Your, my, and our Iowa Hawkeyes (22-9, 12-8) tip-off their Big Ten Tournament campaign with the Northwester Wildcats (15-15, 7-13) Thursday afternoon in Indianapolis.
Iowa won the lone meeting with Wildcats, leading by as many as many as 30 points in an 82-61 win on February 28 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Keegan Murray led the way with 26 points and 18 rebounds, while Jordan Bohannon and Connor McCaffery punctuated Senior Night with 18 and 17 points, respectively. The Wildcats had three starters - Boo Buie, Julian Roper, and Robbie Beran - combine for just 2 points in 24 minutes of play due to illness. With the illnesses, Northwestern never got off the ground as Iowa ran away and hid in the second half.
I’ll be honest - I watched none of Northwestern’s first round win over Nebraska. Being a resident of Mountain Standard Time is fantastic...except when games start around 4:45, it’s snowing in the Mile High City, and I have to make the trek home. It’s a little over 5 miles from downtown Denver to my home and yeah, in snowy conditions, that’s a long commute no matter what. So I got home in time to see Nebraska with a big halftime lead, prepared dinner, sat down to eat, and saw that Nebraska had shriveled up and died. Sounded interesting, I guess? Personally, I wanted a 4-overtime thriller that left whoever won the game completely out of gas come tomorrow afternoon. Fortunately, the second round game is a much more user-friendly tip-off, at noon Mountain. Lunch beers at the Denver Sports Column? Maybe! Who says no?
F - Pete Nance (Sr., 6-10, 225) 14.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 2.5 apg, 49.4 FG%, 44.9 3P%
F - Robbie Beran (Jr., 6-9, 215) 6.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 46.3 FG%, 36.4 3P%
G - Boo Buie (Jr., 6-2, 180) 14.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 4.4 apg, 39.5 FG%, 33.9 3P%
G - Chase Audige (Jr., 6-4, 200) 10.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.8 spg, 43.3 FG%, 24.5 3P%
G - Julian Roper, II (Fr., 6-3, 180) 3.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 32.7 FG%, 32.6 3P%
Can Iowa shake their Big Ten Tournament voodoo?
Stealing from Matt here - as he noted, Iowa’s record in the tournament under Fran is, uh, not great. It’s not just Fran though. Frankly, this event has been a mess for Iowa outside of the champions-runner up-first round-first round (those sucked)-semi-finals-champions run from 2001 to 2006. Tom Davis never won a game in the event. Todd Lickliter definitely never won a game in the event. I’m not sure he ever actually coached at Iowa. Then Fran has Iowa’s 5 wins since the 2006 title run, and just the one weekend appearance last year. Just 5 goddamn wins since 2006. WOOF.
So something has to give here. This Iowa team is too good to go 0-fer the event this year.
The Illinois game - can Iowa shake THAT off?
There’s a lot to digest in the aftermath of that game, with a lot of it centered around comments made at Kris Murray by some loser in the Illinois crowd as they rushed the court (seriously, your life sucks, random Illinois fan). From a game perspective, it’s not the first time we’ve seen Iowa struggle at the free throw line and around the rim and it’s cost them. It was a winnable game in a suddenly hot rivalry again and Iowa let it slip through their fingers. They ought to be pissed off, and fortunately I think they are. Tony Perkins insinuated how pissed he was for missing free throws he usually makes as a near-90 percent free throw shooter. And that one game where they struggled around the rim and missed free throws? Michigan in Carver? Yeah, Iowa settled the score there. So I’ll just say, if Iowa’s been able to shake that loss off and they have their heads screwed on tight, look out. Don’t look past Northwestern - my usual warning - but Iowa has a nice little revenge tour potentially on the docket. Get past Northwestern and Iowa can settle all family business this weekend.
Do the pieces, especially Boo Buie, fit back together for Northwestern to test Iowa?
Buie was in that group of players that barely played in Iowa’s 21-point drubbing of the Wildcats in February. He took two shots in the game, missed both, and also missed his two free throw attempts. He didn’t record a stat in any other category, so that was a big missing piece in the first game. He averages 14 points and 4 assists per game, so while he’s not an overall efficient player (that’s on both offense and defense, and his shooting splits stink while averaging 12 shots a game), he can still get hot and he still averages 14 a game. It’s nothing to sneeze at. Put him with Pete Nance and Chase Audige, and it’s a competitive core. Then throw in Ty Berry and Ryan Young off the bench and they start verging on frisky, at least as far as Iowa is concerned. Berry was 5-10 from 3 in the first game, scoring 19 points, while Young chipped in 10 points and 7 rebounds.