Rushed Reactions: Iowa 73, Northwestern 59

Posted by Chris Johnson on March 15th, 2013


Chris Johnson is a Big Ten correspondent and RTC columnist. He filed this report from the United Center Thursday night. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

A scorching hot start from Iowa teetered on the verge of a huge blowout. Northwestern fought back to make the final score, 73-59, a respectable season-ending finish. The Hawkeyes will advance to Friday’s quarterfinals to face Michigan State. Here are three quick takes from Iowa’s opening-round win.

Strong defense helped Iowa get past Northwestern in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament Thursday night (Getty Images).

Strong defense helped Iowa get past Northwestern in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament Thursday night (Getty Images).

  1. Iowa Is On A Bubble Mission, But Don’t Tell Devyn Marble That. Other than top-level seeding implications, and maybe Indiana’s locational preferences, the most intriguing outfit heading into the Big Ten Tournament this weekend was Iowa. Why? The Hawkeyes exist on the crest of the bubble tipping point. Their postseason fate, more than any other team in Chicago, will be decided based on what they do in the Big Ten Tournament. Beating Northwestern won’t put the Hawkeyes over the top – Iowa still owns that prohibitive 319th-ranked non-conference schedule, a few ugly losses and a short supply of good wins to make up the difference. One more big chip – hello, Michigan State quarterfinal opportunity – might just get Fran McCaffery’s team safely into the field. For his part, McCaffery is satisfied with where his team stands in the at-large picture. “To me, I am very comfortable with our resume right now. I think we deserve to be in,” he said in the postgame press conference. McCaffery even name-checked his team’s impressive “KenPom” rankings (The Hawkeyes own a top-25 efficiency defense and rank 30th overall in Pomeroy’s system) to back up Iowa’s credentials. His case is a valid one; Iowa has been weighed down, perception-wise, by a confluence of poor non-conference scheduling and the national spotlight of the upper reaches of the Big Ten. But the nitty gritty RPI-dominated  facts are the facts that matter – not the reality-based efficiency facts McCaffery referred to – and those facts say this: Iowa probably needs to beat Michigan State tomorrow to make the field of 68.
  2. The Hawkeyes Can Really Guard. For the first seven minutes of Thursday night’s game, Northwestern approached its halfcourt offense pretty much the same way it has since enduring a host of crippling injuries and embarking on a brutal eight-game losing streak to close the regular season. The Wildcats ran their Princeton sets to exhaustion, settled for threes and middle-range jump shots, and watched the Hawkeyes jump out to an 11-0 lead. Northwestern would crawl back into striking distance, but after Iowa’s punishing opening stretch, the game was effectively won. Iowa did it through defense; they smothered Northwestern’s unconventional offense by keeping every pass, screen and back cut in front of them, getting into passing lanes, harassing freshman center Alex Olah on the catch and obstructing point guard Dave Sobolewski’s play-making ability. The Hawkeyes destabilized Northwestern’s attack from the tip, and the rest was purely clinical (the Wildcats finished 18-of-49 from the field, and just 7-of-22 from three). With zero individual offensive talent to speak of, Iowa’s disciplined team defense forced Northwestern into bad shot after bad shot – during certain stretches, it almost felt like the Wildcats were throwing the ball around the perimeter because there was nothing else to do, akin to a harmless game of hot potato, with no creative direction or immediate solution to be found. Credit Iowa’s defense. Fran McCaffery’s team reduced the Wildcats’ already hampered offense into a rudderless half court enterprise. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Team Previews: Iowa Hawkeyes

Posted by KTrahan on October 16th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Big Ten microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Where we left off: Last time we saw Iowa, the Hawkeyes were getting run over for 108 points by Oregon in the second round of the NIT. Of course, it was an accomplishment for the program to even get back to the NIT after a promising season, and now, with a number of stars back, Iowa is looking to take the next step to the NCAA Tournament. Head coach Fran McCaffery has done a good job of turning the team around, and now, in year three, expectations are high. Clearly McCaffery has his team on the right track, but is this the year Iowa finally makes it back to the NCAA Tournament? There is a lot of inexperience on parts of the court, but enough talent is certainly there for the Hawkeyes to make a run.

Fran McCaffery Has His Team on the Right Track (credit: AP)

Positives: Iowa’s biggest strength this winter will be its depth, and in fact, that could represent the most difficult part of McCaffery’s job. The Hawkeyes may have a hard time finding playing time for everyone with so much returning experience and new talent. Junior guard Roy Devyn Marble and sophomore forward Aaron White are locks to start, and they’ll likely be joined by junior forward Melsahn Basabe and freshman point guard Mike Gesell, but after that, the distribution of minutes gets foggy. Junior forward Zach McCabe will likely see considerable minutes, as will freshman center Adam Woodbury, but sophomore center Gabe Olaseni, who McCaffery calls the team’s most improved player, will also be slated for some time. In the backcourt, sophomore shooting specialist Josh Oglesby, freshman point guard Anthony Clemmons and senior Eric May will all push for playing time. There are a lot of different looks that this team can show, and while it might be difficult to figure out playing time, that’s a very good problem to have.

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Fran-tic Resurgence of Iowa Basketball

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 3rd, 2012

For the past five seasons, Big Ten fans outside of Iowa looked through schedules in November and were upset if their team only played the Hawkeyes once. They wanted to pick up two easy wins.  That won’t happen anymore, not with Fran McCaffery around. McCaffery came to Iowa from the east coast to change the culture around the program and make an immediate impact.  Every coach says the right stuff during the introductory news conference but it doesn’t always translate to more wins. In Iowa’s case, however, those wins have come during his second season – already surpassing last year’s overall season total with more than a third of the conference schedule left on the plate. More importantly, the attitude and the brand of the Hawkeye basketball program has changed in 2012.  McCaffery is rubbing off on the program and the results show on the court.

McCaffery Has Brought A New Culture to Iowa (AP/C. Neibergall)

The 53-year-old coach keeps it simple but intense.  Intense may not begin to describe his behavior during the game or behind closed doors in practice. If you haven’t heard about the best chair-related tirade in the Big Ten since Bobby Knight chucked one across the floor in the ‘80s, you are missing out.  During a blowout (down 69-41) at East Lansing against Michigan State, McCaffrey blew a gasket halfway through the second half.  In addition to getting a technical, he yelled at his players during the timeout and slammed a chair on the court.  As an outsider, there are two aspects of the incident that stick out as positives. Most tirades by a head coach result in the assistants trying to gang-tackle him so he doesn’t get kicked out of the game, but not in this case.  Every one of his assistants was just as upset with the pace of the game and their players.  The head coach was frustrated with his players because they could not adjust and match the physicality of the Michigan State Bruisers.  Neither McCaffery nor his staff will settle for excuses.  His intensity is contagious because Iowa may not have the most talented or mature team, but they will play with a chip on their shoulder every single night. Rebuilding teams can’t afford to pity themselves and blame the referees for losses.

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