#21 Iowa @ Indiana
Location: Assembly Hall Bloomington, IN 2/12/20
Line: #21 Iowa @ Indiana -2.5; O/U 149
By: Quinten Pezoldt
#21 Iowa (17-7 8-5)
The Hawkeyes went .500 last week, getting blown out by Purdue and blowing out a sad Nebraska team. This week they go on the road to challenge the Big Ten home winning percentage at Indiana on Thursday and Minnesota on Sunday. Iowa has won 6 of their last 8 games but have lost their last two road games by a total of 44 points to Maryland and Purdue. Iowa is 4th place in the Big Ten, only 2 games behind first place Maryland and are currently projected to get a 6th seed in the NCAA Tournament come March.
Iowa currently has the best player in the Big Ten conference and National Player of the Year candidate, Luka Garza. In the best conference in college basketball this season, Luka is unstoppable, averaging 23.1 points 10 boards and almost 2 blocks per game (20+ points per game in the last 9). He is ranked third in the nation per KenPom because of his ability to score from anywhere on the court whether it be from offensive rebounds, 15 feet or even around the perimeter (59.1 eFG%). However, Mr. Garza doesn’t do it all himself. Luka and his supporting cast are the nightmare for Big Ten defenses ranking 3rd in KenPom and 2nd in Haslametrics in offensive efficiency. In their recent game against Nebraska, Joe Wieskamp (15.4 PPG 6.1 RPG) had a career game of 30 points from the help of freshman shooter CJ Fredrick. These 3 players combine for almost 50 points per game of the 79.1 points per game team average.
The Hawkeyes have been able to score at least 72 points but have allowed teams to also score 72 in 3 of their last 4 games. However, they’ve shown that they can ramp up their defense and hold teams like Illinois to 65 and Wisconsin to 62 points. Iowa has been playing with more of a “give and take” tempo this season compared to previous seasons. They are 14-7-3 against the spread this season and are 9-3-3 in their last 15 (best in the Big Ten conference).
Indiana (15-8 5-7)
On Thursday, the Hoosiers will get another chance at home against Iowa to break their 4-game losing streak to some of the titans of the Big Ten (Maryland, Penn State, Ohio State, and Purdue). Their streak has landed them outside the bubble for the tournament in March and at the bottom of this dominant conference.
Indiana has a very outspoken difference between their home and road offensive efficiencies. On the road, their offense ranks in the bottom 30 while at home they are in the top 20 in the nation. This Indiana offense is ranked #43 in the nation currently, while Iowa comes in at #93 on defense giving them a marginal edge offensively. The leading scorers for Indiana are freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis who averages 13.8 points, 7.9 boards, and 2 blocks per game and junior Justin Smith with 11.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Recently, their facilitator has been kept in check, getting less and less assists, averaging 2 turnovers and fewer than 8 points a night since the start of the losing streak.
Indiana is a team that prefers to shoot inside the perimeter at a high efficiency ranking them 36th in the country in terms of effective field goal percentage but has only scored 70 points or more in 3 games since the start of 2020. They have earned the right to be called the best defensive rebounding team in the conference and will look to control the pace of the game off the glass being that Iowa’s game plan is mainly to get a shot up and crash the offensive board with their size. If the Hoosiers want to break their streak, they’ll need veteran center Joey Brunk to minimize Luka’s footprint and curb Iowa’s offensive rebounding. Indiana is 10-13 against the spread and a game ahead of Northwestern who is last in the conference against the spread.
Despite the Hoosiers losing their last 4 games straight up and against the spread, they are still favored by a point or two depending on the book. In Iowa’s last 4, they’ve covered 2 including a 24-point blowout of Nebraska.
A sport psychologist, Yair Galily, studied the effect of “must win game” on the odds to win saying that teams in this situation are 10% less likely to win the game. The Hoosiers must win to stay in the NCAA tournament bubble conversation. In this game, Indiana will out-size the opposition but, It’s not about the size of the boat rather the motion of the ocean. So I’ll be going with Luka Garza and his hitters. Take Iowa +2.