Iowa pregame: The Storyline

The Minnesota/Iowa game is big not just for rivalry purposes but because the Hawkeyes have been playing well while the Gophers need to avoid a fourth Big Ten loss at home.

Iowa is 14-10 on the year but don’t let the ten losses fool you, they are above .500 in Big Ten play (6-5) having won three in a row.  Sunday Iowa beat Nebraska by 11 plus recently defeated Rutgers (second time this year) and Ohio State.  Their biggest win of the season was beating Purdue by five in Iowa City (they’ve also beat Michigan).

As good as Iowa has been as of late they are struggling outside of Iowa City.  This is a Hawkeye team with a 12-3 record in Carver-Hawkeye Arena and a 2-7 mark outside of their building.  Those two wins came at Rutgers and in Des Moines against Northern Iowa.

Iowa’s 6-foot-6 senior shooting guard Peter Jok is the Big Ten’s leading scorer at 20.6 points per contest overall, 17.7 a game in league play.  Jok missed two games to injury but returned Sunday to score a dozen points in 30 minutes.  Jok missed all four of his three-point attempts and was 2 of 7 from the field but made all eight of his foul shots and dished out five assists.

Iowa point guard Jordan Bohannon earned himself Big Ten Freshman of the Week recently for his play against Nebraska and Rutgers.  Jordan is scoring just under ten a game shooting 38 percent at the arc and dishing out 4.5 assists a night with a two to one assist to turnover ratio. 

Also playing well for the Hawkeyes has been 6-foot-4 sophomore wing Brady Ellingson and 6-foot-9, 253 pound freshman big Tyler Cook.  Ellingson is a worker off the bench doing whatever he can to help his team.  Cook is the second leading scorer at a dozen a game and he’s paired with 6-foot-8 250 pound Cordell Pemsl, another freshman, to make a potent frontcourt.

Iowa will be the younger team as four of their top five players are freshman (6-foot-5 Isaiah Moss is also having a strong year) and seven of their top eight rotation guys are underclassmen.

Minnesota is somewhat young with Amir Coffey starting as a freshman, Eric Curry being a freshman sixth man, and sophomore Dupree McBrayer being the first guard off the bench while fellow second year player Jordan Murphy starts.  But the Gopher eight man rotation also includes a senior and three juniors so they will without a doubt be the veteran team.

The Golden Gophers broke a five game losing streak last Saturday with a 68-59 win in Champaign.  This improved Minnesota’s Big Ten road record to 3-3 but now they have to win at home where they’ve lost to Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Maryland.  Sure the Gophers weren’t given any favors by the Big Ten scheduling in that regard but things will even out over the next month.

Gopher big Reggie Lynch played 32 minutes in Champaign meaning he’s played 24 or more minutes in four of the last five games.  Foul trouble is something he’s starting to manage (although he fouled out in two of those five games late and it hurt the team).  Lynch had 15 points, six rebounds, and two blocks against Illinois and the fourth year player is starting to control games more and more by completing post entries.

Minnesota’s RPI rank is 24th right now after playing such a tough schedule (they are 16-7 against that schedule).  They have the 12th best strength of schedule in the nation.   Iowa’s RPI is 100 so that won’t help the Gopher RPI but a win is all that matters at this point.

Minnesota Coach Richard Pitino was on the radio last night and was asked if he would consider replacing Jordan Murphy in the starting line-up with Eric Curry.  Murphy has been struggling but Pitino doesn’t see it that the same as when he put senior Akeem Springs in for McBrayer because that was about adding veteran leadership.

The Gophers come into Wednesday’s game at 8th in the Big Ten while Iowa is 6th.  A win over the Hawkeyes would push Minnesota’s record to 5-6 in the Big Ten and would actually put them in the upper half of the conference. 

Wednesday night will be special as it will give Gopher fans a chance to honor long time basketball and football announcer Ray Christensen who died on Monday at the age of 92.  Ray was the voice of Gopher athletics for 50 years.

The Ray Christensen banner has hung in Williams Arena for several years and it will be extra special on Wednesday.

“The path to the Final Four is paved with Gold!” – Ray Christensen, 1997.



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