It was expected to be a rough season for Iowa after the loss of several key seniors. It has been. The Hawkeyes fell five times in non-conference play and come into tonight's 9:00 p.m. ET game with Indiana on the heels of the team's second three-game losing skid in the Big Ten.
Fran McCaffery's team is at 14-13 overall and 6-8 in the Big Ten.
Indiana comes in on a four game losing streak and actually trail the Hawkeyes in the conference standings, sitting 5-9 in league play and 15-12 overall. Like Iowa, the NCAA tournament is pretty much a pipe dream with four games left to play in the regular season.
That wasn't suppose to happen. The Hoosiers never have found an answer at point guard following Yogi Ferrell's departure, have struggled defensively, and have been hit hard by injuries before the season (Collin Hartman) and early in Big Ten play (OG Anunoby).
Lately Indiana can't find away to win close games, most recently blowing a late five point lead in a 75-74 loss last week at Minnesota.
The good news is one team gets to end a losing streak tonight. A win will also go a long way in avoiding a Wednesday game in next month's Big Ten tournament. That's given to the bottom four seeds for the five-day event held this year in Washington, D.C. A victory this evening also may help solidify an invite for the postseason NIT tournament.
One advantage Iowa has this year is a go-to senior. Peter Jok leads the entire league in scoring (20.4 ppg) and free throw percentage (91.5) and the 6-foot-6 forward is the top rebounder (6.1) on the team.
Indiana assistant Rob Judson has the scouting assignment for tonight and talked about the challenge.
"He can score inside, he can score out," Judson said. "They're an inside-outside team and we'll have to be ready on both those fronts defensively."
Not stopping Jok has its consequences and he averaged 27.0 points in Hawkeye upset wins over Purdue and Michigan.
The only other double figure scorer for this team is power forward Tyler Cook (11.7 ppg). He's another promising freshman in the league and his 6-foot-9, 253 pound frame should help against the Indiana frontline led by Thomas Bryant and De'Ron Davis.
McCaffery was forced to put point guard in the hands of a freshman after years of the Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons tag team at the position. Jordan Bohannon, however, has performed admirably despite struggling from the floor (35.4 FG%). Unlike any of the Indiana guards, Bohannon sports of an assist to turnover ratio north of 2 to 1.
"He's been playing at a very high level (of late) and shoots it well from three," Judson said.
Other notables are long armed 6-foot-7 reserve forward Nicholas Baer (1.4 blocks), 6-foot-5 redshirt frosh wing Isaiah Moss (6.8 ppg), 6-foot-4 reserve guard Brady Ellingson (52.8 3FG%) and another talented frosh in 6-foot-9, 250 pound Cordell Pemsl (9.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg).
"Baer is one of the top shot blockers in the Big Ten and can shoot the three and Ellingson is really a dead eye from the outside," Judson said about the two bench players. "They'll play a lot of guys, so we'll have to be sharp on our personnel match-ups."
As a team Iowa is much better offensively (No. 56 in efficiency) than defensively (No. 136). One thing to watch tonight is the boards. Iowa has struggled all year in giving up offensive boards to opponents (No, 302 nationally), while Indiana is among the top 10 in the country in offensive rebound rate, grabbing 37.4 percent of misses.
McCaffery does extend his defense, something that may trouble an Indiana team that has not been able to take care of the basketball well all season.
"They're a good pressure team," Judson said. "They lead the Big Ten in steals....we'll have to have very good ball care. We'll have to attack their pressure and see if we can get some easy buckets out of it."
The Hawkeyes are pretty good at not fouling defensively and Indiana has not been good all season at drawing fouls. Big Ten opponents have made just two free throws less than Indiana has even attempted.
ESPN will have tonight's broadcast with Jason Bennett and Dan Dakich on the call. For more on Iowa and other broadcast details, check out the Hoosier Game Day page.
Projected Iowa starter with stats:
|3||G||Jordan Bohannon||6-0/182||Frosh||Marion, Ia.||9.2||4.4 apg|
|4||G||Isaiah Moss||6-5/205||Frosh||Chicago, Ill.||6.8||1.6 rpg|
|14||F||Peter Jok||6-6/205||Senior||W. Des Moines, Ia.||20.4||6.1 rpg|
|0||F||Ahmad Wagner||6-7/235||Soph||Yellow Springs, Oh.||5.1||3.4 rpg|
|5||F||Tyler Cook||6-9/253||Frosh||St. Louis, Mo.||11.7||4.5 rpg|
|35||F||Cordell Pemsl||6-8/249||Frosh||Dubuque, Ia.||9.0||4.9 rpg|
|51||F||Nicholas Baer||6-7/205||Soph||Bettendorf, Ia.||6.7||6.0 rpg|
|24||G||Brady Ellingson||6-4/193||Soph||Menomonee Falls, Wi.||5.0||1.1 apg|
|25||F||Dom Uhl||6-9/217||Junior||Frankfurt, Germany||4.4||3.8 rpg|