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Northwestern vs. Iowa Basketball Preview

by Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan)

After a convincing win over Penn State on Thursday, Northwestern finally has some momentum for the first time since a win at Baylor earlier this year. Of course, the Nittany Lions may very well be the worst team in the Big Ten, so there is still a long ways to go. A win against Iowa today would give the Wildcats some real momentum heading into a big game at Illinois later this week. The Hawkeyes are 0-3, but have played Indiana, Michigan and Michigan State. They were blown out by Michigan on the road, but brought Indiana and Michigan State to the wire, and should have probably beaten the Spartans if not for some late miscues.

Iowa was without star wing Devyn Marble against MSU and his status is "iffy" for Sunday, according to coach Fran McCaffery. Regardless of Marble's status, NU can certainly hang with Iowa if it shoots as well as it did in State College. The Hawkeyes have struggled offensively against the zone, so expect a lot of 1-3-1. If the Wildcats execute the zone well and Iowa has hangover from some tough losses, NU could pull even in the conference with a .500 record.

Three Players to Watch

Melsahn Basabe (junior, forward)

After a terrific freshman season, Basabe suffered a bit of a sophomore slump. However, he has improved this year, especially on the defensive end. He still comes off the bench for the Hawkeyes and his offense has struggled at times, but he's a strong defender and rebounder and could give NU fits down low. Basabe is an outstanding shot-blocker and he's physical inside, so that could throw off Alex Olah and Jared Swopshire offensively, as both have had trouble with their strength inside.

Aaron White (sophomore, forward)

White had a breakout season as a freshman, and while he's had some scoring bursts this year, he hasn't been as much of an offensive force. However, he has a knack for being able to score anywhere on the floor and is impressive in transition, which makes him a tough player to guard. Iowa needs him to take more shots in order to be successful, and if Marble is out, expect his role to increase more than it has this year. Either way, he has scoring potential and is a dangerous offensive weapon for the Hawkeyes.

Josh Oglesby (sophomore, guard)

As we mentioned earlier, NU will probably try to zone Iowa, which has struggled with the zone this year because it isn't a great three-point shooting team. That means you can probably expect to see more of Josh Oglesby than normal. Oglesby is Iowa's three-point specialist — his potential game-winner against NU in Iowa City last year rimmed out — and the Hawkeyes will use him to provide a spark and force the Wildcats to leave their zone. If Oglesby is effective and can take NU out of the 1-3-1, Iowa will have a much more favorable matchup.

Key Matchup

Anthony Clemmons vs. Dave Sobolewski

Clemmons is one of three freshman starters for Iowa, along with guard Mike Gesell and center Adam Woodbury, and he recently took over point guard duties from Gesell. Iowa plays three different players at the point — Clemmons, Gesell and Marble — but Clemmons sees the most time at the position. He was exceptional earlier this year in his turnover-to-assist ratio, but has struggled a bit as of late. Sobolewski got out of a scoring funk against Penn State and NU will need him to get points. Clemmons is a solid defender, so his play on Sobolewski will be critical for Iowa to limit NU's scoring ability. Sobolewski likely won't guard Clemmons much one-on-one, but whoever is playing the top of the 1-3-1 must try to force Clemmons into turnovers and freshman mistakes.