Bloomington, Ind. – When Iowa’s basketball team arrived at Assembly Hall last season, Indiana was waiting with a deep, experienced team that was ranked No. 1 in the country.
But the roles have reversed for Tuesday’s 8 p.m. Big Ten game. The Hawkeyes have the edge in record, national ranking, experience and depth.
“It reminds me when we watch them, and it’s been this way all year, a lot of what we had last year with our team,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “With the experience of scoring, shooting, guys who have been there, guys who have been in a lot of hard games. But also some young firepower that has brought some energy to the table.”
Indiana won the Big Ten regular-season title last season with a lineup that included four 1,000-point scorers in Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls. The Hoosiers led the conference in scoring.
No. 15 Iowa, 19-6 overall and 8-4 in the Big Ten, is one game back of Michigan and Michigan State in the loss column as it tries to win a share of the regular-season title for the first time since 1979. The Hawkeyes have three 1,000-point scorers in Devyn Marble, Melsahn Basabe and Aaron White. And Iowa is leading the conference in scoring.
Coach Fran McCaffery’s team could get to 20 victories in February for just the fourth time in the last 25 years. And Iowa has a chance to win a fourth consecutive Big Ten road game for the first time since the 1986-87 season. A victory would also give the Hawkeyes five conference road wins in the same season for the first time since 1997-98.
“Fran is not only one of the top coaches in our league, but frankly I think he’s one of the best coaches in the country because he does such a good job of going from game to game and doing whatever it takes to win that game,” Crean said. “He puts a lot of things in the game plan that he can go to. At the same time they’ve got their constants, got their principles.”
Indiana, 14-11 overall and 4-8 in the Big Ten, has lost three straight games and six of the last eight. That includes an 82-64 spanking at Purdue Saturday. After losing Zeller and Oladipo early to the NBA, Crean has started over at a lot of positions. The Hoosiers start three freshmen. At home, Indiana has lost to Northwestern and Penn State but defeated Michigan and Wisconsin.
“We’re as young as anybody in the league, and at times we certainly play that way,” Crean said. “When you’re young and you don’t have the experience, you don’t have the consistency.”
One constant has been sophomore guard Yogi Ferrell, the Big Ten’s leading scorer at 19.2 points a game. He’s become the Hoosiers’ go-to guy in the absence of the four 1,000-point scorers.
“His role is different,” McCaffery said. “When you’ve got Zeller, Oladipo, Watford, etcetera, they had so many weapons. This year he’s the guy. That’s a very difficult task. And I think he’s done it very well.”
Indiana also has the Big Ten’s leading rebounder in freshman Noah Vonleh, averaging 9.4 a game. But the Hoosiers have turned it over at least 13 times in each of the last seven games, which could fuel Iowa’s transition game.
“They’re as good as anybody in this league at getting out after makes and misses,” Crean said.
Iowa’s experienced depth has come in handy on the road, especially in a season where all 12 teams have won, and lost, both home and away.
“Every other league has bad teams,” McCaffery said. “We don’t have any bad teams. At the end of this thing, somebody is going to win this league. I don’t know who. You can’t bring your “B’ game, no matter who you are in this league, and expect to win. In fact, you’re probably going to get embarrassed. That’s the challenge for all of us moving forward. Can we be mentally ready, and physically ready, and have the correct amount of toughness, especially on the road.”
Who: Iowa (19-6, 8-4 Big Ten) vs. Indiana (14-11, 4-8 Big Ten).
Specifics: 8 p.m. at Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Ind.
Hawkeye preview: Iowa has had just 13 turnovers its last two games (7 against Michigan, 6 at Penn State). Indiana has had at least 13 turnovers in each of its last seven Big Ten games (16.1 average). Iowa’s Melsahn Basabe is second in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage (.588) and third in rebounding (7.1).
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball