7:00 Thursday. Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City. ESPN.
Iowa enters this game with a conference record of 2-5. The two victories were both at home: a 5-point win over Indiana and an overtime win over Wisconsin. They have played a couple good teams close on the road, though: Ohio State (3 points) and Penn State (4 points).
Here’s the scouting report on what the Hawkeyes do really well:
- Shoot the ball.
That’s it. But they do that one thing really, really well. Their team shooting numbers for the season all rank in the top 50 nationally: 52.0/39.2/75.5 (2pt/3pt/FT).
The Hawkeyes’ conference-only 3-point shooting percentage of 37.1% ranks third in the Big Ten, and their free throw percentage of 77.5% ranks first. (Note: I’m going with conference-only stats from here on out, unless otherwise noted.) Iowa is a heavily guard-oriented team; they also rank third and first in the league in the percentage of their total points scored from beyond the arc and the charity stripe, respectively.
With regards to 3-point shooting, there’s good news and bad news in looking at MSU’s defensive profile:
- Good news: Conference opponents are making only 31.9% of their 3-point attempts against MSU. The Spartans have improved their ability to close out on perimeter shooters dramatically since the nonconference season.
- Bad news: Big Ten teams have taken a higher percentage of their field goal attempts from 3-point range (43.8%) against MSU than against any other team in the league. The Spartan defense is designed to force perimeter shots. If Iowa ends up taking 25 shots from beyond the arc, though, there’s a certain statistical chance of a hot streak of shooting keeping them in the game–or winning it for them.
Six Hawkeyes players are averaging 2 or more 3-point attempts per game, led by freshman guard Matt Gatens. Gatens is shooting 50.0% from 3-point range on a team-high 28 attempts.
Surprisingly, Gatens’ scoring average of 12.0 points/game is not the best on the team in Big Ten play. That honor goes to 6’9″ junior center David Palmer, who is averaging 12.3 points/game on 53.1% FG shooting, despite the fact he’s only received substantial minutes in Iowa’s last three games.
Other major contributors are sophomore point guard Jeff Peterson (10.7 points/game, 5.1 assists/game, 27.8% 3pt%) and sophomore guard Jake Kelly (10.1 points/game, 38.5% 3pt%). Senior forward Cyrus Tate may return for this game after sitting out four games with an ankle sprain; Tate was averaging 7.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game on the season prior to the injury.
(Note: Tate’s 6.3 rebound/game figure is more impressive than it looks at first, given (1) how slow a pace Iowa plays at, (2) the limited number of missed FGs they have on offense due to turnovers and good shooting, and (3) the limited number of field goals attempts Iowa’s opponents miss. Tate sports very solid rebounding percentages of 16.1 and 22.8.)
If you can stop the Iowa shooters from getting good 3-point looks or beat you off the dribble to get to the free throw line, you’re in good shape. They turn the ball over even more than we do (OffTO% of 23.9%, better than only Indiana), and they don’t pull down offensive rebounds (OffReb% of 25.5%, also second worst in the league). Despite the Hawkeyes’ top-notch shooting strokes, they rank only 9th in the conference in offensive efficiency.
Defensively, they’re even less impressive, ranking 10th in the league in efficiency. They’ve allowed all but one conference opponent to post an offensive efficiency figure of 105 or better. They don’t block shots, they don’t steal the ball, and they’re susceptible to giving up offensive boards.
Of the top nine players in Iowa’s rotation, only two of them are taller than 6’7″. If Tate can’t play, that number goes down to one. The Hawkeyes basically play a four-guard lineup. MSU should be able take advantage of their size advantage throughout the game. If Raymar Morgan is healthy enough, this could be a 20-point outing for him. It’s also a great opportunity for Delvon Roe to play 20+ minutes and score some points in the paint. And, the over/under on MSU offensive rebounding percentage in this game is approximately 55%.
Kenpom predicts a 65-61 MSU victory in a 59-point game. Regardless of how well MSU plays, I can almost guarantee this game will not make for exhilerating viewing. Iowa ranks dead last in the league at 59.7 possessions per 40 minutes. If the MSU guards can prevent the Iowa shooters from getting good looks, though, the viewing experience should be much more pleasant than last year’s game was.
Getting out of Iowa City with a win would put MSU at 7-1 in Big Ten play with a three-game home stretch to follow. With Purdue pulling out a squeaker in Madison last night, there’s no margin for error in the conference title race at this point.