Whoops, wrong Iowa. Once again I have confused the Nine from Des Moines with the Hawkeyes. Like the SIU-Edwardsville game, this preview will also serve as the open thread for tonight's contest. I will be covering a basketball game up in Lafayette, so that means I won't be able to follow along except on the radio at best. You guys did a great job during the last open thread though, so I know you can all handle it.
Honestly, we cannot ask for an easier conference road opener. If we are truly the team to beat in Big Ten play we will win tonight's game without any problems. Since Indiana beat mighty Bryant last night, the Hawkeyes are the only team currently below .500 in the Big Ten. They were the consensus last place team in the preseason and have done nothing to prove they are much better. Simply put, there is no excuse for losing this game.
Not quite the Iowa Fight Song, but it would be pretty damn cool if it was.
2008-09 record: 15-17, (5-13 Big Ten)
2009-10 record: 5-7
Blog representation: Black Heart Gold Pants
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 80-70
Last Purdue win: 49-45 at Iowa on 2/14/09
Last Iowa win: 78-59 at Iowa on 2/21/07
Purdue has won five straight in series
Some teams face a difficult non-conference schedule in order to boost their overall profile before conference play. If that were the case, Iowa's 5-7 record could be somewhat forgiveable. It is not the case, however. The Hawkeyes were a seeded team in the CBE Classic, meaning they were given a pair of winnable games at home. Even then, they were guaranteed a trip to the semifinals. Things did not go as planned in that tournament. Iowa lost to Texas-San Antonio and Duquesne at home before losing to Texas and Wichita State in the neutral court portion. The Duquesne loss was the only loss that didn't come by double digits.
Iowa then dropped its ACC/Big Ten Challenge game to Virginia Tech 70-64 before losing in-state rivalry games on the road at Iowa State and Northern Iowa. Only a 71-67 home win against Drake prevented them from going 0-for-Iowa. The win over the Bulldogs is probably Iowa's best to date. They have also beaten Division I bottom feeders Prairie View A&M, North Carolina Central, South Carolina State, and Bowling Green.
The Hawkeyes did not receive good news after the Drake win. Starting point guard Anthony Tucker, who is second on the team in scoring at 11.9 points per game, was suspended indefinitely for his second bout with public intoxication. His loss removes almost a quarter of their offense when you consider he also averages 2.9 assists per game. The Hawkeyes only average 64.9 points per game as a team, and removing Tucker is like removing 18 points when you combine points with assists. They did beat SC State 82-69 without him, but that is only South Carolina State.
6'5" sophomore guard Matt Gatens is Iowa's best player. He leads the team in scoring (13.4ppg), is second in rebounds (5.2rpg), and is second in assists (3.7 apg). He has played even better of late, averaging 19 points per game over the las four games. He has done so by improving as a 3-point shooter. He has hit four triples in each of the last four games and is shooting a very good 41% from long range for the year. If we struggled with Mark Yelovich for SIU-Edwardsville we'll struggle against Gatens, as they are similar big guards.
Unfortunately for Iowa, they don't have a lot after Gatens with the suspension of Tucker. 6'7" junior forward Jeryd Cole has become the number two scoring option and and is the main low post option. He averages 9.9 ppg and 5.8 rpg. His shooting percentage from the field is excellent at 63%, but his free throw shooting is awful at 58%. Cole has been more up and down than anything. He had a season high 24 against North Carolina Central, but had only two against Northern Iowa.
Tucker's loss also cuts deeply into Iowa's depth. Eric May (9.2ppg, 4.7rpg), Cully Payne (8.8ppg, 3rpg, 3.9apg), Brennan Cougill (5.9ppg, 4.1rpg), Aaron Fuller (3.6ppg, 2.6rpg), and Devan Bawinkel (3.2ppg) form just a seven man rotation without Tucker. Iowa only has 11 players listed on its roster as having played even one game. This is also an incredibly young team still in transition from Steve Alford to Todd Lickliter. Bawinkel is the lone senior on the roster. Finally, it has not helped that coach Lickliter had to have surgery for a frightening tear to his carotid artery.
Black Heart Gold Pants has had the unenviable task of trying to write about this team that they knew wasn't going to be very good from the beginning.. They blame the hair for all the losses piling up. Transfers and the above mentioned suspension have not helped matters either. Still, the writers of BGHP are keeping good humor. One needs only to look at their basketball section to see that. Really,w hat else can you do about it at this point? We went through this before 2007. Indiana is going through it now. Northwestern, sadly, has gone through it for decades.
Iowa is going to struggle mightily in Big Ten play. In fact, I would wager they would only be favored in their home game against Indiana on February 28th. Even that might be a stretch. Iowa does not rebound well (32.6 per game), they have struggled with turnovers (13.8 per game), and they shoot just 43% from the field as a team. Those numbers don't bring many wins, and when you look at some of the teams they have lost to it makes matters worse.
Purdue should be able to do what it wants, when it wants to do it in this game. Cougill is the only true challenger to JJ in the paint, and he is merely a freshman. Purdue's depth at guard will also challenge Gatens defensively on the outside. That leaves Cole in the post to score, which he will likely find difficulty to do so against JJ, Robbie, and Bade. This is possibly the game in which Sandi Marcius makes his long-awaited debut as well. That would give us an 11 man rotation against their seven. We can match up any three players to their one in terms of main scorers. I don't see how we can lose.
That said, we had a similar attitude last season in Iowa City. The result was a grinding 49-45 win in which the Hawkeyes made us work for every single point. Iowa will be missing Jake Kelly, however, who had 19 points int hat game, Kelly has since transferred to Indiana State. The Hawkeyes played that game with a seven man rotation as well and pretty much ran out of gas at the end. We're now a deeper, more talented team while they are missing even more. That should widen the gap a bit.
Keys to the game for Purdue
- Once again, don't blow it
Purdue 81, Iowa 58