MBB Preview/Prediction – Iowa at Minnesota
By Justin VanLaere
The border rivalry is renewed as the Iowa Hawkeyes travel north to take on the Golden Gophers of Minnesota in a late Sunday afternoon showdown. Minnesota is coming off a huge win over previously undefeated-in-the-league Purdue, while Iowa recently lost by the highest margin ever to a Northwestern squad at home. Two teams heading in opposite directions, maybe, but this is a pivotal game for both programs.
Iowa Hawkeyes (7-9, 0-4) at Minnesota Golden Gophers (13-4, 2-3)
POMEROY RATINGS: Iowa – 77, MN – 49
RPI: Iowa – 162, MN – 20
Tip Off: Sunday, January 16th, 2010; 5:06 PM CST
Minneapolis, MN – Williams Arena (14,625)
TV: BTN (HD) • RADIO: AM-600, AM-800, AM-1040 SAT: Sirius 121, XM 141
Iowa trails in the series 88-98.
PG – Bryce Cartwright, 6’1”, 180 lb, JR
G – Matt Gatens, 6’5”, 215 lb, JR
G – Eric May, 6’5”, 225 lb, SO
F – Melsahn Basabe, 6’7”, 225 lb, FR
C – Jarryd Cole, 6’7”, 250 lb, SR
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G – Al Nolen, 6’1”, 188 lb, SR
G – Blake Hoffarber, 6’4”, 200 lb, SR
G – Rodney Williams, 6’7”, 200 lb, SO
F – Colton Iverson, 6’10”, 258 lb, JR
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F – Ralph Sampson III, 6’11”, 241 lb, JR
Iowa is looking to play in a competitive game for the first time in over a week after back-to-back blowouts at the hands of Purdue and Northwestern. In fact, Iowa has the worst scoring margin in conference than any other Big Ten team at over -14 points per game. Let’s keep that in context, though. In those first four conference games, Iowa has played Purdue, Ohio State, and Illinois (currently the Top 3 teams in the Big Ten in scoring margin).
In recent interviews, Eric May has mentioned that his injury has not played a large part in the recent lull in his performance. May has not been the same player he was in the first 1/3 of the year. The part of Eric’s game that has affected this team the most is his lack of defense. Eric was getting into passing lanes and creating turnovers earlier in the season. For the 5th straight game, May did not have a single steal. In fact, going back to the UNI game, Eric has only 3 steals total (all from the Iowa State game), yet has 18 turnovers. Not a lot of analysis is needed to figure out that’s an upside down stat line. May is statistically Iowa’s best 3 point shooter, yet in the last two games he’s only attempted a total of 2 treys. Again, the groin injury might be affecting his play, but he will not admit it. Either way, if Iowa is going to be competitive in the Big Ten, they must have a smart and aggressive Eric May.
Tubby Smith still hasn’t decided if star forward, Trevor Mbakwe, will start after his latest arrest, where he violated a restraining order due to a Facebook post on his ex-girlfriend’s wall. He didn’t start in the win over Purdue, but played significant minutes and was key once again for the Gophers. Iowa will need to use Mbakwe’s aggressiveness against him. By that I mean Iowa needs to get Mbakwe in foul trouble and the way to do that is to get in better position and use his high energy against him.
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Matt Gatens looks like he is back. The former runner-up for Big Ten Freshman of the Year two season ago is starting to do more on the court. His scoring average has gone up and his shot looks as good as it has ever looked. Iowa needs Matt on his game in this one, especially on the D end (something that has been lacking this year for Matt), if they hope to stick with the Gophers.
For Andrew Brommer (the only Minnesota native on Iowa’s team), it will be yet another opportunity for him to show Tubby Smith that he is a Big Ten player. If you recall, when Tubby took the Gopher head coaching job, reports were that he suggested Andrew might not see much time on the court and to look elsewhere. With ties cut with Minnesota, Brommer’s recruitment heated up and he picked Iowa over several other D1 offers he received. It’s really too bad Lickliter couldn’t have afforded to redshirt Brommer, as Andrew needed some time to develop out of high school. I personally do not know about any love lost between Andrew and the U of M, but here is another chance for him to try to prove himself.
Weird Stat of the Week: Given Iowa’s woes at the Free Throw line (last place in Big Ten as a team), it’s weird that three Hawkeyes rank in the Top 25 in the Big Ten for conference-only games for FT%: Gatens (100%, 1st), Basabe (82.4%, 12th), and Cartwright (72.7%, 23rd)
KEYS TO GAME FOR IOWA:
– Guard the Three. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me eight times, shame on me. I really thought the fact that Northwestern does nothing but make three pointers would give the Iowa team a reason to guard the perimeter last time out. That apparently was not the case. The Hawkeye D continued to leave the outside shot wide open, as they have in most of their games. I’ll keep this Key to the Game up, but right now I don’t expect Iowa to guard the perimeter any better than they have in previous games. If Iowa fails to guard the three yet again, Blake Hoffarber is going to nuts on the Hawkeyes.
– Rebound. Iowa is fairly effective at getting the boards. For most of the season, Iowa has been in the black in rebounding margin at the end of most games. They’ll really need to hit the boards in this one, especially if their shots aren’t falling. Don’t forget that Melsahn Basabe is the league’s best offensive rebounder at 4 OREBs per game. The issue for Basabe is that he will be matched up with Mbakwe, who is also one of the best rebounders in the league.
– More Cartwright. At this point in the season, the Hawkeyes are who they are. They are a team full of jump shooters and guys who aren’t the best at creating off the dribble. Bryce Cartwright is pretty much the only Hawkeye who can create his own shot; he’s the only Hawkeye who can get into the lane when he wants to. There are still issues with his decision-making skills once he’s in the lane, but Iowa has no alternative. In conference only stats, Bryce is 19th in scoring (13 PPG) and 3rd in assists (5.25 APG), against some pretty stiff competition. Turnovers still plague Cartwright, but he’s going to have to be the go-to-guy for this team.
PREDICTION: Minnesota looked legit in their win over Purdue. They were not fazed by Matt Painter’s pressure defense and got shots when they wanted them. Iowa will need better perimeter D and getting Mbakwe in foul trouble would be huge. Still, I don’t expect a huge letdown from the Gophers on their home court. The winner of the second-chance points category wins this game; I think that’s Minnesota. FINAL SCORE: Iowa 66, Minnesota 77