in terms of adding another league win and finding a positive way to close out the home schedule in Bloomington.
(Photo credit: Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)
Filed to: Iowa Hawkeyes