Pre-Game: Indiana Hoosiers vs. Iowa Hawkeyes

Indiana Hoosiers vs. Iowa Hawkeyes

Thursday March 9, 6:30 pm

ESPN2

 

Indiana and Iowa will match-up for the second time this season in the second round of the Big Ten tournament in Washington DC.  Indiana controlled most of the first meeting, building a 13-point lead in the first half, and an 8-point lead late in the second, but the all too familiar combination of turnovers and lack of defense allowed Iowa to make runs in both halves and take the game to overtime where the Hawkeyes came out on top 96-90.

It is officially March, which means anything can happen, and both teams are hoping that is true.  Iowa (18-13) and Indiana (17-14) have very similar records and stand in very similar positions when it comes to NCAA tournament hopes.  The difference is Iowa has played their best basketball down the stretch of the regular season, while Indiana has completely collapsed.  The Hawkeyes have won seven out of their last ten games, including their last four, and have picked up wins at both Wisconsin and Maryland.  On the other hand, the Hoosiers are 3-8 over their last eleven games.  Both teams are still almost definitely out of the tournament, but some projections still show Iowa as a bubble team.  With that being said Iowa may have a chance to sneak in by winning only two games in the B1G tournament, but both teams are looking to win it all to guarantee an automatic bid.

 

Keys to the Game

            Tomorrow’s second round, survival game will be decided by three simple statistics: points, rebounds, and turnovers.  Turnovers have been a huge issue for Tom Crean’s teams at Indiana, and this year’s team has been the worst since the 2009-2010 season.  Indiana is averaging 15.2 per game as well as almost 4 more than their opponents, which is good enough to put them in last place in the league in turnover margin.  Iowa also struggles to take care of the ball at times, averaging 13.8 turnovers per game, but their margin is much more impressive than Indiana’s; the Hawkeyes are in sixth place in the Big Ten averaging 0.7 less turnovers than their opponents.  Taking care of the ball will be a point of emphasis for both teams tomorrow.

Another margin that really stands out with these two teams is rebounding.  Despite struggling in most other categories, Indiana has remained one of the best rebounding teams in the league this year.  They rank first in rebounding margin with an average of 7.5 more rebounds than their opponents.  The Hoosiers are also in the top five in both offensive and defensive rebounds.  The Hawkeyes aren’t too far behind in sixth place in offensive and fifth place in defensive rebounds, but they do fall in 12th place in rebounding margin.  They are one of only three teams in the Big Ten with a negative margin.  It will be crucial for Iowa to keep the Hoosiers off the boards and keep the rebounding difference close.

Two more interesting statistics to look at when comparing Iowa and Indiana are both points per game and points allowed per game.  Although both teams finished in the bottom half of the Big Ten overall standings, Indiana finished second in points per game and Iowa finished third.  These two, along with Purdue, are the only three B1G teams that averaged over 80 points per game this season.  When you look at the other side, points allowed, Indiana and Iowa are at the opposite end of the Big Ten standings.  Iowa comes in dead last in the league giving up 77.1 points per game, which also puts them in 286th place in Division I basketball.  Indiana is no better than second to last with their average of 73.3 points allowed per game.  So, what does this mean for tomorrow?  Well, it could simply just come down to a race to 80.

 

Prediction

            Last season it was Iowa who got out to a hot start, but only to collapse down the stretch and barely make the tournament.  Very similar is the story of the Hoosiers this year.  The team once ranked as high as #3 in the country is now in a position where their only chance at a tournament bid is an automatic one.  Last year’s Indiana team started the season horribly and was written off by most college basketball fans, but a mid-season turnaround and solid conference play got the Hoosiers back into the tournament.  Now, the Iowa situation is not quite as dramatic as last year’s Indiana team.  The Hawkeyes definitely still have some work to do to make the field, but their improvement throughout the season is impossible to ignore.

Like I said already, tomorrow could be a race to 80 between two of the best scoring offenses in the Big Ten.  Both teams are fighting to keep their seasons alive and hopefully move on to the next postseason tournament, whether that be the NCAA or NIT.  The Big Ten tournament has never been good news for the Hoosiers having never won a championship and only making to the championship game once in the nineteen-year old event.  The Hawkeyes have been much more successful having won two out of the three times they have made it to the championship game.  Indiana is currently favored by two points and I am going to agree with the line and take the Hoosiers 83-81.

 

Jonny Gee

Indiana University | 2020

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