Iowa (20-8) vs. Indiana (23-6)
Time: 8:00 p.m. CT
Location: Carver-Hawkeye Arena
Tickets: University of Iowa (Why is this not sold out yet?)
Line: Iowa -4
When Iowa Has the Ball
Note: All numbers in this piece come from Kenpom or Sports Reference. Additionally, ratings in the four factors charts are scaled so that 100 = average. Thus, above 100 is above average, while below 100 is below average. For example, Iowa's 101 shooting rating means that their eFG% has been 1% better than the national average during Big Ten play, while Indiana's 98 means they have been 2% worse at contesting opponent shots.
On this side of the ball, we have an Iowa offense that is averaging 1.20 adjusted points per possession (PPP) in Big Ten play vs. an Indiana defense that is surrendering just 0.94.
The interesting thing about this battle is that the two areas that Indiana's defense is below average in are also the same two areas that Iowa has been struggling with on offense lately. The Hoosier defense gets the job done by mainly crashing the defensive glass and by not putting the opposing team on the foul line. The Hawkeye offense, meanwhile, has been getting things done mainly by getting to the free throw line. And by "getting things done" I mean muddling through games.
The last time these two teams played, Iowa's offense actually fared pretty well, in the grand scheme of things. Of course, if you break things down, the Hawkeyes scored just 10 points in the first ten minutes of play and finished the game by making only 5 of their final 20 field goal attempts. The middle of the game saw Iowa's offense look like the well-oiled machine that propelled them inside the national Top 5, while the beginning and end of the game saw their offense look like the broken mess that we've seen over the last few weeks.
If Iowa wants any chance at beating this Indiana team, they are probably going to need to find a way out of their recent shooting slump. Indiana shoots an insane amount of threes, and Iowa's recent regression into a free throw-dependent team isn't going to cut it if the Hoosiers are connecting from downtown. That means Iowa needs Jarrod Uthoff to wake up out of his shooting funk. February is over, so hopefully his 43% eFG% and 24% shooting from outside for the month will go ahead and stay there.
Of course, while I want to, I just don't trust this Iowa offense right now. They are able to get a decent chunk of quick, easy baskets in transition, but when they are forced to run their half-court offense, they have way too many periods of looking disjointed, clunky, and, really, just lost. Because of that, I have to give Indiana the advantage here.
When Indiana Has the Ball
This end of the court is where the game could get out of hand if the Hawkeyes play like they have recently. This Indiana team is scoring an adjusted 1.22 PPP vs. Big Ten defenses this season. Iowa is allowing only 0.94 on the season, but they haven't held an opponent to less than a point per trip in five games.
Indiana obviously possesses one of the best offenses in the conference this season, and they are so good because they do two things really well: 1) They are #1 in the Big Ten, with a 55.8% eFG% in conference play; and 2) They are third in the conference in offensive rebounding, grabbing 18% more of their misses than the average Division I team. Because they are so good in those two areas, it hasn't been a big deal that they turn the ball over more than what's considered the norm, nor has it mattered that they don't even try to get to the foul line much.
Last time Iowa's defense saw Indiana, the Hoosiers won both the shooting and rebounding battle. In fact, Indiana's offense was so efficient at the beginning of the game, they entered the locker room at halftime with a PPP total of 1.51, easily the worst total Iowa has allowed in a half this season. Robert Johnson and Nick Zeisloft lit Iowa up from three-point range, while Thomas Bryant and Troy Williams killed them on the offensive glass. And those remain the keys to the game for Iowa's defense tonight. They must defend the perimeter and focus on pulling down defensive rebounds. If they can do that, then they have a chance at winning this game. If they can't, and their offense continues to sputter, this could be an ugly Senior Night.
Style of Play
Both teams play an up-tempo style of basketball. Iowa plays about one possession quicker per game than the Hoosiers do, as the Hawkeyes are averaging almost 70 per game on the season and 68 in Big Ten play, while Indiana is at 69 and 67, respectively.
Like Iowa, the Hoosiers love to get out on the break and look for easy layups and open threes. However, their offensive time of possession has actually been longer than the national average in Big Ten play. The national average for time of possession is 17.3 seconds, and the Hoosiers are holding the ball for an average of 17.9 seconds against Big ten defenses. That doesn't appear to signal anything negative, though, as Indiana's offensive efficiency is second in the league whether or not you adjust for who they have played. This just means they are passing the ball around a few more times before draining a three on their opponent.
When it comes to shooting, Indiana has all the advantages on offense. A few weeks ago, I would have said Iowa could potentially outshoot Indiana in a game, but now, much like Iowa, my confidence in that has been shattered.
On defense, Iowa has the advantage in everything but free throw defense, which isn't really a thing unless you have the Arizona State student section on your side.
As for shot selection, Iowa continues to revert to old habits, by focusing on two-pointers (and free throws), which is actually right in line with Indiana's defense, who has been pretty good at suppressing three-point attempts this season.
On the other side, Indiana's offense couldn't be more opposite from Iowa's, as they take 43% of their field goal tries from long range. That probably won't change against Iowa, whose opponents are attempting 38% of their field goals from outside, which is the eleventh worst rate in the conference. Hopefully Iowa can continue the whole high-volume/low-efficiency three-point defense they've done for the majority of the year.
Lastly, looking at points, Iowa's offense continues to rely more and more on free throws than anything else lately. Of course, Indiana's defense doesn't foul at all, so something is going to have to give here.
Meanwhile, Indiana's offense is all about those three-pointers. Iowa's defense, though, is making opponents beat them with twos.
Players to Watch
Note: A quick reminder on how this chart works. The horizontal axis represents a player's usage rate, while the vertical axis represents a player's offensive rating. The circle size represents playing time (bigger means more time on the court). This chart should tell us how involved in the offense the player is, how efficient they are in doing so, and in how many minutes per game they accomplish all of this.
If you want a breakdown of what each Indiana player's game looks like, feel free to check out the preview from a few weeks ago. Because Iowa played this same team not long ago and not much has changed, I want to talk about match ups for tonight's contest.
First of all, Indiana's role players really beat Iowa in the first match up. The Hoosier's star player and offensive catalyst, Yogi Ferrell, didn't have the greatest offensive night. He scored 14 points and handed out 1 assist on 2-12 shooting from the field (2-9 from deep), and 4 of those points came from free throws when Iowa was forced to foul him at the end of the game. Part of his offensive struggles were thanks to Mike Gesell sticking with him in man-to-man defense and forcing contested jumpers.
But part of it was also an off night where Ferrell missed some open looks that he doesn't usually miss.
Considering Ferrell missed a decent amount of open looks last time, I fully expect him to have a better offensive night this time around. If Iowa can limit him again, great. But he's likely going to get his points.
What Iowa can't afford is to have the rest of Indiana's team go off the way they did last time. Outside of the 14 points that Ferrell had to really work for, four others scored in double-digits for Indiana and two other players finished with 9 and 7. Shutting down or at least limiting the damage from IU's three-point shooting is going to be important for Iowa's defense, and what worries me here is when Iowa decides to go to their zone defense. Indiana has so many good shooters who don't need a lot of space on the perimeter, so even the tiniest amount of ball movement is enough to create an open look for a shooter, like Nick Ziesloft, in this instance.
But the aggressive nature of Iowa's zone -- the way they like to trap whenever they get the chance -- always leaves a man open on the other side of the defense, if the opposing team can get the ball there. And if they can get the ball there, it's usually bad news for Iowa.
We saw a similar issue in the final minutes of the Ohio State game the other day, where the Buckeyes got trapped on the baseline, but were able to get the ball into the corner for a wide open three. Per usual, Iowa's aggressive defense is great when it creates turnovers, but it can also lead to some wide open shots when it doesn't.
All of that was a long-winded way of me saying I'm not sure how much zone defense I want Iowa to play against Indiana. I like how Fran mixes defenses to keep offenses guessing, but against a team that can shoot from outside as well as Indiana can, I'm hoping we see more man-to-man with just a little zone sprinkled in here and there. Of course, everything I just said about the zone, can be said at times about Iowa's aggressive man-to-man defense, as well. So maybe if Iowa just gets defensive rebounds this time around, things will go better.
And speaking of rebounding, remember Thomas Bryant?
Yeah, this can't happen. Iowa just needs to put a hard emphasis on grabbing defensive rebounds. Thomas Bryant and Troy Williams had 10 of Indiana's 19 offensive rebounds last game, and second chance points really killed Iowa on defense. That means the Hawkeyes will need Adam Woodbury and Jarrod Uthoff to box out, go up strong, and secure the ball. Because this Indiana team doesn't just score layups off their second chances, but they will also drain threes.
What Kenpom Thinks
Kenpom Rankings: Iowa #14, Indiana #15
Projected Outcome: Iowa 79 (66%), Indiana 75 (34%)
Projected Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.14, Indiana 1.09
Projected Possessions: 69
Somehow, Kenpom has Iowa ranked ahead of IU and has them favored because of this game being at home. Even Vegas opened at Iowa -4, which surprises me, too. After the last few weeks of basketball, it's hard for me to imagine that this team can win this game. With Iowa's broken offense and the defense's late-game disappearing act, an Indiana team with a high-powered offense and a competent defense has the potential to run the Hawkeyes out of their own building on Senior Night.
But it is Senior Night. And Iowa has four guys who will be playing in Carver-Hawkeye for the final time tonight, which means emotions will be running high and maybe we will get to see Jarrod Uthoff have an Aaron White-type of final game in Iowa City. I mean, it wouldn't be the first time we saw a senior absolutely go off and lead Iowa to a victory in a game against Indiana that nobody expected to win.
Do I expect Iowa to win? No. Keeping my hopes down makes the fall that much gentler. But could they win? Absolutely. Crazy things can happen in Carver in the final game of the year.