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The schedule has escalated

Syndication: HawkCentral Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Iowa Hawkeyes (7-0, 0-0) continue their road stretch with a visit to the #2 Purdue Boilermakers (7-0, 0-0). After their flamethrowing performance over Florida State, the Boilers now possess the #1 offense according to KenPom’s efficiency metrics and the #2 raw scoring offense, at 92.4 points/game. The Hawks are 4th and 1st, in each of those categories.

It’s been a bit of a winding road, from a stylistic perspective, for Purdue under Matt Painter. The hearty defense in the early part of his tenure behind the Baby Boilers group of E’Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson, and Robbie Hummel with top 20 defenses from 2007 to 2011. It changed a bit, ahead of the 2015-16 season, as they became more of a force offensively and have churned out top 25 offenses in 5 of the last 7 seasons while retaining much of the defensive intensity which built the program under his tenure. They’re finished 35th or better in each of those 7 seasons, in KenPom’s adjusted defense.

Projected Starters:

G: Isaiah Thompson (Jr, 6’1”, 160 lbs) - 7.4 PPG, 1.7 APG, 61% 3P, 20.4 MPG
G: Jaden Ivey (So, 6’4”, 195 lbs) - 15.4 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.9 APG, 52% FG, 43% 3P, 27.3 MPG
G: Sasha Stefanovic (Sr, 6’5”, 205 lbs) - 12.9 PPG, 4.9 APG, 47% 3P, 26.6 MPG
F: Caleb Furst (Fr, 6’10”, 230 lbs) - 9.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 63% FG, 46% 3P, 24.7 MPG
C: Zach Edey (So, 7’4”, 295 lbs) - 16.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 74% FG, 82% FT, 18.7 MPG

Much like Iowa last year, who featured a ton of guys who had started games for them, Purdue goes 8 deep with guys who have significant starting experience. Eric Hunter & Brandon Newman are guard/wing types who will keep them afloat when the starters are out while 6’10” Tevion Williams plays off the bench after a first team all-Big Ten 2021 season at center. He still averages 12.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.4 assists as a facilitator.

The story of Purdue’s fast start, though, is the growth of sophomores Jaden Ivey and Zach Edey. Ivey blends size and speed with an improved three point jumper - up from 26% a year ago. He has increased his role as the primary ballhandler a little more and seen his assists jump about 2/game. The flipside is that his turnovers have increased to 2.3/game, though they are mitigated by his much improved efficiency. He is most dangerous in transition, where Purdue is scoring 1.57 points/possession in situations where he shoots or assists.

Edey is an absolute lode down low and will make Iowa look like a bunch of second graders going against the fifth grader at recess. He’s seven inches taller than Hawk who’s likely to be his primary defender (Filip Rebraca & the Murrays are listed at 6’9” and 6’8”) and is automatic when he gets the ball. Evidenced by Stefanovic’s assist number, Iowa will need to be especially cognizant of limiting the guard’s touches on the wing as he serves as the primary entry point for Purdue’s post offense. Basically Connor McCaffery with an elite three point jumper. The Boilers are also great on the boards (41% offensive rebounding rate, 4th in the country) and turn those into very quick points. Edey scoops up 1/5th of Purdue’s misses while he’s on the court and has scored 26 points on 16 “putback” possessions, according to Synergy.

Three questions

Can Iowa make Purdue play left-handed?

Considering Purdue’s obvious mismatch down low, that was a big question for Fran McCaffery during his radio hour this week. His answer on how to defend Edey & Williams was more or less “they still have to defend us.” While that is equal parts illuminating and infuriating, it is correct. I think back to two examples: 1) Garza said the way he would defend himself is to try and get him into foul trouble and 2) Iowa State’s comeback against Purdue some years ago where they went with a 5-guard look to counter the ground bound player of the year in Caleb Swanigan.

Rebraca and Kris Murray, in particular, will have to shoot pretty well for the perimeter this game to maintain a credible five out offense to enable driving lanes which will still be difficult against Purdue’s man-to-man defense. They will also need to be excellent positionally in rebounding situations to limit second chance opportunities while the rest of the Hawks gang rebound.

Whether that means Fran can force Painter’s hand into taking Edey/Williams off the court via foul trouble or matchups is probably a moot point. Caleb Furst would likely be the center they’d go to in that circumstance and provides his own set of challenges as a high motor 3 and D forward.

Can Fran find the right backcourt rotation?

Considering Iowa’s starting duo - Joe Toussaint & Jordan Bohannon - do not exceed 6’1”, Ivey figures to have a size and/or speed advantage over whomever has the first crack at him. Last year, the best strategy was simply to keep him in front of you and yield open threes, but that no longer remains with his excellent start to 2021-22.

Ahron Ulis & Tony Perkins add size and strength to Iowa’s guards and Perkins, especially, has come to play against similar opponents. At Illinois last year, he was the last line of defense against Ayo Dosunmu and played as well as anybody could expect from a true freshman. If Bohannon’s 3 is not fall, the value statement of him on the court plunges and will require Fran to move quickly to one of the bench guards to prevent the game from getting too quickly out of hand.

Does Iowa have it in them to flip the script in Mackey?

Since Purdue became more offensively-focused, Iowa’s record against the Boilers went from a modest 5-5 before 2016-17 to a downright stinky 2-5 since with the 2 wins coming at home. The collective margin of victory for Purdue has been 86 points, or 12 PPG. They’ve been especially bad in West Lafayette, with blowouts of 36, 16, and 22 points.

In the past, Purdue has struggled against the press. While that ability has improved in recent years, the Keegan-topped version of it is something Fran should deploy as his size, quickness, and athleticism provides a one-man wrecking crew which can enable turnovers, drain clock, and limit defensive disadvantages in other areas of the court. The Hawks will need to hit shots to set it up, though, which presents its own set of challenges.

With the Hawks coming off a huge win at Virginia, there figures to be some letdown in going against a sold out Mackey Arena. While past Iowa groups have not had the athleticism to keep Purdue’s offense in check, this one is generally improved. Yet it still not matter much, as the Boilers are just that good offensively while maintaining the defensive intensity Matt Painter has instilled since the beginning.

Broadcast Information

Opponent: Purdue Boilermakers (West Lafayette, IN // Big Ten)

Betting Lines: Iowa +12.5 // O/U 159 (DraftKings)

Game time: 8:03 PM CST // Friday, December 3, 2021

Location: Mackey Arena // West Lafayette, IN

TV: BTN // Brandon Gaudin, Robbie Hummel, and Andy Katz

Online/Mobile: Fox Sports

Radio: Hawkeye Radio Network

Live Stats: StatBroadcast

Go Hawks, and play nice in the comments!

Bonus ponk: (note, not sure if it will continue in basketball season since it comes so fast and furious but this one is worth mentioning...)

These teams are a combined 11-3 OVER this season and while the number is quite high at 159 but we’ll let it ride considering the 1 v 2 nature of this offensive matchup and ability of both teams to score efficiently in transition and half court.