A Rough Week for the Hawks
Before you read the recap for this week, take a deep breath. This Iowa team has the right stuff and is more than capable of recovering from a bad week. I have seen so many reactions this week saying that this team can't win a tournament game, and that they are going to get smoked no matter who they get matched up against in the NCAA tournament. I disagree. Getting to postseason tournaments, where coaches don't have 4 to 5 days to prepare for the offensive sets, may be the best medicine for this Iowa team. They have so many weapons on the offensive end that they are being picked across the country as a team that could make a deep run in the playoff. With that in mind, take some positives out of this week and keep the faith!
The Week in Review
February 26, 2019, 6:00 P.M. CT
Ohio State 90 Iowa Hawkeyes 70
Final Betting Line: Ohio State -3.5
The Positives: Nobody got hurt and the Hawks are as healthy as they can be at this point in the season. Their shooting percentage was substantially better than it has been in recent weeks and they limited their turnovers (10). They never gave up and they cut the Ohio State lead to 12 prior to the McCaffery (father and son) technical fouls.
The Negatives: The Hawks just seemed a step slow on Tuesday. In a season that I have reveled in their renewed dedication to play solid defense, the game against the Buckeyes gave me flashbacks from last year. The defense was seemingly a step slow in their rotations and too many times failed to boxout on missed Ohio State shots, giving up a nine (9) offensive rebounds. Oh, and Iowa failed to slow down Justin Ahrens, who came into Tuesday's game scoring just over 2 points per game, and allowed him to score 29 points.
On offense, Iowa failed to put pressure on Ohio State's defense, and only made 14 trips to the free throw line (compared to Ohio State's 24). Additionally, Iowa didn't create enough opportunities from 3-point range, shooting only 6/19 (32%) compared to Ohio State's 12/32 (38%)
The Takeaway: Ultimately, this is just one game. It was a poorly executed defensive gameplan by Iowa. They seemed to be a step slow and for the first time this year seemed overwhelmed by the moment. After opening the game on 7-0 scoring run, Iowa lost their groove and never really got it back. Ohio State's physicality bothered Iowa for most the night and Iowa never found a way to cope.
Despite all the bad things that happened to Iowa in this game, it is not time to hit the panic button. This team still has the size and depth to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament, they just need to survive the Big Ten.
March 2, 2019, 4:00 P.M. CT
Rutgers Scarlet Knights 86 Iowa Hawkeyes 72
Final Betting Line: Iowa -8.5
Iowa City, Iowa
The Positives: Iowa continued to generate opportunities at the free throw line, attempting 36 free throws compared to Rutgers 26 attempts, making 24 of those attempts compared to Rutgers 15 makes. Those numbers would have been much more skewed in Iowa's favor had they not needed to start fouling with 4 minutes left in the game. Iowa also pulled down 15 offensive rebounds, out rebounding one of the best offensive rebounding in the Big Ten by 4, and scoring 12 second chance points.
The Negatives: Iowa was ice cold from the field again, shooting 36% from the field and 28% from behind the 3-point line. Iowa settled for 3-point shots too many times in this game, and the physicality of Rutgers really bothered Iowa as the game wore on. Iowa also had some self-inflicted turnovers early in the first half that cost them the opportunity to build on a solid first couple minutes of the game.
The Takeaway: In revisiting this game, I was surprised by the stats. Iowa did a ton of things right in this game. Ultimately, long scoring droughts and long field goal droughts cost Iowa this game. In the 2nd half, Iowa went a span of over 10 minutes without scoring from the field. During that time, they continued to attack the basket and score from the free throw line. If they hadn't, this game would have ended much worse. That long field goal drought was in addition to a pair of nearly 4 minute scoring droughts in the first half that pushed Rutgers to their 9 point halftime lead.
Going into this game, I was worried that Iowa was going to be dominated on the glass, and they weren't. Even though it is hard to do, there are quite a few positives that can be taken from this game. This game boils down to one simple fact, Iowa couldn't find their groove shooting. If they can find that shooting groove in time, this team is built for a deep March run.
A Look Ahead
The coming week presents a challenge for a scuffling Iowa team, with trips to Madison to face Wisconsin (Thursday, March 7, 6:00 P.M. CT ESPN) and Lincoln to face Nebraska (Sunday, March 10, 1:00 P.M. CT BTN).
The Wisconsin Badgers are a physical team, that pride themselves on defense and force teams to play defense for the entire 30 second shot clock. Iowa will be looking for revenge, as they lost the first meeting between the two teams on November 30 by a score of 72-66. The Iowa bigs will be tested on Thursday, as Wisconsin has one of the best forward groups in the Big Ten, led by 2018 All-American Ethan Happ. The Iowa guards will also have to be strong with the basketball and play under control. The Wisconsin guards play strong on ball defense and draw a ton of charges. Much has been made of Wisconsin's drawing of charges and the fact that they are trying to draw charges whenever possible. Turnovers, offensive fouls, and whether Iowa's bigs can contain Ethan Happ will go a long ways to determining this game. Despite all that, the biggest key will be whether Iowa can find their stride on the offensive end.
I don't really know what to make of Nebraska this year. Iowa defeated a then 24th ranked Nebraska 93-84 when the teams squared off on January 6. In the time since, Nebraska has lost 10 of 14 games and have fallen to 12th in the Big Ten standings. Nebraska has shown very little consistency on the offensive or defensive end in the games since Iowa saw them in January. I think this game will be less about what Nebraska is trying to do and more about whether Iowa can dominate the paint and correct the shooting woes that have been plaguing them over the last few weeks. If Jordan Bohannon, Joe Wieskamp, or Isaiah Moss can score more than 20 and both Garza and Cook can eclipse double digits, I foresee Iowa having a good day in their season finale.
As we stare down the final week of the season, Iowa needs one win to clinch the 6th seed in the Big Ten without having to worry about any other results in the league. I think they get that much needed win. Nebraska is reeling and I think Iowa can impose their will on the Huskers. Wisconsin is a tougher prediction for me. I think if the Iowa that played Michigan shows up in Madison on Thursday, Iowa will win walking away, but if the Hawks can't figure out the shooting woes from the last few weeks, it will be a long night in Madison. Do I believe the Hawks can win? Yes. Do I think it is likely? Not at this point. I will be more than happy to eat my words, but I see Iowa finishing the week 1-1 and finishing the season 22-9 and 6th in the Big Ten.
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Current Big Ten Standings (Following Games on Saturday, March 2)
1. Purdue - 22-7 (15-3)
2. Michigan State - 23-6 (14-4)
3. Michigan - 25-4 (14-4)
4. Maryland - 21-8 (12-6)
5. Wisconsin - 20-9 (12-6)
6. Iowa - 21- 8 (10-8)
7. Ohio State 18-11 (8-10)
8. Minnesota - 18-11 (8-10)
9. Rutgers - 14-14 (7-11)
10. Illinois - 10-18 (6-11)
11. Indiana - 15-14 (6-12)
12. Nebraska - 15-14 (5-13)
13. Penn State - 12-17 (5-13)
14. Northwestern - 12-16 (3-14)