After an unplanned, one-week layoff, Indiana will return to the basketball court on Thursday night, which ... *deep breath followed by dramatic exhale* ... great. Awesome. Archieball. Gotta love it.
Will the Hoosiers find a signature win in Iowa City? Or will they find themselves staring at a third loss in four games with the teeth of the schedule closing in?
Iowa is rolling right now, riding a five-game winning streak into its meeting with IU. During the course of that stretch, the Hawkeyes have won by an average margin of ... wait for it ... 15.4 points. KenPom and the NET have Iowa slotted as the No. 3 overall team in the country, while Bart Torvik’s database has the Hawkeyes positioned at No. 4. The primary reason? Offense. The Hawkeyes can score, and score often. They’ve posted 19 runs of 10-0 or greater this season, including a 20-0 spurt against Maryland two weeks ago. They’ve also drained at least 10 3-pointers in 10 of 14 games so far. In Big Ten play alone, Iowa is shooting a league-best 41.9% from beyond the arc.
Iowa has been so good as a group that it’s taken us almost 200 words to reach the Luka Garza part of the discussion. The (very, very) likely Big Ten Player of the Year, Garza is doing just about everything for Iowa. He’s one of only two players in the country to shoot at least 60% from the field and 47% from 3-point range (among players with at least 20 made 3s). After recording only 18 points against Northwestern on Dec. 29, Garza saw his streak of 20-plus scoring efforts come to an end at 18 consecutive Big Ten games. At this point, everyone knows what they’re in for when Garza takes the floor. And that is a handful.
Jordan Bohannon is the only player other than Garza to lead the Hawkeyes in nightly scoring this season, posting 24 points in wins over North Carolina and Northwestern earlier this year. Thirty-nine of Bohannon’s 49 total field goals this season have come from beyond the arc, and he’s shooting 63% (22-for-35) from 3-point range over the last five games. In six career games against IU, Bohannon is averaging 15.3 points and shooting nearly 44% from 3-point territory.
Joe Wieskamp has also proven to have a deft shooting touch. The junior is averaging 14.4 points per game this season — he’s scored 36 across his last two games — and shooting 42% from beyond the arc. CJ Frederick can also connect from deep. He leads Iowa in 3-point accuracy (51%, 26-for-51), ranks second on the team in made 3-pointers and also leads the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (8.75). As a group, Iowa has done a good job of protecting the ball. The Hawkeyes’ overall team assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.14 paces the country.
Things to watch
How does IU respond?
After Sunday’s game against Michigan State was called off, Indiana had plenty of extra time to sit and think about what it’s done — errr, what it’s not done. It’s been an unconvincing go of it so far for the Hoosiers, who still struggle to finish close games against good teams, still can’t shoot, and still can’t beat their rival. It’s all taken a mental toll on this group, as Archie Miller acknowledged on his weekly radio show on Monday night. Thursday is the start of a stretch of five consecutive games against teams ranked inside the KenPom top 40. How will this team handle it?
How close can Indiana keep it?
The answer to this question, given all of the available evidence, is a solid probably not that close. Indiana, the fourth-worst 3-point shooting team in Big Ten play, is going to need some big shots from near and far. Duhh. Against an Iowa team that is scoring at a rate of 1.2 points per possession in league games, can the Hoosiers keep up? Or, maybe more accurately, can they find a way to slow down the Hawkeyes’ secondary scoring? The tight defensive play that folks were quick to laud last month has largely fallen off during Big Ten season, as all but one conference team (Maryland) has scored more than a point per possession against IU.
The Francon chart
Game Info / How to Watch
Who? Indiana (8-6, 3-4) at No. 4 Iowa (12-2, 6-1)
Where? Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City, Iowa.
When? Thursday, 9:00 p.m. ET
Channel? FS1 | Adam Amin (p-b-p), Nick Bahe (analyst)
Radio? IU Radio Network; Sirius 106, XM 196, Internet 958: Don Fischer, Errek Suhr & Joe Smith
Vegas? Iowa -10