Your, my, and our Iowa Hawkeyes (24-9, 12-8) continue their amazing run of form, advancing to the Big Ten Tournament semi-finals where they will battle the Indiana Hoosiers (20-12, 9-11). Winner goes to the final on Sunday, loser is still in the NCAA Tournament.
You all just saw Iowa take care of business in the quarter-final, finishing that little piece of family business with Rutgers, 84-74. I must take this space to give flowers to individuals on this Iowa team. Flowers for Keegan, as he set the single-season scoring record, breaking Luka Garza’s mark of 747 points set…last year. Frankly, I thought that number would last forever. Instead, it lasted a single season. Prior to the 2019-2020 season, Iowa didn’t have a single player in program history score over 700 points in a season - John Johnson had the record at 699 and that stood for 50 years. Iowa’s had a player go for 700+ in three-straight seasons. That’s how much of a supernova Keegan’s been, how much of a supernova Luka was, and how lights-out this product is from an entertainment point of view.
Jordan Bohannon also gets flowers. A 3 off a scramble situation at a crucial point in the second half put him over 2,000 career points. Only three Iowa players have ever done that - Garza, Roy Marble, and Bohannon - and two of them have reached that milestone over the last two years (again, Iowa basketball as an entertainment property is top-notch). This didn’t feel like a great matchup for Bohannon - Geo Baker is a tough assignment, much like Illinois’s guards - but he still chipped in with 16 points. Iowa’s other major contributor was Tony Perkins, going for 16 himself on 6-9 shooting. I’m the current owner of all property on Perkins Island. Please find me on Twitter if you wish to inquire about purchases. Flowers for Tony, too!
I also want to give flowers to Connor McCaffery. This dude is just a straight-up bad ass. I could watch him throw entry passes on posts and re-posts all damn day. He had 3 points, 5 assists, and 2 technical fouls for likely calling another player soft. I’ll miss you, Connor.
Standing in the way of Iowa’s first final appearance since 2006 is Indiana, who’s become the Cinderella of this tournament. The Hoosiers, losers of 7 of their last 9 in the regular season, needed wins to have any chance of dancing and they got them, coming back from the dead to reach the semi-finals. The Hoosiers trailed Michigan 60-43 with 12:54 to play in their second-round game, any tournament chances they had on life support, only to blitz the Wolverines the rest of the way to pull out a 74-69 win and advance to the quarters. They then upset top-seed Illinois in the morning game of the session, taking the lead at the line with 26 seconds left. IU missed a free throw to put the game away after a hilarious Trent Frazier turnover, but Andre Curbelo (who’s been BAD), played hero ball and went coast-to-coast…only to miss a lefty lay-up with 3 seconds left to hand IU another great resume win and a trip to the semis.
F - Trayce Jackson-Davis (Jr., 6-9, 245) 17.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.5 bpg, 57.8 FG%, 66.7 FT%
F - Miller Kopp – (Sr., 6-7, 215) 6.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.2 apg, 37.9 FG%, 37.5 3P%, 88.2 FT%
F - Race Thompson – (Sr., 6-8, 228) 11.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 55.3 FG%
G - Xavier Johnson – (Sr., 6-3, 200) 12.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.8 apg, 41.5 FG%, 38.8 3P%
G - Parker Stewart – (Jr., 6-5, 210) 6.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 38.5 FG%, 40.6 3P%
Indiana has been a weird team all season long. This is not a particularly good shooting team. They’ve lost most of the close games they’ve played (the lone game with Iowa, a 83-74 Iowa win, included), until literally the last two days. TJD is their catalyst, going for 17-8 every night while being an absolute menace on both ends. Like Ron Harper, Jr., I really like TJD. Guy is a walking bucket and he’s a great defender. He made clutch free throws late in the win over the Illini, making the two free throws that put IU ahead for good.
On the perimeter, they have a couple of decent 3-point shooters in Johnson and Stewart, plus Kopp can get going on occasion there too. Thompson is also a handful, a great glue/garbage man. He’s all hustle so Iowa better be prepared to work in this game. Of course, keep an eye out for Rob Phinisee, and Trey Galloway has been a plus for them off the bench in this tournament.
Can Keegan stay out of foul trouble?
In the first game, it wasn’t Keegan that won the game for Iowa. Keegan was mired in two-foul jail for much of the first half as Indiana built a 7-point halftime lead. It was Kris who went wild, going for 29 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocks on 12-18 shooting in just 29 minutes. Keegan came back and chipped in 12 and 9 but he struggled with foul trouble all night. If Iowa’s going to keep this run going, they need Keegan to avoid dumb early fouls that land him on the bench.
Can Iowa solve Indiana’s defense?
IU’s main calling card is defense. Their adjusted defense is 18th on Kenpom. They tightened up at the perfect moment against Michigan, holding them to just 9 points over the last 12:54, and they kept Illinois to just 63 points. They’re athletic on the perimeter and they have an eraser in the post in TJD. They recover on everything. It’s a great unit on that end. They aren’t great offensively, but they can choke teams out defensively. But, we’ve seen Iowa play two pretty decent defenses statistically in jNW and Rutgers and Iowa got the flame thrower out on both of them. That’s what I find incredible about this Rutgers game - Iowa didn’t play well for stretches, both out of the gate and in the last quarter of the game where they didn’t have a made field goal for 4+ minutes. And Iowa still hung 84 and won by 10. This team is GOOD.
Do tired legs show up either way?
Indiana’s done the work they need to do to secure a tournament spot. Their wins in this event are big-time, knocking off a direct competitor for a back-end tournament spot and then upsetting the co-champs. Those were also intense, physical games, so will the Hoosiers have legs tomorrow? Will Iowa have some tired legs after Rutgers made the Hawks put in a full 40-minute shift? That’s going to be something to watch, both ways. Iowa didn’t have to exert much effort on Thursday, but obviously did with Rutgers. I’m keeping an eye out for short jumpers both ways.