Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Iowa vs Penn State Men's Basketball Preview

WOOOO!!! We're no longer alone in last place!!! Sorry, haven't quite gotten that out of my system yet. We are now on our third day removed from Iowa's first Big 10 win of the season over a short-handed Indiana squad. Now, Iowa heads out to Happy Valley tonight to take on the Nittany Lions of Penn State. Interestingly enough, Penn State doesn't look to be as bad as everyone thought they would be this year, getting two big upsets at home against Illinois and Michigan State. Even their last two Big 10 road losses to Ohio State and Purdue were close, losing by three points and one point, respectively. So, does Iowa stand a chance? Let's find out.

Iowa Offense vs Penn State Defense

As any Hawkeye fan who has followed all season knows, Iowa is not a real great shooting team. Their 48.62% effective FG% comes out to 1% below NCAA average, which is actually only good enough for last place in the Big 10. Thankfully for Iowa, Penn State has let opponents shoot 5% better than NCAA average against them. Last time Iowa played a Big 10 team that was below average in shooting defense (Northwestern), they shot a 59% effective FG%. So, there's a chance!

Penn State also isn't very good at forcing turnovers, coming in at 8% below average. Hopefully this means that Iowa can cut their turnovers down in this game. The Hawkeyes aren't the greatest team at dishing out assists (a product of their mediocre shooting). Penn State has also allowed opponents to shoot really well, so they have given up a lot of assists also.

Rebounding will be key in this game. Penn State outrebounded Illinois and Michigan State in their upsets, and they also outrebounded Purdue (in their first meeting) and Ohio State, even though they lost. Iowa has actually only won the rebounding battle in two Big 10 games so far this year. The first time they played Ohio State and then against Indiana (In the recap I said they lost it, but I looked at the numbers wrong. My apologies.). The problem with Iowa's rebounding has been Cole's drop off in defensive rebounds. He is grabbing only 12.53% of all defensive rebounds available while in the game in Big 10 play. Compare that to the 21.22% he grabbed in non-conference play, and that is a big drop off. You would expect a drop off due to stronger competition, but considering he's a senior, I hoped for less of one.

Penn State Offense vs Iowa Defense

Penn State is the one team in the Big 10 that shoot's as bad as the Hawkeyes do (48.66% effective FG%). After the Indiana game, Iowa has allowed Big 10 opponents to shoot a 57.04% effective FG%. Let's hope that for a second straight game that number continues to fall. Other than their free throw rate, Penn State is above average in every offensive category.

Iowa has been very good at forcing turnovers. Penn State is 15% better than NCAA average at limiting turnovers, but Ohio State was 31% above average and Iowa forced them into a turnovers on 29% of their possessions (about 13% above their season average). So, there is a chance Iowa can force some turnovers.

The rebounding battle will be key here, again, as both teams are above average. Iowa has been better at limiting second chances than Penn State has been at getting them. Once again, I'm hoping Cole can rebound (no pun intended) from the slump he's been in recently.

Penn State does not get to the free throw line very much, if at all, and Iowa hasn't allowed opponents to get to the free throw line. This should mean that the Nittany Lions rarely see the free throw line tonight.

  • Iowa Player Shooting Tendencies

  • Iowa Player Scoring Breakdown

  • Iowa Player Points Per Minute

  • Penn State Player Shooting Tendencies

  • As you can see, Talor Battle is just as likely to shoot from behind the arc, as he is to shoot inside the arc. Their best post player Jeff Brooks, is not afraid to shoot it from three point range, but he does most of his damage from inside. Their third leading scorer and fellow big man, 6'10" David Jackson, really likes to shoot it from outside. 

  • Battle is good at scoring in every facet of the game. He puts the ball in the basket from the free throw line, inside the three point line, and outside of it. Brooks, once again, does most of his work down low. Jackson is quite versatile for a big post player. He get's 24% of his scoring value from the free throw line, 36% from long range, and about 40% from two point range. Andrew Jones has been putting the ball in the hoop more for Penn State lately. Also at 6'10",  he is the opposite of Jackson, doing everything from the inside and a little bit at the free throw line.

  • First, ignore Marshall (only 7 minutes per game) and Buie (hasn't played since his suspension in December). Then you see the four guys I mentioned above. Battle, Brooks, Jackson, and Jones are the guys that will put the ball in the hoop for the Nittany Lions. Penn State's top two guys have put the ball in the hoop at a more frequent rate than Iowa's top two. Cartwright and Jackson are both tied at number three, with 0.37 points per minute for both teams. Penn State drops off after those three that actually get playing time. Jackson is their number four with 0.21, while Iowa's Eric May (0.36) is number four. If Iowa can get a big game out of May, then Iowa should be in a good position.
  • Penn State takes 64.88% of their shots from inside three point range, and 35.12% from outside it. They have scored 52.33% of their points from two point field goals, 27.69% from three point field goals, and 19.98% from the free throw line.
  • Iowa takes 71.98% of their shots from two point range, and 28.02% from three point range. Iowa has scored 56.7% of their points from two point field goals, 23.5% from three point range, and 19.8% from the free throw line.

Opposing Players to Watch
  • First and foremost, Talor Battle is the guy to keep under wraps. He is the point guard, but he is offensive-minded in every sense of the word. He can also dish the ball to his teammates, but he averages 20.17 points per game on a 50.1% effective FG%. 
  • Jeff Brooks is Penn State's best post player. He averages 13.5 points per game on a 60.8% effective FG%. He is also Penn State's best rebounder, grabbing 10.5% of all offensive and 19.5% of all defensive rebounds. Brooks has been known to block a shot or two, as he is the best swatter on the team. He has blocked 6.2% of all opponent shots while on the court this year.
  • Finally, keep an eye on David Jackson and Andrew Jones. Jackson is the better scorer (11.24 points per game compared to Jones' 6.44), not to mention the most versatile (37.1% 3pt FG%). But, both of these big guys are decent rebounders. Jones has grabbed 8.2% of all offensive rebounds and 14% of all defensive rebounds this year. While, Jackson has come down with 6.3% of all offensive and 12.9% of all defensive rebounds. I have faith in Basabe, but Cole and/or Brommer need to come up big on the boards tonight. 

Penn State has shocked the nation twice this year with some big upsets. In every Big 10 game they have been outshot by their opponent, but they have won the rebounding battle in almost every one of them. That could very well happen tonight. If Iowa shoots better, but loses the rebounding battle, then Iowa better control their turnovers. Penn State will try to slow this game down, which means less possessions for Iowa. So, Iowa will have a smaller margin of error for turning the ball over because they won't have as many possessions as usual to try to put the ball in the basket.

Considering Penn State isn't missing any of their big time players like Indiana was, this game should be much closer than the one on Sunday was. I'll go with my homer instincts, even on the road, and pick Iowa in a close one, 64-60. There probably will only be about 60 or so possessions in this game, and with the way these two teams shoot, I'm not expecting a high scoring game. So, hopefully Iowa will pick up it's second Big 10 win of the season. Which means, that my excitement (WOOOO!!!) will be twice as big next time.

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