Well it’s mid-March and the Hawkeyes are still playing—six months ago I would’ve taken that in a heartbeat, NCAA/NIT be differentiation be damned. Of course, getting a few extra games in Carver is never a bad thing, especially for a young team looking for a springboard into next season.
Iowa’s opening salvo in the NIT went off with few hitches as the Hawks knocked off South Dakota 87-75 on Wednesday. Strong performances from Jordan Bohannon, Isaiah Moss, and Tyler Cook paved the way, with a strong second half performance courtesy of Peter Jok clinching the win.
That was all well and good against the Coyotes, but there’s little doubt that a similarly lukewarm performance (10 first half turnovers, etc.) Sunday against TCU will doom the Hawkeyes to an early exit in the NIT.
Jamie Dixon’s first year at the helm in Fort Worth has been fairly promising for a program still adjusting to the Big 12 conference. The Horned Frogs were competitive against the Big 12’s top tier and recently picked up a win over Kansas in the conference tournament. This is definitely a team capable of an outstanding showing.
Vladimir Brodziansky leads the way offensively for TCU, averaging over 13 points per game on the season. Brodziansky has some versatility as a stretch-post and is comfortable operating in pick-and-pop sets out to the three-point line. The 6-11 junior will be a tough matchup for Iowa’s young post players on both ends of the court.
Speaking of mismatches in the post, Kenrich Williams figures to be a tough draw for the Hawkeyes. Williams, a 6-7 210-pound junior, is extremely active on the glass, ranking second in the Big 12 in rebounding at 9.4 per game. Williams can also put pressure on defenses because of his ability to shoot, but his calling card is the hustle plays in the paint.
Dixon’s squad is a little less imposing in the backcourt.
Alex Robinson and Jaylen Fisher lead the way and give the Horned Frogs multiple guys who can handle the ball and distribute (think Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons).
Robinson, a sophomore, is more prone to scoring outbursts than his counterpart, but both of the TCU guards are capable of exploiting lackadaisical defense, something that has hampered Iowa in stretches of the past two games. Speaking of which:
What Iowa has to do to win
Regaining some consistency on defense would be a good start. Newfound energy and confidence on that end seemed to be what sparked Iowa’s surge down the stretch of this season in the first place. And, honestly, that confidence seemed to take a hit in the debacle in D.C. against Indiana.
So, containing Brodziansky and Williams down low oughtta be priority number one.
Otherwise, the usual Hawkeye win caveats apply: Jok and co. will need to shoot well against a reasonably stout TCU defense (#52 per KenPom); Iowa’s ball-handlers need to value the ball while establishing an accelerated tempo; and, depending on the effectiveness of Jok, continued improvement and aggressiveness from the Hawkeyes’ supporting cast is huge.
TCU is undoubtedly a decent team that will have every chance to walk into Carver and end the Hawkeyes’ season—I’ll be surprised if this isn’t a close game.
With that said, though, I really like the way Iowa’s young players have developed down the stretch and the confidence guys like Bohannon and Cook are playing with. TCU is overall a very sound team, but lacks a surplus of dynamic offensive players. Give me the Hawks in a close one.
Iowa 78, TCU 71