By Carter Benson
8 P.M. CT, Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City, IA – B1G Network
Spread: Iowa (-11)
No. 10 Iowa Hawkeyes (7-2)
The #10 Hawkeyes just suffered their most devastating loss of the season at the hands of the now #21 ranked Minnesota Gophers (95-102). Iowa now sits at 7-2 as they prepare for this Tuesday night duel against #19 Northwestern: their third conference match-up of the year. Coach Fran McCaffery and the Hawks have not won a game against a currently ranked team, but look to change that with a win against the Wildcats.
The Hawkeyes loss against the Gophers was perhaps the most telling game of Iowa’s season. The story being one of nepotism and a pecking order. Coach’s son and junior guard Conner McCaffery has managed to barely scrape by this season. McCafferry averages an abysmal 3.6 points per game off of 36.4 percent from the field. Why is there such an importance on the 10th leading scorer for the Hawks? Because he plays 22 minutes a game and has a major starting role. There are five players on the Hawkeyes roster that average more points than McCaffery, but play significantly less minutes. If that isn’t a stereotypical case of “coach’s kid”, then what is? Honorary eldest McCaffery child and fifth year senior Jordan Bohannon is in the same boat as Conner McCaffery: a sinking one. Bohannon averages the fourth most minutes for the Hawkeyes while only averaging 30.6 percent from the field, 27.9 percent from deep, and a very sub-par 6.9 points per game.
Iowa is a good college basketball team, but they aren’t great. The Hawks cannot seem to figure out defense and continue to run a failing 2-3 zone against great shooting teams. Minnesota dropped 17 threes on nearly 40 percent. Six of these threes came from junior guard Marcus Carr on his 30 point showing versus Iowa. Junior Joe Wieskamp and Wooden Award candidate Luka Garza are good for at least 35 points a game combined. Sophomore guard C.J. Fredrick has solidified himself as a walking bucket as the Hawkeyes third leading scorer behind Garza and Wieskamp. Frederick put up 23 points against the Gophers last week. Sophomore guard Joe Toussaint is the best perimeter defender on the Hawks roster, but only plays 15 minutes a game. Iowa has all the scoring in the world, but really fails on the defensive side of the ball and with their lineups. Coach Fran McCaffery has stated multiple times leading up to the season that this is the culmination of his years as a basketball coach. Awkward family dinners should not hinder that. Unless the Hawkeyes make the roster changes they desperately need, they will not ascend from a good team to a great one.
No. 19 Northwestern Wildcats (6-1)
#19 Northwestern is one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten after winning four straight. The Wildcats are 3-0 in the conference with huge wins over #17 Michigan State (79-65) and #25 Ohio State (71-70). A win over the Hawkeyes tonight would sit Northwestern on top of the Big Ten.
In their wins over the Buckeyes and Spartans, one Wildcat stood above the rest. Sophomore guard Boo Buie is averaging a solid 14.4 points per game on 46.4 percent from the field. Buie is a sturdy 6-foot-2 combo guard who can dish the ball (5.3 assists) and hit from deep at 50 percent beyond the arch. Iowa’s lack of perimeter defenders should provide Buie with the opportunity for a game similar to the shows he put on against #17 Michigan State with 30 points on 60 percent from the field and 83.3 percent from three. Every guard needs a big man that can clean up in the paint. Northwestern has two. Junior forward Pete Nance and Sophomore center Ryan Young provide the Wildcats with a suitable post presence. The two combine for roughly 19 points a game and 12 boards while shooting right above 55 percent. The Swiss Army knife of Northwestern comes from their leading scorer Miller Kopp (15.1 ppg.). Kopp is a sharp shooter with major Peja Stojaković vibes at 6-foot-7 while shooting 57.1 percent from beyond the arch. With two 23 point games coming from #25 Ohio State and Quincy, watch out for a potential 20 bomb against the lackluster Hawkeye defense.
The #19 Northwestern Wildcats are one of the hottest teams in college basketball. A four game win streak and a roster with players that can get hot any night should give way for an exciting match-up against the #10 Hawkeyes.
Analysis & Best Bet
This Tuesday night duel between the #10 Iowa and #19 Northwestern will be an electric Big Ten showdown. The Hawks are looking for redemption after a horrible loss and the Wildcats looking to extend their win streak. Northwestern has potential to put up big numbers against good teams with Kopp (15.1 ppg.) and Buie (14.4 ppg.). Iowa has one of the worst defenses of any top 50 team, so this should be a fast paced and high scoring basketball game. Northwestern is averaging 85.3 points a game while Iowa sits second in college basketball scoring with 95.1. National scoring leader Luka Garza (28.8 ppg.) and sniper Joe Wieskamp (15.8 ppg.) will do their thing tonight, but the outcome will ultimately come down to Coach Fran McCaffery. Give less of a significant role to Bohannon and Conner McCaffery, expect a significant win. Choose to keep family dinners tension free, expect a battle. Take the over at 161.