First off, before we even talk about Northwestern basketball, which I assure you, we will do: woah! The Big friggin Ten! We all knew this conference was nuts, but, OH MAN, IT'S NUTS. It seems like every night is guaranteed to have 1.5 interesting games featuring really, really good college basketball teams. I love Big Ten basketball, but, I mean, I really love Big Ten basketball.
Now onto Northwestern, a team that doesn't really have anything to do with that stuff I said up there! Congrats to TCU and Illinois for letting us shine by getting huge upsets. Now let's look at this game:
Last time around: I can't remember many games as ugly as the first Northwestern-Iowa matchup. If you don't remember, Sterling got some run in a game NU only had 15 points in at the half. Dave Sobolewski showed up, and everybody else clanged away in an eventual 20-point loss. The good news is, that game sort of signifies the low point of Northwestern's year this year.
Since we last met: If you can feel pity for the Hawkeyes, do so now. Remember that before we had played Iowa, they had barely lost to Indiana in a nailbiter and lost by three to Michigan State, a game they had led by double-digits early and nearly tied with a free throw in the closing seconds. Since they shellacked NU, they have lost in the following ways:
- Overtime against Purdue, a game they had fought back from down 11;
- A three-point loss to Minnesota, thanks to an Austin Hollins dagger with 11 seconds left;
- A double-overtime game against Wisconsin, thanks to an off-the-front-rim, off-the-backboard-and-in three to tie by Traevon Jackson.
Brutal! They really can play with anybody, but they can also lose to anybody. Been there, done that, Squawks.
How to beat them: Iowa's a team that scares me defensively - not because they're a good shooting team, normally the thing that scares me in fact they can't shoot a lick - but because their most likely guy to score isn't the ball-handler, its the guy in the paint. Roy Devyn Marble, Mike Gesell, and Anthony Clemmons don't strike me as particularly great players, but all of them are strong at getting into the paint and finding bigs - Aaron White, Adam Woodbury - in position to score. It's here where I think the 1-3-1 could cause problems: preventing penetration will be big, although none of those guys are particularly turnover prone, and they'll probably have lots of lineups with two playing, meaning a ball reversal could be killer.
On offense, they don't contest shots particularly well inside despite Woodbury and Basabe being huge. That's why I think the first game was a disappointment: NU chose to clang from deep instead of getting the ball inside on backdoors. I'm not asking for All Olah Everything, just a little bit more patience in the offense than we saw in that game.
Can NU win?: Yeah. Sure we got blown out at home and this is on the road, but man, the shooting in that game was abysmal. NU can do better, and has done better ever since.