Here we are. The Hoosiers are currently on a four-game skid, with the last win taking place 21 days ago against Michigan State at home. As Indiana’s NCAA tournament chances start to decrease, IU’s home game against No. 21 Iowa comes at a very important crossroads.
The Hawkeyes are coming off one of the worst conference losses this season (a margin of 36 points) against Purdue on the road. They followed that with a 24 point victory against Nebraska at home.
On one hand, a win against Iowa would be yet another Quadrant-I victory that the Hoosiers can hang their hat on. It will likely push them over to the right side of the bubble, where they will have to remain despite a grueling schedule to finish conference play.
The other potential reality is that a deflated Indiana team continues to deal with their inconsistent performances that have been less than inspiring in their last four games. A loss at home against Iowa likely means that Indiana would need to steal around three or four road games or a run in the Big Ten Tournament to make the big dance in March.
On his Monday radio show with Don Fischer, Archie Miller made comments that did not try to mask any of the problems at hand. Miller was clear that changes needed to be made, attitudes needed to be flipped, and the result could be significant lineup and playing time adjustments.
How to Watch
|Who||Iowa Hawkeyes at Indiana Hoosiers|
|When||Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, 8:00 p.m. ET|
|Where||Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall — Bloomington, Ind.|
|Tickets||Find the Lowest Tickets on SeatGeek|
|Listen||IU Sports Network|
|Spread||IU -2, O/U 148.5|
Getting to know the Hawkeyes
Luka Garza headlines the Hawkeyes as the junior from the DMV area has been on Wooden Award watch lists for the majority of the season. The 6-foot-11 forward does it all for the Hawkeyes. He leads the Big Ten in scoring at 23.1 points per game and he is fourth in the conference in rebounding at 9.9 per game.
To add fuel to the fire, Garza is shooting better than any Indiana player from behind the arc with his 38.2% percentage from distance. Indiana’s Rob Phinisee leads the Hoosiers at 37.8%.
Garza does not lead the Hawkeyes in three point shooting. Starter CJ Fredrick leads the Big Ten in three-point shooting percentage. He has converted 47.2% of his 89 attempts on the season. The 6-foot-3 freshman from the state of Kentucky is averaging 11.2 points for Iowa.
While Iowa began their season playing with two bigs, Fran McCaffery has adjusted to play a model where he has one big (a spot typically occupied by Garza) that is supported by four other shooters on the floor.
Most likely, the backcourt starters will be rounded off with Joe Toussaint, Joe Wieskamp, and Connor McCaffery.
Toussaint is Iowa’s true point guard after the planned redshirting of Jordan Bohannon. The 6-foot freshman ranks among the top 300 players in percentage of possessions and he is the key facilitator of the Hawkeye offense. Notably, he is averaging 2.7 assists to 1.9 turnovers per game.
While he is undersized, he is an aggressive rim attacker that has freaky athleticism. The freshman still is raw but he is trending towards being a major force in the league in the years to come.
McCaffery and Wieskamp are taller and lengthier wing/guard combos that create a lot of different unique challenges. They are always deadly on the floor, both having effective field goal percentages of well over 40%.
On defense, they are flexible disruptors that are able to guard multiple positions. Including Toussaint, this trio all are in the Big Ten’s top 20 players in steals per game.
Wieskamp ranks second in the league in free throw shooting, which is an important piece of scouting information for the Hoosiers if the game gets close at the end.
Let’s be honest, it most likely will.
Also worth noting, the Hawkeyes will not have Cordell Pemsl who has been suspended by the program due to a violation of the Iowa Student Code of Conduct. Pemsl has been averaging a decent 12 minutes per game and shortens the bench for coach Fran McCaffery by not being available.
Projected Starting Lineups
|Indiana Hoosiers||Iowa Hawkeyes|
|G: #1 Al Durham (Jr.)||G: #1 Joe Toussaint (Fr.)|
|G: #10 Rob Phinisee (So.)||G: #30 Connor McCaffery (So.)|
|F: #3 Justin Smith (Jr.)||G: #10 Joe Wieskamp (So.)|
|F: #4 Trayce Jackson-Davis (Fr.)||G: #5 CJ Fredrick (Fr.)|
|C: #50 Joey Brunk (RS Jr.)||C: #55 Luka Garza (Jr.)|
What to Watch for
1. Season on the line
Simply put, Indiana is basically playing for a successful season or potentially throwing away yet another strong non-conference performance into the wind. There are opportunities to rebound if Indiana can win on the road; however, we’ve seen all season that this is a daunting task for this Hoosier squad.
Indiana has to hold serve at home if they are interested in being discussed as being a potential NCAA tournament team. At the moment, they are on the bubble and most predictions currently have them on the wrong side of the bubble.
2. Denying Luka Garza
For the most part, Hoosiers have done a good job scouting and holding down opposing star players during Archie Miller’s career as the Indiana head coach. You think of lock down performances against Carsen Edwards and Cassius Winston, and even Kaleb Wesson in Indiana’s first match up with Ohio State.
Holding down Luka Garza to mortal numbers will be an important test for the Indiana coaching staff. The Hoosiers have the size to keep him contained in the paint, but Garza’s ability to shoot from distance makes him a tough assignment.
Indiana certainly wants to avoid another Jalen Smith situation.
On the other hand, Indiana has sometimes sacrificed points to the second and third main guys. No matter where you squeeze the balloon, another spot will blow up, and that seems to be Indiana’s issue.
Regardless, the Hoosiers should roll the dice and deny, deny, deny Garza, and force other Hawkeyes to take the brunt of the offensive scoring.
3. Do *something* well and keep your foot down
Indiana seemed to be all over the place against Purdue. Even with the big homecoming, teams in the Big Ten simply cannot afford to be flustered or confused at home, and frankly that’s largely the responsibility of the coaching preparation.
The Hoosiers need to establish something… whether it be offense, paint production, free throw shooting, defending the interior, rebounding. Honestly, they can pick any singular category.
By zeroing in on one aspect of the game, they will not only be able to build confidence because something is actually going right, but they will be able to play a more proactive game that dictates the game, rather than reacting to everything opponents throw against Indiana.
Pick one aspect of the game, and categorically crush it.
4. Take advantage of a relatively soft defense
With the third ranked offense in the nation according to KenPom, Iowa’s firepower will be difficult to stop. If the goal is to hold Iowa to 50 points or less, that’s going to be a difficult time for Indiana.
The Hoosiers really have to build confidence on their own offense end for any chance at victory. Against Purdue, Indiana fell completely flat and looked dazed and confused for the majority of the second half. That simply cannot happen on Thursday, otherwise the chatter about Archie’s role will get worse.
Indiana has to get into a rhythm and take advantage of Iowa’s defense that ranks 12th in the conference.
Featured Photo: Jeffrey Becker / USA TODAY Sports