Hawkeye Basketball: Iowa at Ohio State Preview

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Vos, mes and our Iowa Hawkeyes (17-8, 7-7) are looking for a boost in Columbus against the Ohio State Buckeyes (16-6, 9-4) after this nasty loss against Michigan Thursday night.

Much of Thursday night’s stomach punch loss to Michigan doesn’t need to be rehashed. Ben has already covered that. You saw it. I saw it. We have all seen it. A game that was winnable eclipses as Iowa missed about 1,000 lay-ups/dunks and a bad free throw, while a Michigan player sets a career high and another (who averages 3 points per game) is one point off his career high. Wow – I’ve never seen this before, guys hitting a career number against Iowa. The list of guys who have reached career highs against Iowa at the time of this game must be unbearably long. So, Iowa’s ultra-thin resume stays ultra-thin.


Ohio State enters the game at 9-4 in the league, just 1.5 games off the league lead. They remain behind the top tier due to a lack of games — they had visits from Iowa and Nebraska postponed this year to be rescheduled for the stretch race. The Buckeyes come into this game having won 3 of 4, with the only loss coming at the RAC for Suddenly Hot Rutgers (who are also sitting 1.5 games on the first; this league is drunk right now). Ohio State blew the game, leading by 8 with 3:48. They didn’t score the rest of the way and lost by 2.

Their resume is fantastic – wins over Seton Hall and Duke ranked in the non-conference (Duke was the top-ranked team at the time). They were smoking Wisconsin earlier this year. They just won at Michigan on Feb. 12. They’re a solid team that presents a steep hill for Iowa to climb after playing less than 48 hours before the start of this game (more on that in a moment).

Projected starters

F – EJ Liddell (Jr. 6-7, 240) – 19.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.9 apg, 2.5 bpg, 51.7% FG, 40.2% 3P
F – Zed Key (So. 6-8, 245) – 9.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 58.1% FG
G – Malaki Branham (Fr. 6-5, 180) – 10.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.8 apg, 45.1% FG, 44.8% 3P
G – Jamari Wheeler (Sr. 6-1, 170) – 7.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.5 apg, 50.0% FG, 38.7% 3P
G – Eugene Brown (So. 6-6, 195) – 3.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 50.0% FG

(Statistics via Sports-Reference)

It all starts and ends with Liddell, one of five legitimate candidates for Big Ten Player of the Year (him, Keegan, Johnny Davis, Kofi Cockburn, Jayden Ivey, in some order). He does it at both ends of the field – fourth in points, second in blocks. His forward stats are great too – second in win share, third in PER. He’s a fantastic player.

Note the presence of Kyle Young and Justin Ahrens on the Ohio State bench. They are still there. Young blasted the Hawks at Iowa City last year, scoring 16 points on 5-6 shooting to go with 6 rebounds in an 89-85 win at Ohio State (he was only held to 3 points in Game 2, which Iowa won handily in Columbus). You’ll remember Ahrens from the disaster at the end of the 2018-19 season when he scored (wait for it) a career-high 29 points in a 90-70 rout. To put that into perspective, Ahrens hasn’t reached 20 points at any other point in his career – his next best game was an 18-point outing against Nebraska last year. Because, you know, Iowa basketball!

If Ohio State has any weaknesses, it’s depth and lack of size. Depth issues are a function of injuries. Meechie Johnson worked his way into the starting lineup but injured his ankle in the Rutgers loss and hasn’t played since. Judge Sueing was stopped after two games due to an abdominal injury. Seth Towns has yet to play with a back injury. Eugene Brown III moved into Johnson’s starting spot on Tuesday, while Cedric Russell gave the Buckeyes a boost off the bench in the past two games. Young and Ahrens of course also give them regular minutes on the bench. After that, it’s the minutes on the spot. So naturally, watch one of those guys who has 3 or 4 minutes to get a few buckets. Because, again, Iowa basketball. Useful for Iowa here – Ohio State doesn’t have a frontline like Michigan in terms of height and length.

Can Iowa come off the mat?

It’s a recurring theme – it’s either, “can they continue the good streak?” or “God what a tough loss. Can they bounce back? I’m scared.” So we’re back in some tough loss/rebound/I’m afraid territory. Michigan’s game was as close to winning as Iowa’s was this year and they blew it. So we go from one game to win to another as the chances of strengthening the March recovery dwindle. They have to get something out of this state of Michigan and Ohio.state of michigan stretch or a CV-builder looks gloomy short of a run Big Ten Tournament.

Is it a waste of time?

Some of you guys who are less in tune with the NBA are probably like, “Huh? Lost schedule? Take your NBA nerd shit to Denver Stiffs.” Which, just.

A brief introduction. In the mid-2010s, the terms “schedule loss” began to enter the NBA lexicon. In general, you can reasonably predict wins and losses not based on the quality of the opponent, but based on the schedule leading up to certain games (at the time, the NBA schedule was foolish; teams would play several back-to-backs a year, and some unlucky saps would get several four games in five days. This resulted in injuries and poor overall quality of play at the end of those stretches). It’s a combination of overall lack of rest between games that then rolls travel and time between tips for each team into the equation (Iowa switched Thursday to 6:00 a.m. Central and will then roll this game to 1:30 a.m. Central, while Ohio State hasn’t played since Tuesday; they have a second game in three days, against Indiana on Monday, but that’s also in Columbus, so remove the travel aspect and they will sleep in their own bed). Add it all up and you can reasonably predict losses where the schedule bites you more than your actual opponent – a consultant for an NBA team was able to correctly pick the loser of games with up to 78% accuracy .

But SirNick – the players are young! They can do it! They all played at AAU where they play multiple games a day! They have this kind of rest in the Tournament! Yes, everything is true. But AAU is BS, and the NCAA tournament is held in one venue. With the right game, you don’t exert maximum effort for 40 minutes (which Iowa just did against Michigan), then you take a flight the next day and lose an hour, then you have to face a great team on their ground. So this looks like a waste of schedule to me. Can Iowa win? Sure. It’s been a tight streak historically (tied with 82 wins apiece), and the last six games at Columbus are evenly split 3-3. Just a year ago, Iowa held Ohio State to 57 points in its building against a top-5 ranked team. It’s winnable for Iowa if Keegan’s cramp issues are ironed out, Bohannon gets back on track, they make layups/dunks/free throws, etc. Just act accordingly if this game gets out of hand. It was potentially always going to get out of control — Ohio State is a good team — but especially at this point on the schedule.

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