Big Ten play returns to Mackey Arena tomorrow night. The Iowa Hawkeyes come in with a top 25 ranking and Purdue has a chance to renew its push towards the NCAA Tournament. We certainly looked much better in the last two games over Christmas break. Double digit home wins over decent mid-majors had a feel of taking care of business, something his team has lacked this year.
To make the NCAA Tournament I think we’re going to have to go 11-7 in these final 18 games to feel safe. With seven teams currently in the top 25 and with Minnesota, Purdue, and Maryland all having either received votes or been in the top 25 this year the conference presents a ton of opportunities for good wins. It’s not like we have a bad non-conference loss, either. An 11-7 record would have us 20-11 overall before the Big Ten Tournament and likely be more than enough get into the field.
We need to hold serve at home though, and that begins with Iowa.
From: Iowa City, Iowa
Date: Thursday, January 3, 2019
Tip Time: 7pm
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: No Line Yet
2017-18 Record: 14-19, 4-14 Big Ten
2018-19 Record: 11-2, 0-2 Big Ten
Opponent Blog: Black Heart Gold Pants
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 89-76
Last Iowa Win: 83-78 at Iowa on 1/12/2017
Last Purdue Win: 87-64 at Purdue on 1/20/2018
NCAA Tournament History: 25 appearances, 1956 NCAA Runner-up
Coach: Fran McCaffery (163-122 in 9th season at Iowa. 414-299 overall)
Iowa has been a surprise this season. They went 0-2 in their early December Big Ten games against Wisconsin and Michigan State, but outside of the league they got work done with an 11-0 mark. That includes some good wins over Oregon, UConn, Iowa State, and Pittsburgh. They struggled to a 72-67 win over 3-8 Bryant in their last game, but this is still a good team that has earned its ranking.
The Hawkeyes have gotten it done with balance in its starting lineup. Tyler Cook, who is somehow only a junior, leads them at 16.8 points per game. Luka Garza, a 6’11” center, has been great with 12.7 points per game. These two form a formidable frontcourt that will definitely test us. Garza missed the last two games, however, with a sprained ankle and is listed as day-to-day.
In the backcourt Jordan Bohannon (10.5 ppg) and Joe Wieskamp (11.2 ppg) are both productive. Isaiah Moss, Connor McCaffery, and Nick Baer also average better than 7 points per game. That gives the Hawkeyes a lot more consistent options than Purdue on offense. Overall the Hawkeyes are averaging 83 points per game, but if Garza can’t go that limits what they can do.
Overall Iowa is not a great shooting team, but Cook is shooting 59.2% from the floor. Wieskamp is their best three-point shooter at 42.9%. They also have one of the worst defenses in the Big Ten. Only Illinois is giving up more points per game than Iowa’s 71 ppg. One thing Iowa is great at is getting to the free throw line. No team in the conference has shot more free throws, and they lead the Big Ten at 74.1% (just ahead of Purdue at 74%).
One thing that stood out to me in looking at the Big Ten statistics is how poorly Purdue has defended the perimeter. I knew it was bad when Notre Dame, Texas, and Florida State were not good three-points hooting teams and had good nights, but Purdue has allowed teams to shoot 36.9% from three, given up 333 attempts, and 123 makes from long range. All of these marks are by far the worst in the conference. Maryland has given up the next most made threes at 97.
Fortunately, Purdue’s defense was much better against Belmont and that needs to continue. In Big Ten play we’re going to live and die by our defense. We’re rebounding well for the most part scoring just fine at 78.4 per game, and starting to get contributions for people not named Carsen Edwards. We need to keep getting better defensively. We looked better the last two games for sure, but Iowa will be a test.