Losers of four in a row, it feels like now or never for Indiana.
With just four more games remaining on their home court, the Hoosiers need to win five more games to get to .500 in the Big Ten. While a sub .500 mark in the deepest conference in the country might not preclude an NCAA Tournament invite, IU obviously cannot fall much farther.
Each opponent that remains on the schedule is ranked No. 31 or better according to KenPom, and IU is only predicted to win two more games according to that service.
With a player that many believe should be the national player of the year arriving in Bloomington on Thursday night, the Hoosiers will have to be on top of their game if they want to snap their losing skid and keep their postseason hopes alive.
GAME DAY ESSENTIALS
No. 21/17 Iowa (17-7, 8-5) at Indiana (15-8, 5-7)
- Tip time: Thursday / 8 p.m. ET
- Location: Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Ind.
- Television: BTN (Stream). Dave Revsine and Shon Morris.
- Series: Indiana leads 102-78 (Last meeting: Iowa won 76-70 in 2019 in OT at Iowa)
- Point Spread: Vegas has Indiana by around 1 point. KenPom likes Iowa by 1 point.
- Tickets (Seat Geek affiliate link)
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Iowa Statistical Leaders
- Luka Garza (C) 23.1 ppg
- Joe Wieskamp (G) 15.4 ppg
- Luka Garza (C) 9.9 rpg
- Joe Wieskamp (G) 6.1 rpg
- Connor McCaffery (G) 3.7 apg
- C.J. Fredrick (G) 2.8 apg
- Joe Toussaint (G) 1.3 spg
- Luka Garza (C) 1.7 bpg
A look at KenPom No. 18 Iowa’s noteworthy advanced metrics:
The league’s best offense. Iowa checks in with the most efficient offense in the league, both in conference games and overall. In all games they come in at No. 3 in the country. With an effective field goal percentage of 50.7 percent and a free throw percentage of 77.7 percent, the Hawkeyes are capitalizing on possessions. Iowa has five players with an offensive rating in the top 250 nationally.
Defense a different story. Iowa gets into a lot of high scoring games because consistent with recent years, their defense is not very good. The Hawkeyes are No. 13 in league games in defensive efficiency, and No. 13 in effective field goal percentage defense. One wildcard, the Hawkeyes switch defenses regularly. Head coach Fran McCaffery’s switch to a zone in the 2019 meeting in Bloomington changed the game as Iowa left with a win.
A battle on the boards. Iowa isn’t a particularly big team, and their depth in the front court took a hit when reserve forward Cordell Pemsl was suspended for this game. But Iowa rebounds 33 percent of their misses. Luke Garza, Joe Wieskamp and Ryan Kreiner will all be factors in that regard. Iowa has done better on the offensive glass in league games than an IU team that prides itself on getting second chances. If one team is able to put together a dominant effort on the offensive glass it could be the difference in this one.
HAWKEYES PLAYING WELL DESPITE MAJOR LOSSES
It was difficult to predict Iowa’s success this season.
The Hawkeyes lost major pieces to their 2018-19 squad including three starters in forward Tyler Cook (graduated) and guards Isaiah Moss (transferred) and Jordan Bohannon (injury).
In addition, freshman forward Patrick McCaffery and sophomore Jack Nunge were also lost for the season due to injuries, and now Pemsl will miss Thursday’s game after being suspended.
The emergence of Garza as a potential All-American and Wieskamp into an all-Big Ten level talent along with several other players fitting into their roles well has helped the Hawkeyes survive those key hits to their roster.
GARZA HAS MILLER’S VOTE FOR NATIONAL PLAYER OF THE YEAR
By any measure, Luka Garza’s 13.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game as a sophomore was a solid second season for the Washington D.C. product.
No one would have predicted that he would have doubled that production as a junior, but that is exactly what the 6-foot-11 Garza has done. Averaging 26.1 points and 9.6 rebounds in league games thus far, Indiana head coach Archie Miller could not be more impressed with the Iowa center.
“If it ended today, and I had a vote, Luka Garza would be the national Player of the Year,” Miller said. “To go through our league with how our league’s played this season, and to be averaging 26 and whatever it is, ten and a half in league play, you know, is about as impressive of a guy so far as we’ve seen.”
Garza has been able to play about seven more minutes per contest than he did last season. In part, he is staying out of foul trouble.
But Garza has also shown the endurance to play at a high level for 30 minutes per contest. Although he has some old-school big man aspects to his game, Garza isn’t just standing on the block waiting for post-entry passes. And with Iowa’s up-tempo pace, Garza is constantly on the move on both ends of the floor.
“Incredible motor, I don’t know if people really understand how hard he plays during the course of the game,” Miller said. “He never stops running, he’s got great size, hands and he’s very physical. He never stops running. I mean his motor is constant with the way he runs the floor.”
With defenses focused on Garza, the Hawkeyes have deadly three-point shooters ready to make teams pay on the perimeter. C.J. Fredrick shoots 47 percent from deep, and Joe Weiskamp converts at a 38.1 percent clip from three-point range.
“I think that’s part of the success that Luka has. He has a great supporting cast around him that can also, you know, really, really space the floor around him,” Miller said.
But defending Garza doesn’t start and stop in the post. The big man has expanded his game out to all levels of the floor. Garza is making 38 percent of his three-point attempts.
That versatility has made him an especially tough cover.
It is a code that no one in the Big Ten has been able to crack. Garza has only been held below 20 points once in league play, and that was a 16 point, 18 rebound effort at Nebraska.
“You know, he does it in such a unique way that he’s very difficult to say, hey, we are going to take the ball out of his hands with traps or hey, we are going to double him, we’re going to do this,” Miller said. “He scores every which way form or fashion, whether it’s transition, deep post catches, offensive rebounding.
“If you move him 12 to 15 feet, he’s probably as good of a face-up jump shooter as you’re going to see and he also has great savvy to use his body and play off the different ways that people play him, so he’s drawing fouls. You mix in the three-point line, shoot in the high 30s, I mean, he’s shooting an unbelievable percentage from three off some pick-and-pops and off transition and whatnot.
“So he’s hitting you from all levels, so it’s tough to throw — hey we want to dedicate to him and do this. Like I said, there’s a reason offensively they are this good.”
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