Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Iowa vs Northwestern Men's Basketball Preview

Northwestern is coming into Carver Wednesday night, after just picking up their first conference win of the season against Indiana. They are a pretty interesting team. My opinion on them, is that they had a pretty cupcake non-conference schedule, but have struggled anytime they have faced a good opponent. For a team that is looking to finally make an NCAA tournament, their signature wins this year are probably against Creighton, Georgia Tech, and Indiana. They did only lose by 3 to Michigan State at home, but on the road they lost to Illinois and Purdue by double digits. Interestingly enough, in this series over the last two years, the home teams are undefeated. Even better, Northwestern hasn't won in Carver since the Alford Era (or since I was a Sophomore in high school, I'm getting old), January 10, 2004. Also, in that time frame, Iowa has only won once at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The home team has won ten out of the last twelve meetings. In other words, Iowa could easily get their first Big 10 win Wednesday night.

Iowa's Offense:

Well, Iowa's offensive ratings dropped a little bit after their worst shooting performance of the year. Rebounding dropped by 3%, shooting by 1%, free throw rate by 1%, and turnovers by 1%. Only assists did not change. Northwestern can shoot the ball, so Iowa needs to shoot better and really limit the turnovers.

Northwestern's Offense:

Northwestern is a slower paced team than Iowa. They are a half-court offense that loves to shoot the three point shot. They do shoot very well, which helps their assist total. They also do not turn the ball over, like at all. Since they are a perimeter three point shooting team, it's not really surprising that they get to the line at a below average rate. They are also terrible at getting offensive rebounds. Basabe, Cole, and Brommer should clean up on the defensive boards.

Iowa's Defense:

Besides how well Iowa shoots the ball, this is they key to the Hawkeyes game. Northwestern can shoot, and the Hawkeyes need to make them shoot a much lower percentage than they do on the season. Iowa has struggled with guys who can nail the three, and Northwestern's three double figure scorers like to shoot the three. Iowa has been good at forcing turnovers this year, but Northwestern doesn't give the ball up easily. Iowa's free throw rate should continue to get better because Northwestern never gets to the line all that much.

Northwestern's Defense:

There we go. Northwestern has let opponents shoot 7% better than the NCAA average this year. That is good news for an Iowa team who is right around average in effective FG%. Northwestern limits offensive rebounds pretty well, but Mirkovic is their one good rebounder (Shurna is just okay) and Iowa has two good ones in Cole and Basabe (three, if Archie see's the floor). So, I still expect Iowa to get offensive rebounds. Northwestern is above average at causing turnovers, which could be bad for Iowa, considering they were flirting with recording more turnovers than field goals made against Purdue (it's true look it up). Northwestern's defense is not that good, Iowa has a chance to take advantage of this.

  • Iowa player shot tendencies:
  • Pretty much the same as last time.
  • Northwestern player shot tendencies:
  • Shurna, Thompson, and Crawford all average double figures in points. As you can see, all three take a large amount of their shots from behind the three point line. Mirkovic is another one of their better players. He works a majority of the time down low. 
  •  Iowa player scoring breakdown:
  • Northwestern player scoring breakdown:
  • Shurna is obviously very balanced in how he scores. The guards Thompson, Crawford, and Cobb are too, except they don't score many of their points from the free throw line. Mirkovic is pretty much the only Northwestern player that gets regular playing time, who doesn't get a good chunk of his points from three point field goals.
  • Northwestern is obviously a team that shoots more from downtown than Iowa. Only 59.11% of their shots have been two pointers this year, while 40.89% of them have come from three point range. As a result, 45.5% of their points have come from two point shots, 36.2% from three point shots, and 18.4% from free throws. 
  • Iowa is much different than Northwestern, taking only 28.88% of their field goal attempts from behind the arc and 72.12% from inside of it. Iowa has scored 55.6% of their points from two point field goals, 24.4% from three point field goals, and 20.1% from free throws. 
Opposing Players to watch:
  • Northwestern lives and dies with John Shurna. In their three Big 10 losses this year, he was held to 11, 11, and 7 points. Other than that, he shoots a 68.3% effective FG% (Basabe is the Iowa's highest, with regular playing time, shooting 52.13%) and averages 20.4 points per game. For a 6'8" forward, he can really shoot the three, making 59.3% of them. However, for a big guy, he's not a great rebounder. On the defensive boards he's decent, grabbing 13.6% of all defensive rebounds while in the game. Offensive rebounds, though, he only pulls down 2.8% of those.
  • Guards Michael Thompson and Drew Crawford are the other two players, besides Shurna, who average double digit points per game. Thompson averages 14.7 and Crawford 13.4. Thompson is the more efficient shooter, with a 57.5% effective FG%. Crawford is still pretty efficient at scoring, as he has a 50.9% effective FG%. Thompson is Northwestern's best player at dishing out assists. Crawford is quite the defensive rebounder for a guard, pulling down  14.2% of them (better than Shurna, who is three inches taller). 
  • Besides Shurna, Luka Mirkovic is the only other big man who gets a lot of playing time (Curletti also gets in about 12 minutes a game). Mirkovic is listed at 6'11", and he is the Wildcats' best rebounder. He has an offensive rebounding rate of 10.6% and defensive rebounding rate of 21.5%. He's not the most efficient scorer, shooting a 48.8% effective FG%, but he does average about 8 points per game.
  • 6'5" freshman guard, JerShon Cobb looks to be a pretty good player in the future. He averages about 7 points per game, but only shoots a 48.7% effective FG%. He has made 37.9% of this three point attempts this year. He is young though, so he is still mistake prone. I just put him here because he looks to be a good player down the road. 

This game is intriguing to me. If Northwestern is shooting well, especially Shurna, I could see them blowing out Iowa. But, Northwestern has struggled in Big 10 road games so far, and hasn't won at Iowa since 2004. Not to mention, that Iowa hung pretty tough with Illinois and Ohio State at home. Northwestern has the better perimeter game, but Iowa has a better post game. Iowa could use big games from Basabe and Cole, as Northwestern doesn't really have a big man who can stop them, especially Basabe. This is a potential double-double game for either of these two guys because outside of Mirkovic, Northwestern doesn't rebound well. They also don't play defense well, which could help Iowa shoot better than their team 48.16% effective FG%.

I'm going to predict an Iowa win in this one. Iowa will win the rebounding battle. Northwestern will probably shoot the ball well because Iowa has allowed Big 10 opponents to shoot a 64.85% (!) effective FG% so far. But, I think Iowa will shoot better than their season average. They should be able to get points in the paint. If Northwestern collapses on Basabe and Cole, hopefully that will get Gatens some open looks. Cartwright may even be able to put up some points and assists (hopefully he doesn't turn the ball over too). If Iowa can limit turnovers I see them winning a close game by about 5 points or so. So, get to Carver if you're not bogged down by this snow storm. Hopefully there will be a good crowd because I want it to be seven years since Northwestern has last won at Iowa.

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