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Indiana Hoosiers v. Iowa Hawkeyes: the rare letdown risk.

Iowa Hawkeyes
Current record: 7-12 (1-5)
Current RPI: 178
Current Sagarin: 179
Current Pomeroy: 165
2008-09 record: 15-17 (5-13)
2008-09 RPI: 121
2008-09 Sagarin: 81

2008-09 Pomeroy: 91
Series: IU leads 94-69
Last Iowa win: 1/3/2009 (65-60 in Iowa City)
Last IU win: 2/4/2009 (68-60 in Bloomington)
Last Iowa win in Bloomington: 2/11/2006 (70-67)
Pomeroy scouting report
TV: 6 pm, BTN

After many unusual indignities and negative milestones over the last two seasons, the Indiana Hoosiers find themselves in a strange position as a clear favorite in a Big Ten game.  Vegas favors the Hoosiers by 7.5 points.  Ken Pomeroy favors IU by 8 and gives IU a 78 percent chance of winning.  I have no good reason to expect that the Hoosiers will be anything but supremely motivated to win their third consecutive conference game, but for once, the Hoosiers are the favorite and Iowa is fighting for respect.

Just over a decade ago, Iowa fans were fairly disgruntled with Tom Davis, a solid coach who won about 65 percent of his games and took the Hawkeyes to 9 NCAA Tournaments in 13 years, but never turned Iowa into a consistently elite program.  Iowa turned to IU legend Steve Alford, who won about 58 percent of his games and won two Big Ten Tournaments, but was sub-.500 in the Big Ten and made only three NCAA Tournaments in 8 seasons.  Alford never clicked with Iowa fans for a variety of reasons, and he left, apparently voluntarily, for New Mexico after the 2006-07 season.  Now, under the direction of former Butler coach Todd Lickliter, a coaching change has coincided with another slip in the program's record.  In three seasons, Lickliter is 35-47 and has won only 12 Big Ten games.  Barring another Big Ten Tournament miracle for Iowa, a four-year class will leave Iowa City without an NCAA Tournament appearance for the first time since 1978. 

This year's Hawkeyes were expected to be historically awful.  As bad as IU's recent history has been, most preseason previewers ranked the Hoosiers #10 and the Hawkeyes #11.  While Iowa eliminated the risk of finishing 0-18 in the conference with a home win against Penn State last week, the Hawkeyes have finished within 10 of only one other Big Ten opponent (oddly, at Michigan State).  While IU has three wins over the Pomeroy top 100, Iowa has none.  As I'll discuss in more detail below, Iowa has a depleted roster, and the overmatched nature of the Hawkeyes may explain why their defense is so horrid.  Iowa's opponents are shooting over 50 percent from two point range and over 35 percent from three point range.  They force very few turnovers and very rarely block shots.  Iowa rebounds well at the defensive end, but that's it.  On the offensive end, Iowa shoots well from inside the arc, and they are somehow in the top 100 in effective field goal percentage.  Still, Iowa is a net donor when it comes to turnovers, and has the numbers one would expect of a 7-12 team.


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Matt Gatens 19 36.5 4.1 10.7 38.4 1.9 5.4 35.0 2.9 3.4 86.2 0.9 3.8 4.8 3.5 3.0 1.0 0.1 2.3 13.1
Anthony Tucker 11 31.9 4.1 11.3 36.3 2.7 8.7 31.3 1.0 1.8 55.0 0.5 3.0 3.5 2.9 2.9 0.5 0.0 1.9 11.9
Eric May 19 29.1 3.1 7.6 40.0 1.1 3.9 26.7 1.7 2.6 67.3 1.5 3.7 5.2 1.8 2.2 1.1 0.8 1.9 8.9
Cully Payne 19 32.1 2.8 7.5 38.0 1.4 4.1 34.6 1.3 1.9 64.9 0.2 2.4 2.6 3.7 3.1 0.5 0.0 1.7 8.4
Jarryd Cole 19 25.3 3.4 5.6 60.7 0.1 0.2 33.3 1.5 2.4 62.2 1.6 3.6 5.2 0.5 1.5 0.5 0.3 3.2 8.4
Aaron Fuller 17 19.2 2.8 5.6 49.5 0.3 1.1 26.3 1.8 2.7 67.4 2.3 2.6 4.9 0.7 1.3 0.4 0.2 1.6 7.6
Brennan Cougill 19 15.7 1.8 3.7 48.6 0.5 1.2 43.5 0.4 0.7 61.5 1.1 1.9 2.9 0.5 0.8 0.2 0.2 1.5 4.5
Devan Bawinkel 19 15.5 1.1 2.9 37.5 1.1 2.9 37.5 0.1 0.2 50.0 0.0 0.8 0.8 0.6 0.2 0.3 0.0 0.5 3.4
John Lickliter 8 11.8 1.0 3.1 32.0 0.9 2.9 30.4 0.4 0.5 75.0 0.1 0.4 0.5 1.0 0.4 0.4 0.0 1.5 3.3
Andrew Brommer 11 8.5 0.7 1.1 66.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.8 1.2 69.2 0.5 0.7 1.3 0.5 0.5 0.3 0.1 1.7 2.3
Nick Neari 3 2.0 0.0 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0


 

The Hawkeyes were young last year and are young this year.  Last year's leading scorer, Jake Kelly, from Carmel, Indiana, transferred to Indiana State for family reasons.  Guard Jeff Peterson, the third leading scorer, transferred.  Guard Anthony Tucker has played sparingly in both seasons, most recently because of a public intoxication arrest (he will be returning to the team on Monday).  Not counting Tucker, Matt Gatens is the Hawkeyes' only double digit scorer, but he's also shooting 38 percent from the field.  Freshman guard Eric May is playing a lot, but he's a freshman.  He's chucking up 4 three pointers per game despite making only 26 percent.  Jarryd Cole, a junior, is shooting 60 percent from the field and leads the team in rebounding.  Cully Payne is another freshman guard feeling his way through the season.  Certainly, this thin and inexperienced team is reminiscent of IU.

Again, for once, and for the last time this season, the Hoosiers are prohibitive favorites in a Big Ten game.  Still, an Iowa win would not be any more of an upset, per Pomeroy, than IU's wins over Penn State or Minnesota.  My eyes tell me that the Hoosiers are improving and should beat Iowa, but the numbers tell me that better teams than IU lose to worse teams than Iowa all the time.  Again, it is important that the Hoosiers approach this game the same way they have approached game in which they are the underdogs.  IU's recent performance has been fun for the team and the fans, but a home loss to Iowa would erase all of the momentum and much of the goodwill.  Let's hope for the best, but be mindful of the risks and the youth of IU's team as well as Iowa's.