The Iowa Hawkeyes (12-6, 4-3) have their first road game in nearly two weeks with a trip to Columbus for a game against the sliding Ohio State Buckeyes (10-8, 2-5). The Bucks are on a gnarly streak of five straight losses, all by single digits. With an advanced stats resume which belie the loss column, it’s worth wondering if tomorrow afternoon will be a “get right” game for them or the latest in a long line of disappointing results.
Chris Holtmann is in his sixth season at OSU, with the strongest showing coming in his first at 15-3 in conference and 25-9, overall. Since then, his squads are exactly .500 in conference and while they’ve made the tournament every year, the 2-5 conference start has his seat warming up.
The recent iterations of Ohio State basketball has resembled Iowa, in some respects: strong offensively with defense as a bit of an afterthought. As we all know, when the ball is finding its way into the net, it’s a joy to watch but when it isn’t, you end up with losses to the two worst teams in the conference over a seven-day span. I’ve caught some of their games, and the waning moments feature stodgy offense and action which doesn’t really free up a shooter without a nice individual effort. They’ve brought in plenty of talent so there’s definitely something which isn’t clicking.
It’s totally weird, though. The stats are there. They’re top 20 in three-point percentage offense AND defense. They’re not too loose with the ball and willing rebounders. Conference play has been a little bit different story but with six of their seven games finishing inside of 10 points, specific dropoffs are going to matter. Their two point shooting, in particular, is dreadful at 42.4% in Big Ten play, and Iowa might be the tonic for that as they yield the highest effective field goal percentage.
Stoppable force, meeting moveable object.
Can Iowa postpone the statistical darling from revealing itself just one more game? What it ultimately comes down for me is that, much like Iowa’s game against Indiana, Ohio State is desperate. I think they’re good but their performances which saw them sneak into the AP rankings (and climb to 9th in KenPom) are some combination of beatdowns against teams-who-aren’t-as-good-as-we-thought (Cincinnati & Texas Tech) with a dash of overperformance in losses to other good teams (North Carolina & Purdue). Plus, they didn’t leave non-conference with an anchor around their neck.
Yet once it got to conference season, they’ve shriveled up. I think they’re good somewhere. Holtmann is a fine enough coach and he’s certainly got a talent squad judging by the recruiting rankings, high school and transfer-wise.
Brice Sensabaugh is the guy who makes them go. He shoots a league-high 36.0% of shots when he’s on the court which is an insane spot to be in where Zach Edey exists in the Big Ten. The minutes/game is a little jaded by virtue of him not starting for the first half of the season. In the last 10 games, he’s averaged 28.4 minutes per game. Worth noting, though, that he’s pretty foul prone with three foul-outs and three more games with four. Can Kris Murray take advantage of that? I’d like to think so.
The flipside is he does well to draw fouls at 4.4/40 minutes in conference play. He can fill it up from pretty much anywhere on the court. Maybe Iowa runs the “let him wear himself out” defense like they did with Jett Howard the other week.
For Iowa, to me it comes down to more of the same. Keeping Payton Sandfort hot. Not starting out in a hole behind strong guard-play, especially on defense. Keep Kris Murray, Connor McCaffery, and Filip Rebrača out of foul trouble. Timely work from Josh Dix & a little spice from Dasonte Bowen.
The X-factor becomes: Patrick McCaffery. He’s been practicing and made the trip. He’s a good ball player and would help Iowa but, basketball-wise, this team has found its groove without him. Easing him back in without upsetting the applecart may prove to be Fran McCaffery’s toughest test, rotation-wise, since I can remember. The easy answer would be to use him as a sub to the frontcourt’s Ironman rotation. Like most things that’s pretty easy for me to say from my couch, though.
About the Buckeyes
Season averages: Team / Opponent
PPG: 77.0 / 66.1
RPG: 39.3 / 33.5
APG: 12.7 / 11.6
TOPG: 11.3 / 11.6
FG%: 46.7% / 40.4%
3P%: 38.2% / 29.1%
Chris Holtmann: 6th season at Ohio State, 12th overall
Record: 117-64 (.646) at Ohio State, 231-149 (.608) overall
PPG: Brice Sensabaugh 17.0, Justice Sueing 13.1
RPG: Zed Key 8.0 (3.2 ORPG), Sensabaugh 5.6 (1.1 ORPG)
APG: Bruce Thornton 3.0, Isaac Likekele 2.7
FG%: Key 60.3%, Okpara 57.8% (13.0 MPG)
3P%: Sensabaugh 45.8%, Thornton 43.1%
G - #2 Bruce Thornton, Fr, 6’2”, 215 lbs: 9.2 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.0 APG, 43.1% FG, 43.1% 3P, 29.7 MPG
G - #4 Sean McNeil, Gr, 6’4”, 205 lbs: 9.9 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 42.2% FG, 39.1% 3P, 28.9 MPG
F - #14 Justice Sueing, R Sr, 6’6”, 210 lbs: 13.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.2 APG, 44.2% FG, 25.5% 3P, 28.9 MPG
F - #10 Brice Sensabaugh, Fr, 6’6”, 235 lbs: 17.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 49.3% FG, 45.8% 3P, 23.9 MPG
F - #23 Zed Key, Jr, 6’8”, 255 lbs: 12.1 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 3.2 ORPG, 1.2 BPG, 60.3% FG, 30.0% 3P, 25.3 MPG
Last 5 games:
L - at Nebraska, 63-60 (1/18)
L - v Rutgers, 68-64 (1/15)
L - v Minnesota, 70-67 (1/12)
L - at Maryland, 80-73 (1/8)
L - v Purdue, 71-69 (1/5)
2023 KenPom: ($)
AdjEfficiency: +18.27 (21)
AdjOffense: 117.5 (11)
AdjDefense: 99.2 (82)
AdjTempo: 67.3 (194)
AdjEfficiency: +16.24 (31)
AdjOffense: 115.5 (13)
AdjDefense: 99.3 (111)
AdjTempo: 65.0 (289)
Bart Torvik: 20
Evan Miyakawa: 26