Don’t look now, but Indiana men’s basketball has won multiple games in the Big Ten Tournament. It’s an event known to be full of pitfalls for the Hoosiers, but head coach Mike Woodson is changing the narrative so far.
Indiana avenged two regular season losses when it took down No.8-seed Michigan in its first game on Thursday and then No. 1-seed Illinois on Friday. That second win likely locked up a bid for the NCAA Tournament as well, so there’s another drought ended.
But the Hoosiers didn’t come to Indianapolis just to win two games, they’re in it to win it. Next up: No. 5-seed Iowa.
Indiana is a 6-point underdog against Iowa, per DraftKings, and the Hawkeyes have turned in an incredible performance in their own two games.
Here’s a few things to watch during the game:
Yes, Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis won Big Ten Player of the Year, but Iowa forward Keegan Murray gave him a run for his money and was a pretty close second.
Murray isn’t just Iowa’s leading scorer, he’s the Big Ten’s leading scorer with 23.4 points per game. Murray has a 55.7% scoring percentage from the field, good for fifth in the conference.
That’s not all, he’s also third in the conference in rebounds per game with 8.6
Murray will present a unique challenge for Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis, especially after going against Kofi Cockburn. Murray, like Jackson-Davis, is a true forward. It’s a matchup that’ll be key to both teams’ gameplans and the final outcome.
The rest of Fran McCaffrey’s offense
Iowa head coach Fran McCaffrey, he of a notoriously red face, has built the Hawkeyes into an offensive juggernaut. Sure, they don’t have two-time Big Ten Player of the Year Luka Garza anymore, but the Hawkeyes haven’t missed a beat.
McCaffrey’s team can boast the conference’s best offense, scoring 84 points per game. Iowa made this well known in its first game of the tournament, scoring 112 points (!!!) against poor, poor Northwestern.
When Murray isn’t working defenders on the interior, Iowa can rely on 3-pointers from Jordan Bohannon. Bohannon is third in the Big Ten in 3-point percentage with 39.1%
But there’s a downside to all that offense. Iowa has the second worst scoring defense in the Big Ten, allowing teams to score 71.3 points per game. On top of that, Indiana has the second best defense, allowing just 65.5 points per game.
Indiana is on a streak of frustrating opponents into scoring droughts in the second half. Iowa is on an offensive tear. Something has to give.
There’s a lot to be excited to watch here, but keep in mind that both of these teams will be playing their third game in three days. This isn’t so bad, but it could lead to less fireworks.
Teams just get tired, especially in a rough and tumble, physical league like the Big Ten. With both top seeds out of the tournament, look for this to show up more often.