MBB Preview/Prediction – Iowa vs. Illinois

December 29, 2010

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By Justin VanLaere

The Hawkeyes look to start off Big Ten play with a win in front of a “standing room only” crowd inside CHA.  Iowa has played just two games in the past 17 days, so they should be well-rested.  Better yet, they should be well-practiced (something this team desperately needed).  TV viewers are in for a real treat tonight, as former Iowa Hawkeye great Kenyon Murray will team up with the human vocal highlight reel, Gus Johnson, to call the action. RISE AND FIRE!

Game Info

Illinois Fighting Illini (10-3, 0-0) at Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5, 0-0)
POMEROY RATINGS:  Iowa – 71, ILL – 26

RPI:  Iowa – 165, ILL – 52
Tip Off:  Wednesday, December 29th, 2010; 8:06 PM CST
Iowa City, Iowa – Carver-Hawkeye Arena (15,500)
TV: BTN (HD) • RADIO: AM-600, AM-800, AM-1040 SAT: Sirius 122, XM 143
Iowa trails in the series 66-78.

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Probable Starters

IOWA

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

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C – Jarryd Cole, 6’7”, 250 lb, SR

ILLINOIS

G – Demetri McCamey, 6’3”, 200 lb, SR

G – D.J. Richardson, 6’3”, 195 lb, SO

G – Jereme Richmond, 6’7”, 205 lb, FR

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F – Mike Davis, 6’9”, 225 lb, SR

F – Mike Tisdale, 7’1”, 250 lb, SR

VanLaere’s Analysis

Iowa has not fared well versus the Illini in their past 10 meetings, winning just two in that span and dropping 6 out of the last 7.  Granted, for most of those battles Iowa was under the tutelage of Todd Lickliter, but the fact remains that Bruce Weber’s teams have had recent success against Iowa.

Although Illinois has dropped their last two games, I have been impressed with their team so far this year.  McCamey appears (from an outsider’s view) to have reconciled differences with Coach Weber and is really starting to mature in his senior season.  He’s being smart with the basketball, playing unselfishly, yet taking control of the game when he has to.  I really see Iowa struggling with him in this game.

The battle down low should be an exciting one.  I love the matchup of Cole/Basabe vs. Mike/Mike.  While Illinois’ bigs have the clear height advantage, Iowa’s aggressiveness will really be the intangible that evens it out.  It will be fun to watch these guys fight down low.  Melsahn will have to grow up fast, going up against two seniors.

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I thought this was a cool stat and am interested to see if it holds up tonight.  Illinois is one of the worst teams in the nation getting to the FT line.  Iowa is one of the best teams in the nation not allowing teams to get the FT line.

Bryce Cartwright is starting to come into his own as Iowa’s starting point guard.  He’s using most of Iowa’s possessions in each game.  Overall, I think that’s ok.  What we don’t want to see is Bryce launching the threes when Iowa has much better options behind the arc.  Shot selection has been my one big complaint with Cartwright.  Digging into the stats, he has almost as many 2 pt FG attempts as Jarryd Cole, Zach McCabe, and Matt Gatens combined.  Those I am fine with that, though, because he’s Iowa’s only legitimate slasher.  Iowa is going to need Bryce to continue to develop his game and transform into the catalyst of the offense in order to free up the many jump shooters on the team.

KEYS TO GAME FOR IOWA:

–          Guard the Three.  Iowa has had a couple of games so far this year where they have let the 3-point shooter kill them (ISU and Wake Forest come to mind offhand).  Both Richardson and McCamey are capable of being next-in-line to fill the basket full of treys against the Hawkeyes.  Iowa’s perimeter defense has to shore up in this contest.  The Illini shoots the three ball at almost a 40% clip.  One of the biggest reasons they shoot the ball well from behind the arc is because their post play opens up a lot of uncontested outside jumpers.

–          Rebound.  Iowa has been competitive in every single ballgame because they get on the glass.  Illinois is too good of an offensive team to be given extra possessions, especially considering they won’t give Iowa many extra ones, as they do not turn the ball over much.  Iowa has been one of the better teams in the Big Ten in grabbing offensive boards, they’ll need to continue that trend in this game.

–          Take Care of the Ball.  As I just mentioned, the Illini do not give up many turns.  Hawkeyes will not be able to stay in this game with a large turnover margin in the wrong direction.  Illinois plays too good of defense and takes care of the ball too well for Iowa to have empty possessions.

PREDICTION: Illinois has looked mortal the last few games, especially in the UIC contest.  Depending on how many Iowa fans comprise the sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena’s attendance (SEE: the Orange Krush), the team could have some major support in tonight’s game.  I’m not counting Iowa out of this one, but I don’t know if anyone contain McCamery.  I also expect the tandem of Mike and Mike down low to be too much for Iowa.  If Iowa can avoid the outside shooter going nuts, they’ll be in the game until the end.  FINAL SCORE:  Iowa 66,  Illinois 75

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