Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports
IU looks to start out Big Ten play with a win on the road against a very dangerous Iowa Hawkeyes team. A double digit win would put IU fans at ease.
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It is here! Finally conference season is beginning as the Hoosiers are starting to experience some severe cases of Restless Fan Syndrome. Nothing can cure the gripes and complaints about scheduling quicker than the grueling one with which our Hoosiers are to face in the conference season. I'm not sure it can start out any trickier or more dangerous than having to go into Iowa City to face off against a hungry Iowa Hawkeyes.
Certainly if this were Michigan or Ohio State on the road players would be amped but with recent slow starts I would lie if I wasn't concerned about being picked off by a sniper in the grass to open conference. This is a game that has been circled on my calendar all year long as one that I want badly. Starting off conference with a upset loss to Iowa could send this fan base already on edge, overboard. But lets ignore that for a moment and take a look at the team we're facing off with.
Iowa is actually eerily similar in their non-conference schedule and results. There is no shame in the loss they have to Witchita St. That is a tough team on a neutral court. No reason for Iowa to hang their head there. Unfortunately they failed to respond to that loss positively by dropping a game to an OK Virginia Tech team. Iowa served as Va Tech senior guard Erick Green's national coming out party.
Since then it has been one quality win against Iowa State at home and then cupcakes. So I can't be certain what exact product has to offer. On paper they certainly look like a team that can make some noise. Iowa runs deep with 9 players getting at least 35% of the game's minutes. By comparison the Hoosiers only run 8 guys that deep. Though with the return of Derek Elston you can see that bump up to a 9th.
Aaron White is definitely the guy that the Hoosiers have to worry about most as he is the country's 64th most efficient player. I'd imagine that Watford and Zeller will pull the defensive duties there. Which brings up to a matchup issue that Hoosiers are going to face. We saw in the Butler game that Crean opted to go smaller to match a small lineup at the end of the game defensively. In this game the Hoosiers are going to have a decided height advantage as the only player the Hawkeyes have that tops 6-8 is freshman 7 footer Adam Woodbury. Woodbury is a guy that I billed as Iowa's Cody Zeller when he committed. He wasn't as highly touted as Zeller but he's going to have a similar impact when he gets a few more pounds on. Iowa has been lacking a true post guy for awhile now and Woodbury will offer that down the road. Unfortunately for Iowa he's not quite there.
Indiana's height should provide a defensive nightmare for Iowa. They don't have a starter that can match Zeller in the post. They're going to have to try and make it up on offense by pulling Cody out of the lane and force him to defend the perimeter. If Iowa does that I see the Hoosiers going zone to force Iowa to shoot over them instead of playing inside. If that scenario plays out then I don't see Iowa pulling this off. Force the Hawkeyes into a jump shooting team and the game should be over quickly. But with the Hoosiers luck they'll get hot and shoot us out of the gym. Iowa is capable of such although it shouldn't be expected.
The game will truly come down to how Vic, Yogi and Hulls can handle the slashers of Marble, Gesell and Clemmons. If the guards can keep Iowa's from the drive and kick to Mr. Automatic Aaron White on the perimeter this should go Indiana's way. I consider this to be the first true defensive test to how the perimeter tandem of Yogi and Hulls can hold up defensively. If Indiana can keep the pace fast it should be no problem. It is when teams settle into a half court offense that those two (more specifically Hulls) get victimized.
Hoosiers fans should look for IU to dictate the pace. Feed the post and hope for Oladipo to continue to do his thing. If all three of these things happen it should be a easy win and happy new year for Hoosier nation.