The Matchup: Iowa (9-18) @ Northwestern (17-10)
Location: Welsh-Ryan Arena (Evanston, IL)
TV: ESPN (6:00 PM CT Thursday February 25th, 2010)
Radio: WGN AM 720
Fun Fact: Bill Carmody has 7 career wins over Iowa, his best mark against a Big Ten team.
About the Game
Iowa hasn’t played since an overtime loss to Michigan more than a week age. That extra time off might be good for Iowa as they aren’t the deepest team. At the same time, sometimes it’s frustrating to go on such a long layoff as it can force you out of rhythm. Of course, Iowa hasn’t exactly been in rhythm much this season. In fact, their victory over Northwestern February 10th was by far their best performance. Iowa scored 78 points in that game. That’s their best mark in a Big Ten game (in regulation) and their 3rd best overall.
In scoring those points, Iowa used a number of players. Forward Matt Gatens was effective from three point range as he has been all season (35.8% 3PT) and forward Aaron Fuller found his way to the basket inside as well. Northwestern picked up the defense in the second half of their loss to Wisconsin and stopped allowing easy penetration or interior passes, but if the Hawkeyes are smart they’ll test the ‘Cats defense with Fuller and center Jarryd Cole down low. Fuller converts 45.8% of his shots, but does take some outside shots. Shooting almost entirely from the block, Cole converts an eye-popping 58.4% of his tries. If NU lets him get the ball in scoring position it’ll be a long day for NU.
Then again, the day can’t get much longer for Northwestern than last time out against the Hawkeyes. Aside from going under screens against Gatens, the ‘Cats ignored Devan Bawinkel sitting behind the three point line and the senior from Winnebago, Illinois made them pay. How bad was the ‘Cats effort against Bawinkle? All 79 of his shots this year have come from three point range, but NU seemed to be insistent on not closing out in case he might drive. Also, Bawinkle made 5 of his 31 good threes just in the game versus NU. Basically aside from the game against NU Bawinkle made 1 three a game all year. If I were Northwestern I’d be embarrassed to let him make any in this rematch.
Speaking of embarrassed, Northwestern’s defensive effort has been pretty embarrassing since the tipoff of that loss to Iowa. NU basically only played good defense for 9:33 seconds against Minnesota (yet somehow got a win) and 10:22 against Wisconsin (resulting in a narrow loss). Why NU can’t play defense for 40 minutes I don’t know, but I hope that the emotions of senior night help get Jeremy Nash fired up as he seems to be NU’s defensive igniter. I’m not feeling the optimism I felt when picking what some thought an insane upset victory in Madison, but I’m not sure Iowa’s 1-7 road record gives them much hope in Evanston. I’ll pick the ‘Cats this time, but if they don’t win, I’m not predicting a win Sunday even if all of Penn State’s starters are declared academically ineligible and the bench players all get concussions in rebounding drills. Northwestern, 56 Iowa, 44