It’s Selection Sunday and the only thing the Iowa Hawkeyes have to worry about is what seed they’ll earn later in the day. Before they find out where they’re headed and who they’ll take on in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, the Hawkeyes have a tall task in front of them. Literally.
Iowa put together a tough-nosed comeback in the semifinals on Saturday against the Indiana Hoosiers to get here. The Hawkeyes trailed by 12 early, but battled to take a lead in the middle of the first half. That was erased as the Hoosiers continued to fight for their tournament lives. IU took not only a halftime lead, but extended it to as many as nine in the second half.
But Iowa would not be denied their first trip to the Big Ten Tournament Championship Game since 2006. They closed out the game on a 22-10 run and capped things off with a Jordan Bohannon banked three from way downtown that will go down in the history books as one of the most incredible shots in tournament history.
The win pushes the Hawkeyes to 12-2 since the calendars flipped to February and continues one of the hottest streaks in the country. The defense struggled at times, pushing Iowa’s defensive efficiency lower than it’s been in several weeks. But on the offensive end, Iowa climbed to second in the nation in offensive efficiency.
Now the Hawkeyes get to face off with a carbon copy of themselves in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency as the Purdue Boilermakers emerged with a 75-70 win over the Michigan State Spartans in Saturday’s other game. The Boilers are the only team in America with a higher adjusted offensive efficiency rating (#1 overall) than the Hawkeyes, but like Iowa they struggle for long stretches making defensive stops. Purdue comes into today’s matchup 102nd in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, six spots behind the Hawkeyes at 96th.
The similarities between the two teams statistically is why KenPom has this one being a barn-burner. Iowa is projected to win by 1 point, 81-80, in a game KenPom gives the Hawkeyes a 51% chance at winning. Vegas disagrees a bit, however, as the DraftKings Sports Book has Purdue favored by 2.5 (the line opened at Purdue -1).
That’s likely reflective of a couple of things. For starters, Purdue is an incredibly difficult matchup for Iowa. While the Hawkeyes largely play small ball with the 6’9” Filip Rebraca logging the most minutes in the low post and big men Josh Ogundele and Riley Mulvey combining for fewer than 10 minutes per game on the year (and those numbers are largely skewed by Iowa’s 21 double-digit victories on the season), the Boilermakers rely on a pair of 7-footers to man the middle.
Zach Edey and Treyvion Williams average more than 25 points and 15 rebounds in 40 minutes combined this season and both are a virtual impossibility for Iowa to guard defensively. Add to that combo one of the best players in the country in Jaden Ivey, who averages more tan 17 points per game, and the Hawkeyes will have their hands very full on the defensive end of the floor. Oh, and the Boilers have eight players in the rotation who shoot over 35% from beyond the arc on the season so collapsing the defense or hiding in a zone is not an effective long term strategy.
Those issues have led to a pair of wins for Purdue over the Hawkeyes this season. Way back in early December, the Boilermakers defeated Iowa 77-70 in West Lafeyette in a game that Keegan Murray missed. The win jumped Purdue to the top of the rankings nationally. But the Hawkeyes fought hard in that one and gave the Boilers immense trouble with their pressing defense to cut a 19-point lead down to just 2 points with 2:33 to go in the game.
In the rematch in Iowa City, Purdue led wire to wire in a game where Keegan Murray struggled and the Boilermakers got red hot from beyond the arc. Purdue shot nearly 60% from three in that late January battle, led by Isaiah Thompson, Sasha Stefanovic and Jaden Ivey, who combined to go 11 for 19 from deep.
Now the Hawkeyes look for answers against this potent Purdue offense in a game for all the Big Ten marbles. Can Iowa make it nine wins in their final ten games? Or with the Boilers play spoiler for Hawkeye fans and claim their second Big Ten Tournament Championship in program history?
As we count down to tipoff this afternoon, be sure to check out the statistical breakdown of today’s matchup. Here’s a quick reminder on the details for today’s game:
What: #24 Iowa Hawkeyes (25-9, 12-8) vs #9 Purdue Boilermakers (27-6, 14-6)
Where: Gainbridge Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, Indiana
When: 2:30 PM CT - Sunday, March 13th
Online Radio: HAWKEYE RADIO NETWORK
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
DraftKings Game Line: Purdue -2.5, Over/Under 149.5
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