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Previewing the Hawkeyes vs Penn State

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Will Iowa be able to shake off the Rutgers performance?

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Iowa Hannah Kinson-Daily Iowan via Imagn Content Services LLC

The Iowa Hawkeyes (13-5, 3-4) return from Joisey to face the Penn State Nittany Lions (8-7, 3-4). While the Hawkeyes faced a tough conference opponent less than 72 hours ago, Penn State haven’t played since Sunday’s 61-56 loss against Ohio State. They’re led by first year head coach Micah Shrewsberry, who spent his last 11 seasons split between Purdue and the Boston Celtics. It was his second stint with Brad Stevens, as he was at Butler before Purdue.

Ranked 69th (nice) by KenPom, Penn State has had a little more down than up in Shrew’s first season. Their best win was a home victory over IU and they took LSU, now ranked 13th, to overtime but also have a loss against Massachusetts on the balance sheet.

What first sticks out is Penn State’s tempo. On offense, their possessions are the second slowest in college basketball (Iowa’s is 9th fastest), and they take threes 43% of the time. They don’t get to the line and they struggle with turnovers. Not necessarily good combination. Their defense is exactly 30 spots higher than their offense, at 61st, and they do it by contesting shots, locking down the boards, and keeping opponents off the free throw line.

Projected Starters:

G: Jalen Pickett (Sr, 6’4”, 202 lbs) - 13.3 PPG, 4.4 APG, 1.9 TOPG, 41% FG%, 31% 3P%, 36.5 MPG
G: Myles Dread (Sr, 6’4”, 235 lbs) - 5.5 PPG, 39% 3P%, 26.9 MPG
F: Seth Lundy (Jr, 6’6”, 217 lbs) - 14.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 41% FG, 35% 3P%, 32.5 MPG
F: Greg Lee (Sr, 6’9”, 217 lbs) - 7.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.0 ORPG, 43% FG%, 27% 3P%, 24.5 MPG
F: John Harrar (Sr, 6’9”, 240 lbs) - 10.8 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 3.1 ORPG, 69% 2P%, 27.4 MPG

(stats via sports-reference)

Doing a little bit of guesswork, as Penn State has rolled out 7 starting lineups in their 15 games (this group has started just once together). A lot of it will hinge on whether Lundy is able to go after missing the Ohio State game with an injury. He’s had success against Iowa, with a 19 point game in 2020, and would be a big hole to fill if he can’t go.

Sam Sessoms has started nine games this season, and will factor into today’s game whether he comes off the bench or not. He’s the Nitts best 3 point shooter, at 46% this season, and capable playing on or off the ball, with an assist rate at 24.4%, though turnovers are a bit of an issue with him.

Greg Lee is a transfer from Western Michigan, which brings back my PTSD from Brandon Johnson going 8/9 from deep against Iowa last year (6/46 in other games!) after transferring to Minnesota from Kalamazoo.

One question

Can the Hawkeyes bounce back?

Just one question, and an important one. After winning a couple games, the Hawkeyes stemmed the tide to get themselves back into the middle of the conference standings. The ... ugly ... loss to Rutgers was no fun but did offer some insight into Iowa’s ability on the defensive side of the floor. It was their second best per possession performance on that side of the ball (.709 PPP, v. Portland State, Iowa posted a .674 PPP defense) and saw their KenPom adjusted defense rocket up to 111th.

If Iowa can bring 80-90% of that today, it will put them in really solid position for the win.

Iowa will also need to get out of the quagmire on offense. If it comes down to simply ... making more shots... Jordan Bohannon busting could be the answers but he has gone jus 5 for his last 25 from deep over three games. When he’s had stretches like this, it seems like just a matter of time before he explodes. Last year’s 8/12 3-point performance against Nebraska springs to mind, as it came after going 8/26 over the prior 5 games.

Perhaps most importantly is Filip Rebraca emerging from an apparent ankle injury down the stretch against Rutgers. He’s good to go, but will need to keep performing at his best to counteract Harrar, who is a load on the boards.


The Hawks are in a tied for 8th with the Nittany Lions and with a full crowd expected in Carver today, a win will get them back on track as they look to sneak their way into the top 4/double-bye conversation.