Purdue needs three wins to feel safe on Selection Sunday.
I firmly believe that if we get to 18 victories (assuming one is not over Northwestern or Nebraska in the Big Ten Tournament) we will get into the NCAA Tournament. I say three because two (Iowa, plus 1-2 hypothetical Big Ten Tournament wins) would be on Quadrant 1 of the NET. The third, at home vs. Rutgers, would be a solid Q2 win. Because of the wealth of opportunity in Indianapolis beating Iowa is not 100% needed, but it would be a very good idea to do it.
Beating the Hawkeyes unlocks some freedom we have not had since the home loss to Michigan. It opens the door where 17-15, 10-10 might just barely be enough to sneak into the field. It almost certainly means we’re not playing on Wednesday in Indianapolis, too.
I am not saying we’re definitely going to win because Iowa is still a good team, but if I were to have confidence in any road game this season it would be against a team we blasted by 36 points the last time around.
From: Iowa City, IA
Date: Tuesday, March 3, 2020
Tip Time: 9pm
Location: Iowa City, Iowa
Arena: Mackey Arena (15,056)
Online: Fox Sports Go
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: No Line Yet
2018-19 Record: 23-12, 10-10 Big Ten (Lost to Tennessee 83-77 (OT) in NCAA Second Round)
2019-20 Record: 20-9, 11-7 Big Ten
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 91-76
Last Iowa Win: 83-78 at Iowa on 1/12/2017
Last Purdue Win: 104-68 at Purdue on 2/5/2020
NCAA Tournament History: 26 appearances, last in 2019. 1956 NCAA Runner-up
Coach: Fran McCaffery (194-141 in 10th season at Iowa, 445-318 overall)
Ironically, Purdue may not have a net gain in Quad 1 NET wins if it wins this game. Obviously this game would qualify on Quad 1, but with Iowa at 29 in the NET rankings the possible two spot drop due to losing this game would take the home win out of this quadrant. That is just one of the fun little oddities of this news system. Wisconsin is also sitting on 30, so two of Purdue’s best wins are hovering dangerously close to falling out of that critical metric. The other two wins we have (Michigan State and Indiana) are at least safe, while VCU needs to move from 56 into the top 50.
The first game in West Lafayette a month ago was probably Purdue’s best game of the season. Luka Garza, their Big Ten Player of the Year candidate, had 26 points, but we kept him off the glass. He averages 9.8 rebounds per game but Purdue held him to a single rebound. Purdue won the rebounding battle overall 32-24 and, of course, shot the damn lights out of the gym, going 19 of 34 from three.
It is extremely unlikely we replicate that on the road. Purdue has shot the ball very poorly for five straight games and needs to show significant improvement even from the Indiana game on Thursday. Simply put, if Purdue plays like it has in the last five games it will lose, likely by a lot.
The good news is that we should be able to look better because Iowa is not great defensively. They are 13th in the league, giving up 71.9 points per game, only better than Nebraska’s 76.6 per game (and yes, we sucked at Nebraska). They win by getting into shootouts. They are the best offensive team at 78.1 points per game, a little over 10 points better than Purdue. It is the best offense against the best defense, as Purdue’s 61.8 points per game given up is the best in the league.
Purdue won by so much the first time around because Garza got his and we shut down everyone else. That is not a poor strategy to emulate, either. Dare Garza to beat us by himself. Is he going to score 50? His best game as a 44-point effort against Michigan in December, but his team still lost 103-91. Purdue held Jordan Wieskamp to only 8 points (he averages 14 per game) and they were just 6 of 25 from three.
Of course, it helps that Purdue couldn’t miss for long stretches of the game. The offense Purdue had in that game would have beaten anyone in the country. The 61 first half points was equal to or more than our offensive output in 11 entire games this season. It seems very unlikely Purdue will replicate that, but can it get to 75% of that offense? Would that be enough?
To win, Purdue has to guard the perimeter like it did in the first matchup, win the rebounding battle, and it has to be versatile on offense while hitting at least 10 threes. Purdue has been getting some open looks of late, but they are not falling. We had some real outliers in game one. Jahaad Procter was 3 for 3 from long range. Sasha Stefanovic was 5 of 9 and Evan Boudreax was 4 of 6. Purdue is coming off of a game where it only hit two threes so it has to get better.
Purdue did shoot 20 of 33 in its last trip to Iowa City and it had its best effort of the year the last game against them. Can it find a way to sustain that?