What to expect: Iowa
Indiana will look to advance to the finals of the Big Ten tournament when it takes on fifth-seeded Iowa on Saturday in Gainbridge Fieldhouse. The Hawkeyes are 24-9 overall and beat Rutgers 84-74 on Friday in the quarterfinals.
Saturday’s game will tip at 1 p.m. ET on CBS:
Back-to-back wins against Michigan and Illinois have Indiana on track to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2016.
On Thursday, Indiana completed a stunning comeback from a 17-point deficit to knock off the Wolverines, 74-69. And the Hoosiers followed that up with a 65-63 triumph over the top-seeded Illini on Friday in the quarterfinals.
Up next is another tough test against Iowa, which crushed Northwestern 112-76 on Thursday and then cruised past Rutgers 84-74 on Friday. The Hawkeyes won the only regular-season matchup between the two teams 83-74 back on Jan. 13 in Iowa City.
THE FIRST MEETING
Indiana’s loss to the Hawkeyes at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in mid-January wasn’t particularly surprising once you dive into the numbers.
The Hoosiers led by as many as 11 points, but a poor close over the final 2:25 of the first half, turnovers and an inability to contain Kris Murray all contributed to a nine-point loss.
Indiana turned it over 23 times in Iowa City and had a turnover percentage of 32. It was the most turnovers and the highest turnover percentage performance for Indiana this season in a conference game. The Hoosiers had 14 turnovers in the second half.
Xavier Johnson’s effectiveness was limited due to foul trouble as Indiana’s point guard logged just 24 minutes and finished with seven points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals. The Pittsburgh transfer was just 2-of-7 from the field. Indiana also wasn’t helped by the play of Rob Phinisee, who had a team-worst -17 on the plus/minus and shot only 1-of-5 from the field.
The real issue for Indiana, however, was defending Kris Murray. National player of the year candidate Keegan Murray played only 22 minutes, but his twin brother Kris played arguably his best game of the season.
Murray’s 29 points led the Hawkeyes off the bench and he was 10-of-13 on 2s and knocked in a pair of 3-pointers. The lefty also led Iowa with 11 rebounds and he blocked three shots. Murray’s offensive explosion was a big reason Iowa was able to score 1.15 points per possession despite shooting only 6-of-18 on 3s.
Offensively, Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis led the way with 18 points and 11 rebounds, but took just eight shots.
(Stats are for conference games only.)
Iowa’s offense was the best in the Big Ten in the regular season and the Hawkeyes haven’t slowed down in Indianapolis. Iowa put up 112 points (1.529 PPP) against Northwestern on Thursday and then 84 points (1.24 PPP) against Rutgers on Friday. The Hawkeyes have the nation’s third-best offense behind Purdue and Gonzaga.
Iowa’s strengths offensively are taking care of the ball (12.5 TO%), offensive rebounding (30.2 OR%) and playing with pace. Keegan Murray is a legitimate national player of the year candidate who is a matchup problem because of his ability to play inside and out. Murray is shooting 55.7 percent overall from the field, 37.9 percent from 3 and 73.6 percent from the free-throw line on 178 attempts. His 23.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game lead the Hawkeyes.
Defensively, Iowas made major strides this season and finished fifth in the league in points per possession allowed at 1.032. No team in the Big Ten forced more turnovers at a higher rate than Iowa and the Hoosiers will have to do a much better job in the rematch in dealing with the pressure.
WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO
The KenPom projection is Iowa by six with just a 30 percent chance of an Indiana victory.
The Hoosiers are likely in the NCAA tournament with wins against Michigan and Illinois. But they can move up the tournament S-curve with a victory against the Hawkeyes.
This will arguably be Indiana’s toughest test defensively of the season as Iowa comes in red hot and playing with a ton of confidence. The Hawkeyes have won seven of their last eight and are surely to get a better effort out of Keegan Murray than the one he produced in the first meeting back in January.
For Indiana, the keys are taking care of the ball, winning the rebounding battle and getting another stellar performance out of Jackson-Davis. With two great games so far against Michigan and Illinois in Indianapolis, Jackson-Davis has Indiana on the cusp of its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2016. Can he carry the Hoosiers to the Big Ten tournament final?