The #11 Iowa Hawkeyes (15-6, 9-5) turn their eyes northeast with the #21 Wisconsin Badgers (15-7, 9-6) as they look to assert themselves as a double-bye team come conference tournament time. Wisconsin has alternated wins and losses for the better part of a month and are coming off their second loss against Michigan. Hopefully that does not portend to an Iowa defeat, as the Badgers have not lost two straight all season.
They’re led by Greg Gard, who’s continued Bo Ryan’s magic of ugly basketball teams who just win, outside a dispiriting 2018 season. Overall they’re 118-64 since he took over (64%).
The hallmark of this squad is their experience, as they’ve started five seniors for a good chunk of the season with a sixth coming off the bench. KenPom has their weighted experience as 18th in the country (the next Big Ten team is Penn State at 45th) and there will probably be some graphic tonight about their starting lineup being older than an NBA team’s.
They average 70.3 points/game while yielding 62.6 but it’s been worse than that throughout the teeth of conference play. Over the last 10 games, they actually have a negative point differential, scoring 62.8 and allowing 63.9. The scoring has been a result truly icy three-point shooting (30.2%) with just one game above 40% during that span. Hopefully it continues!
D’Mitrik Trice (G, 6’0”, 184 lbs): Wisconsin’s senior point guard leads the Badgers in points (13.6) and assists (3.7) per game. In two of his prior four matchups against Iowa, he’s scored 16 & 20 points in impressive all-around displays. Coincidentally, both of those games happened in Iowa City whereas he’s notched just 2 & 5 points in games at the Kohl’s Center against Iowa.
He’s a quick guard who can get into the lane and find open guys. I’d love to see Iowa go with Joe Toussaint or Tony Perkins if CJ Fredrick is unable to start tonight to enable the man-to-man defense Iowa deployed against Michigan State.
Micah Potter (F, 6’10”, 248 lbs): In our Basket Cases discussion with Bucky’s 5th Quarter, he was declared the worse of the Badgers’ post defenders (Nate Reuvers has the program record in blocks) but contributed to one of Luka Garza’s least efficient outings last year - 21 points on 6/17 shooting. In that game, both he and Reuvers got 4 fouls. So far this season, Potter has proven to be the better offensive player, averaging more efficient 11.6 points to Reuvers’ 9.2.
It’s a conundrum of Greg Gard’s making as he has morphed into using one or the other but never together of late after sliding Tyler Wahl into the starting lineup after losing big to Michigan. The balance tonight might simply be dictated as to who is and isn’t in foul trouble.
Brad Davison (G, 6’4”, 202 lbs): Everything that is bad about Wisconsin basketball since Bo Ryan took over rolled into a single player. You’ll remember him from this play last year:
Brad Davison is a dirty player. He did it again last night pic.twitter.com/UcszW7wKJ3— Andrew Doughty (@DoughtyBetMGM) January 28, 2020
If you’re bored enough, you can find plenty of other similarly questionable basketball moves. They’re often turning points in the game, as his elbow was against Michigan,* so be on the watch-out for any funny business.
He’s a fine enough basketball player (8.9 PPG, 36% 3P shooting) but has come down to earth after a very strong start.
*This play is straight out of the Buzzcut Brad playbook so I don’t buy it wasn’t dirty
Will Iowa’s defensive uptick continue? The dirty little secret of Iowa’s successful man-to-man outing is that Michigan State simply isn’t a good offensive team, as they rate 99th in KenPom (the worst of any non-Nebraska team). The other dirty little secret is that not every team has a Foster Loyer for Jordan Bohannon to guard.
So Iowa will need to put together a solid gameplan and execute to it well. If CJ Fredrick can go, I suspect he’ll get the assignment on Trice to enable Bohannon to chase Davison around the perimeter. Wisconsin runs pretty big at the wing - 6’8” & 6’9” in Aleem Ford and Wahl - which could be height disadvantages. (rebounding anyone?)
They’ll also need some help from UW and hope their cold shooting continues.
Can Luka Garza get going? An interesting stat, from Friend of the Pants StoopsMyAss, is that the Peacock has not led Iowa in scoring or rebounding in either of the last four games. While there are a couple ties in there, the broad stroke is that Garza has not been nearly as dominant of late as he has been through much of the season.
Part of this can certainly be attributed to Joe Wieskamp totally looking the part as an offensive force. It’s easier to get the ball to Wiesy and let him shoot it than work it inside to Garza. However, this strikes me as a game where Iowa will need to lean into the pace Wisconsin sets and work the ball inside to force Wisconsin to double off Iowa’s shooters. If they decide to make Garza beat them...he might just do it if the low pace means a low score.
What happens if the 3 doesn’t drop? Iowa is simply not going to lose many games when Connor McCaffery, Keegan Murray, and Jack Nunge combine for 7/10 from deep. Those are shots teams are willing to give up considering there are bigger fish to fry against the Hawks. Yet if the complementary pieces don’t have their shot falling, it very likely stagnates Iowa’s offense.
Does it dictate a change in scheme, with Joe Toussaint leading the charge in pick and rolls? Will Fran dial up some set plays with Jordan Bohannon as the shooting guard? Does Joe Wieskamp turn into Iso Joe?
Iowa will need a counterpunch or two and I’m optimistic they have it.
Really difficult to undersell the importance of this game as it pertains to the double-bye race.
Get the W and take control of 4th place.