Northwestern ended its regular season Saturday with a 69-52 loss to Iowa in Iowa City. It was a poor performance from the Wildcats, who had previously won five of their last six games. NU will now head to the Big Ten Tournament as either the 10 or 11 seed. The Wildcats finish the regular season at 15-16 and 6-12 in the Big Ten.
Here's our early analysis of the loss:
1. The offense is better, but still has far too many droughts
This was just a bad offensive performance against an Iowa team that has struggled defensively. The ball movement and the looks were there good early on, but the shots weren't falling. Iowa tightened up on defense and the Wildcats couldn't do anything inside. When the shooting isn't there, that's going to lead to long offensive droughts.
To make matters worse, NU couldn't do anything with its possessions. The Wildcats rebounded only 3.8 percent of their misses and turned it over 24 percent of the time down the floor. That's not going to cut it.
2. Live by the zone, die by the zone
Iowa didn't shoot all that well, but the Wildcats forced them to pass the ball around the perimeter a lot and settle for a lot of mid-range jumpers. The Hawkeyes found the hole in the zone on the baseline, but for the most part, they couldn't get inside. Other than a few possessions in the second half, Olah looked pretty good down low and finished with 10 rebounds.
Of course, there were some issues with the zone, including the inability for anyone other than Olah to get a rebound. Nate Taphorn and Bryant McIntosh really struggled to stay in position on the right side, as well. The zone isn't the key to happiness, but it did some good things. Overall, it's the best option for NU, but guys have to play in position.
3. B1G refs
Big Ten refs have a reputation for being one of the worst in the country, and that was on display today. Vic Law and Aaron White both got mugged down low and didn't get calls, and the refs pretty much allowed a wrestling match in the paint. Then they followed that up with ticky-tack fouls outside of the paint.
That type of game favors NU, since Iowa has more length and size, but that doesn't mean NU players like it. One player on this year's team once told me that he think Big Ten refs let way too much go inside, and that's why teams from the conference sometimes struggle in the postseason.