The Iowa Hawkeyes (9-7, 0-3) look to bounce back from poor conference play so far this season against the Ohio State Buckeyes (11-3, 2-0). OSU is one of three undefeated teams remaining in Big Ten play after December wins over the Wisconsin and Michigan.
On the heels of our question and answer session with Land-Grant Holy Land, I figured it’d be the right time to try something a little different. So, how can Iowa counteract some of what Ohio State will throw at them tonight?
“[Keita] Bates-Diop is the first and best option that the Buckeyes have, and he is embracing that.”
As Matt mentioned, Bates-Diop is OSU’s most prolific offensive weapon but he downplayed even that. The 6’7” power forward is their most voluminous shooter from both three and two where he is shooting 38.7% and 59.1%, respectively.
In addition to the plethora of defenses I expect Fran McCaffery to run out, I expect a number of different defenders to be matched up against him. Perhaps most enticing is Tyler Cook, who has improved at blocking shots since last year.
On the flip side, with such lineup configurations, Cook should be able to attack Diop down low. Much of Cook’s improvement this year has been in efficiency (his minutes average and field goal attempts are roughly the same as last year) with one exception: getting to the line. Not only is he getting to the charity stripe with greater frequency but he is hitting them about 10 percentage points higher. Which brings me to the next point...
“For [Jae’Sean] Tate and [Kaleb] Wesson, the key for them is how long they can stay on the floor.”
Both senior wing Tate and freshman center Wesson have fouled out of 3 games but they come in different varieties. Tate largely guards the best wing on defense and often plays 30+ minutes. To counter that, I’d love to see Iowa get Isaiah Moss involved early and often.
It’s been a bit of a chicken and egg scenario regarding Moss and team success, but in five losses against Power 5 conferences, Isaiah Moss has averaged only 5.4 points on 7.2 shots (33.3%). In nearly every other game, he has gotten to double figures on relatively efficient shooting (46.6%). One last weird stat about Moss: he has only shot free throws in seven of Iowa’s 16 games. Though his raw total is near last year’s 31 free throw attempts, Iowa needs him to be aggressive in the half court.
Regarding Wesson, I expect him to guard Cook early, especially if Fran continues with the same starting lineup. The Hawks should look to get the ball to Cook for quick posts but try and avoid the ball-stopping we saw throughout much of the Michigan game. Tom Crean summarized it best: “Cook is best when he’s efficient with the dribble.” It’s tough to disagree with that sentiment.
“[T]hey play good team defense and have significantly increased their steals total.”
In Iowa’s most complete game against a moribund Northern Illinois squad, they stuck to the principles of the offense and moved the ball via passing and body movement, rather than dribbling. Iowa will need to return to some form of that, as Ohio State allows teams to shoot 44% of their shots from three.
With this in mind, Fran should deploy Maishe Dailey even more as the point guard, especially with Jordan Bohannon on the floor. He has been Iowa’s most impressive three-point shooter at 44.6% (up from 41.6% last year). With the increased attention he’s received, he’s actually shot about half a shot less from three than last year. Running him around screens should provide him more clean opportunities from deep while forcing defenses to account for him in multiple spots.
Overall, Iowa faces an Ohio State team which has outperformed expectations. Iowa won the only meeting between the two last year, without Peter Jok. If Iowa can be more focused offensively, it should lead to better improvement defensively, by way of limiting transition opportunities. Hopefully the Hawks can stem the tide and notch a conference win.