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Iowa-Wisconsin III: The Badgering

The Hawkeyes have two wins and an extra day of rest, what does it mean for the Big Ten quarterfinals?

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Less than a week after sealing the 3-seed with an unnecessarily difficult but hard-fought win, the #5 Iowa Hawkeyes (20-7, 14-6) will take on the 6-seeded Wisconsin Badgers (17-11, 10-10).

The Badgers’ 75-74 win over the Penn State Nittany Lions wasn’t a game until it was, which is why I decided to get a workout in when the second half creeped inside its first media timeout with a 15-point UW lead. Sure enough, I turn my television back to the final Big Ten game of the night and whaddaya know, Penn State is in the midst of a game-ending 17-2 run which came up juuust a little short.

Valiant effort and a hard fought season for the Nittany Lions. I forgot how much watching the end of these kids’ seasons and college careers sucked but maybe that’s just me getting soft.

Anyways, the story from the Big Ten tournament so far is the horrible shooting we’ve seen on display through six games. Nobody has topped 80 points, which isn’t a crime...this is the Big Ten, after all. The collective shooting is something out of a horror film: 40.0% from the floor, 46.7% from 2, and 28.8% from 3. Wisconsin, hilariously enough, is the outlier with a 12/23 outburst from deep. It was their best shooting performance since their dismantling of Louisville.

I guess the only other nit to pick ahead of this game is the “it’s hard to beat a team 3 times.” Well, Iowa won what was essentially a coin flip game (50.3% per KenPom) in Madison going away and the rematch in Iowa City (78.9%), which looked like a repeat of the first game while Joe Wieskamp was torching the nets before going down with an ankle injury. With the neutral site now factored in, it’s squarely 66% for Iowa, which does not mean much in the grand scheme of things but does provide a little more context to this, maybe:

The team who is 2-0 is more likely to win the third game than not, because the data available to us shows they are the better team. If only we could test the opposite against Indiana...

Three guys

D’Mitrik Trice (G, 6’0”, 184 lbs)

vs. Iowa I: 11 points, 3/15 shooting (1/8 from deep), 9 assists, 2 turnovers
vs. Iowa II: 8 points, 3/8 shooting (1/3 from deep), 3 assists, 2 turnovers
last night: 7 points, 2/8 shooting (1/5 from deep), 9 assists, 2 turnovers

I’m on high alert for Trice finding some footing against Iowa.

Micah Potter (F, 6’10”, 248 lbs)

vs. Iowa I: 23 points, 8/15 shooting (3/6 from deep), 11 rebounds (6 offensive)
Iowa II: 23 points, 9/12 shooting (4/6 from deep), 1 rebound (0 offensive)
last night: 6 points, 3/9 shooting (0/2 from deep), 4 rebounds (1 offensive)

Nate Reuvers played incredibly well in the bit of the game I watched and then I check the box score to see he hit the only two threes he took, which I saw. I’ll believe Reuvers is the better matchup on Garza when I see Potter put up another line like he did last night.

Brad Davison (G, 6’4”, 202 lbs)

vs. Iowa I: 15 points, 5/11 shooting (5/8 from deep), 2 rebounds, 0 assists
vs. Iowa II: 14 points, 5/10 shooting (2/4 from deep), 5 rebounds, 4 assists
last night: 15 points, 3/7 shooting (3/7 from deep), 2 rebounds, 5 assists, too many Brad Davison moments to count

Did he put his team on his back last night? See: play above.

Three questions

What can Joe Wieskamp do? The man from Muscatine has missed just a single three against Wisconsin in two games and has totaled 29 points. If he is 100%, most expect him to go and with good reason (JP led the sleuthing efforts yesterday). There’s no reason to hold him out if he’s there.

Yet if there’s any uncertainty as to his health, there are cases to be made for or against him playing. While getting some shots up in game situations at the cavernous Lucas Oil Stadium may prove advantageous when looking at the long game, Joe’s health is more important than any acclimation advantage Iowa may have.

Though the concern of reinjury is fair, practicing yesterday does indicate he’s ready to go later tonight. Hopefully he can continue his incredible shooting over the Badgers because Iowa may need it.

Does Iowa need to play inside-out? In conference play, 40.2% of Iowa’s shots have come from deep, which ranks 8th in the Big Ten. Teams, though, have shot a collective 37.2% of their shots from three throughout the conference tournament with Penn State proving to be the most interesting team of the bunch. After taking 55% of their shots from deep against Nebraska, they reduced the rate to 34% against Wisconsin.

Ohio State put up 79 points with just 21% of their shots coming from deep, though it helps to play Minnesota.

Considering what we know so far, and who Iowa has, it seems silly to posit the question. Yet, Wisconsin may be more comfortable letting Hawks fly from deep to double-team Luka Garza down low. They’ll need to be smart and active cutting to the hoop if shots are not falling.

Can Wisconsin keep their shooting up? With Jonathan Davis sinking his only three, the Badgers had three guys combine for 8/9 from deep despite shooting a collective 32.9% on the season. If those Davis, Ford, and Reuvers sustain the Badgers offense from deep, it will be tough for Iowa to stop them as they’re likely to lean on their low turnover offense and take the air out of the ball.

If they cannot find the bottom of the net, though, they may struggle offensively. They’ve scored 70 points three times in the last month, twice against PSU and last week against Iowa and shot better than 37.5% in each of those instances, above their conference shooting of 32.7%.

Considering what has happened around the Hawkeyes, a two seed looks about as locked up as it can be short of multiple concurrent conference tournament runs from the likes of Kansas, Arkansas, Ohio State, etc. etc. So the most important bit from tomorrow is to come out unscathed. Then we start overanalyzing how they looked, especially if it’s groggy.

A conference tournament run would be nice, though. Considering Fran has never made it to Saturday and it’s never been easier for him to make it to the weekend, might as well keep the good vibes going.