It’s been well over a year since the Iowa Hawkeyes (12-18, 3-14) have faced the Northwestern Wildcats (15-15, 6-11). A lot has changed since then. Mainly, the Wildcats got their first NCAA Tournament berth to get the monkey off their back. They’ve quickly regressed to their mean, which is still better than I can say about the Hawks.
Anyways, Northwestern returned the bulk of their squad and are led by the senior tandem of Scottie Lindsey and Bryant McIntosh, who average 14.7 and 12.3 points respectively. McIntosh recently injured his shoulder and returned to action in a home loss to Wisconsin on Thursday. Amidst his injury, the Wildcats come into this game on a five-game losing streak.
Lindsey and McIntosh are supplemented on the perimeter with wing Vic Law, who does a little bit of everything on the way to 12 points a game. The Wildcats will rotate about four big men, which is where Iowa will continue to have the advantage, as they have in nearly every game this year.
Offensively, the Wildcats have some of the worst percentages. They turn the ball over the second most in the conference, per KenPom (Iowa is first), and struggle putting the ball in the basket. Their eFG is third worst and they don’t force the action by getting to the line, as their free throw rate is worst.
They’ll do their best to slow the game down and play with the slowest pace in the conference. They also do a good job of restricting opponents’ three-point percentage and do a good job around the rim at blocking opponent shots.
So what are three keys?
Defense: This makes a return but there is reason for optimism. The Wildcats allow steals the most of any Big Ten team, barely eking out the Hawks in this KenPom statistic. If Iowa can play with active hands, they should be able to get some transition opportunities out of poor ball control from Northwestern.
Free throw shooting: This is one area Iowa has struggled throughout the year, but they are slowly climbing up. As mentioned above, Northwestern sends a lot of guys to the free throw line so look for Luka Garza and Tyler Cook to spend a good portion of their Sunday evening there. Jordan Bohannon might also make an appearance as he looks to break Chris Street’s record of 34 straight free throws. He’s at 32, right now.
Isaiah Moss: A rolling stone gains no moss, they say, so Moss needs to take more after the stone and not his namesake in this twisted metaphor. Can he remain active and aggressive and constantly force the action on offense, and defense? If he can, he has sky-high potential. His lack of consistency has been frustrating to watch, in part because we know he is capable of much much more.
Just like this Hawkeyes team.