Northwestern goes into Iowa City on Wednesday to play the Iowa Hawkeyes. While the Wildcats football team owns the Hawkeyes, that isn't the case with the basketball team. This is a huge game for Northwestern and the Wildcats' NCAA Tournament hopes, so let's play a little "Good News", "Bad News."
Very Bad News - This game is at Carver-Hawkeye Arena: Let me remind you about the last four times Northwestern has gone to Iowa City.
- 2010 -- A 78-65 loss in 60 possessions to a 10-22 them that got its coach fired.
- 2009 -- A 56-51 loss in 52 possessions to a 15-17 team.
- 2008 -- A 53-51 loss in 54 possessions to a 13-19 team.
- 2007 -- A 66-58 loss in 64 possessions to a 17-14 team.
Yeah. So there's that. If there's a reason to be scared that's it. Those Iowa teams might've actually been worse than the one Northwestern will play on Wednesday night and they all beat the Wildcats. Of course those last three teams were coached by Todd Lickliter. Maybe Fran McCaffery is going to be a bit more generous?
Good News - Iowa doesn't defend shooters that well: In fact it's the worst part about the Iowa defense that is ranked fourth in adjusted defensive efficiency. (And we all thought McCaffery knew how to coach offense.) That also happens to be the biggest strength of Northwestern's highly rated offense. Of course playing on the road isn't going to help. Also, if Iowa's good at defending one type of shot it's those pesky threes that the Wildcats launch a lot. (One might say, "Way too often," there, but that'd be incorrect. When you're knocking down 40.2 percent - 17th in the country - it's always a good time to take a three.)
Bad News - Matt Gatens is playing well again: Gatens is also known as "Iowa's best player" and I'm not sure who is going to guard him in the match up. Personally, I hope it's JerShon Cobb. I thought Gatens was playing poorly, then I looked at the numbers and that's not the case at all. He's scoring 12.7 points per game overall, but has scored in double-figures the past six games, including 21 in a loss to Illinois. The other guy you have to guard? Melsahn Basabe. He's a 6'9 freshman, the tallest player on the court for the Hawkeyes and just had a double-double against Ohio State with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Didn't Northwestern just play a team with no big men? Yes! They did. Hopefully Luka Mirkovic watched a lot of game tape from that Indiana game and knows how to apply it again.
Good News - The Iowa offense isn't very good: Northwestern let's teams get open shots. Iowa doesn't hit open shots. Well, that's not technically correct, but the two biggest weaknesses of their offense are missing shots and turning the ball over. Of course they rebound well, very well. And we all know that Northwestern doesn't rebound. Paging Mr. Mirkovic. Northwestern has to remember that the possession doesn't actually end until the ball is back in its hands.
So with that said, do I have any idea what's going to happen in this game? No. Anything within the range of Northwestern winning by 14 to Iowa winning by 14 seems completely in the realm of possibility to me. The Wildcats have had some notable struggles in Iowa City and nothing has happened this season to suggest it'll be any different. Still, if this team is going to be an NCAA Tournament team this is one they have to win.