Point-counterpoint: Will Iowa win a game in the Big Ten Tournament?
Heading into the postseason, Iowa’s performance in the Big Ten Tournament is a toss-up.
March 11, 2019
Hawkeye basketball has at least one more win left in the tank.
Iowa will take on the winner of 14-seed Northwestern and 11-seed Illinois — two teams the Hawkeyes are undefeated against the two this season.
Of the two, the Illini pose the biggest threat of another early Hawkeye exit in the tournament. The Illinois guard tandem of Ayo Dosunmu and Trent Frazier is one of the best in the conference, but the Illini struggle in a good number of areas.
Illinois’ defense allows 75.2 points per game, with opponents knocking down 46.6 percent of shots — a game against the Illini would be a prime opportunity for an Iowa offense that just dropped 91 points.
Also, let’s not forget that Iowa drained seemingly every shot it took when the two teams clashed on Jan. 20 (68 percent from the floor, 71.4 percent from 3-point range).
Northwestern is a team that defends better than Illinois. The offense, though, falls short. The Wildcats average a conference-worst 65.8 points per game — nearly 14 points fewer than the Hawkeyes.
Vic Law remains the Wildcats’ best option offensively. Take him away, and Northwestern’s already mediocre offense falls even more.
Obviously, that’s easier said than done — the last time these two teams clashed, the forward dropped 24 points and drained five of his eight 3-point attempts.
What also helps in this case is familiarity — should the Wildcats advance past the Illini, it’ll be the third meeting between them and the Hawkeyes.
Point being, both of these teams are beatable. They finished in the bottom of the Big Ten for a reason, after all.
Iowa needs momentum heading into the NCAA Tournament, and a victory over either of these teams would be a step in the right direction. Expect a win.
Another year, another March meltdown.
After Iowa’s run of success earlier this season led me to believe it would finish strong in the regular season and in the Big Ten Tournament, I can see where I went wrong.
Iowa shouldn’t have needed buzzer-beaters to defeat Northwestern and Rutgers. It was a sign of the downfall to come.
Sure, there’s a chance Iowa beats Northwestern or Illinois, and I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised at either of those outcomes. But if the Hawkeyes keep the downward trend going, that’s going to be difficult.
Illinois has the chance to tear the Hawkeye defense apart with the play of its guards. Ayo Dosunmu and Trent Frazier have caused problems this season, leading the Illini with 14.1 and 13.6 points per game, respectively.
Northwestern could cause a problem as well, given that Iowa needed a 15-point comeback in 4:30 to beat the Wildcats at home.
Iowa also holds a record of 0-5 in its last five games in the month of March. The Hawkeyes haven’t won a game in March since the 2016-17 season, when they beat South Dakota in the NIT.
Iowa seemed to primed to bounce back against Nebraska on Sunday, but it blew a 16-point lead in 47 seconds. That’s not going to give momentum to a team that was already scuffling.
Would I be surprised if Iowa won on Thursday? No, it’s entirely possible. Is it likely the Hawkeyes win? Not exactly.