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Previewing the Hawkeyes vs. Indiana

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It’s not a must win game for Iowa but it’s close

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

The Iowa Hawkeyes (11-3, 1-3) have spent a week thinking about their loss to Wisconsin and will face the Indiana Hoosiers (12-3, 3-2). Each of IU’s true road games has resulted in a loss, with their best win coming last week against Ohio State.

KenPom has the Hoosiers rated 23rd, behind the 11th rated defense. They’re holding opponents to the best effective field goal percentage, at 41.1%, including just 39.8% from 2 point range. According to PivotAnalysis, IU’s opponents are shooting just 43% at the rim behind stout defense from Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson. TJD’s block rate of 10.9% ranks 29th in the country, while his fouling has reduced to a career-low 1.6 fouls/40 minutes.

It’s their first season under alum Mike Woodson, who’s turned the tide of their defense. It’s the Hoosiers best defense per KenPom since 2002’s vintage (2nd in the country) While the offense hasn’t necessarily improved after switching from Archie Miller by the same metrics, it is better at putting the ball through the hoop (eFG% up from 48.5% to 53.6%). They turn it over a little more - uptick from 17.2% turnover rate to 19.5% puts them at 209th - and get to the line a little less.

Projected Starters:

G: Xavier Johnson (Sr, 6’3”, 200 lbs) - 9.7 PPG, 4.2 APG, 4.2 RPG, 42% FG%, 24.0 MPG
G: Parker Stewart (Sr, 6’5”, 202 lbs) - 7.5 PPG, 44% FG%, 46% 3P%, 24.3 MPG
F: Miller Kopp (Sr, 6’7”, 220 lbs) - 7.1 PPG, 39% FG%, 38% 3P%, 25.5 MPG
F: Race Thompson (Sr, 6’8”, 235 lbs) - 10.7 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.2 ORPG, 59% FG%, 68% 2P%, 27.3 MPG
F: Trayce Jackson-Davis (Jr, 6’9”, 245 lbs) - 19.4 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.1 ORPG, 60% FG, 3.0 BPG, 32.3 MPG

(stats via sports-reference)

Thank you, Indiana, for being the only team so far who lists a players year & eligibility. To make it clean, I used the year like pretty much every other school does even though it isn’t aligned with KenPom’s database.

As a result, it makes IU look even older, with 3 senior transfer guards/wings and two veteran Hoosiers down low. Though their team’s offensive rebounding rate is middle of the pack, Thompson & Jackson-Davis get after it on the glass and will force Iowa’s post players into tricky situations as a result.

Three questions

The rebounding.

There are only so many different ways I can slice it, but it’s bad. This season has seen a multi-year issue come to a head. Since 2016, Iowa has allowed an offensive rebounding rate in the 200s or worse in six of the seven seasons. It’s been consistently the worst four factor on that end of the court throughout Fran’s tenure but is now magnified because of the lack of size Iowa’s interior currently possessions.

They’ve allowed Big Ten opponents to recover 40% of their misses. It includes the two best teams in that respect (Illinois & Purdue) but Maryland (36% v. Iowa, 25% overall) and Wisconsin (42%, 24%) are two opponents who took advantage of an Iowa weakness.

As alluded, IU is middle of the road as a team but has two forceful offensive rebounders in TJD & Thompson. Iowa needs to shore up, or they’re gonna be in a world of hurt. Perhaps the Hoosiers’ tempo (second slowest in Big Ten games) will lend Iowa to dedicating themselves to the defensive boards, knowing that possessions will be hard to come by with transition offense even less likely.

After all, you can’t get transition offense if you don’t end the defensive possession.

Can the Hawks win the first half?

Iowa hasn’t won a single first half in the Big Ten with just one “win” in eight 10-minute segments (24-16 in first 10 minutes against Maryland) and the Hawks have entered down at halftime in every conference game.

It starts with finishing possessions via rebounding but also, can Iowa find the right matchups offensively? Keegan Murray can get his almost whenever and wherever he wants so getting players like Patrick McCaffery and Jordan Bohannon going early can jumpstart the offense. Bohannon didn’t get a single shot off until the game was well in hand for Wisconsin, despite playing the second most minutes. If he’s on the floor, his value is in shooting and making shots. Let’s see if a hot start from Bohannon can jumpstart an Iowa victory.

Does Iowa play with requisite desperation?

Tonight’s game isn’t literally must win but it certainly has a lot of those qualities. Their three losses are nothing to be concerned about (Illinois & Wisconsin are a combined 9-1 and Purdue remains a top 10-ish team in the polls) but they risk losing contact with the upper half of the conference with a 4th loss in 5 games.

The defense (both by way of rebounding but also in other areas) will need to play well above its 154th ranking for Iowa to come away with the victory. If Iowa cannot get the offense going early, they will need to commit to very defensively-oriented lineups to keep the game within reach.


If the Hawkeyes lose tonight, they’ll be in a four-way tie for 10th place and in quite the hole when looking at their conference tournament prospects. A win gets them on the right track with the ability to move to .500 in their next outing. While this week won’t make or break Iowa’s postseason chances, it can certainly get the momentum moving back in the right direction for an NCAA tournament berth.