The Indiana men’s basketball team is coming off two exciting home wins against Ohio State and Minnesota. But on Thursday, they’ll return to a true road environment, where they are yet to win this season (0-3).
Here is what Mike Woodson and the Hoosiers need to prepare for against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
RUN & GUN
The top point of emphasis for the Hawkeyes offenses is running the floor and playing fast. Iowa pushes the pace regardless of if its defense is coming off of a rebound, made shot or turnover.
These are Iowa’s first two possessions against Wisconsin, where the Hawkeyes scored in under five seconds:
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Iowa’s average offensive possession takes 14.9 seconds, and that number is equal for both non-conference and Big Ten games. From Indiana’s side, I’m not sure the solution is trying to slow Iowa down, as the Hoosiers also play their best offense when tempo’s involved. But IU certainly has to be alert and ready to run back on defense at all times.
Another Big Ten opponent, another potential All-American to go against. That’s just how it works this year in the conference, and Keegan Murray drives the bus for Iowa.
Murray has gone from being Luka Garza’s backup to being one of the best players in college basketball. Murray’s prime source of production in half-court offense is in the post-up and face-up game.
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Murray’s mix of strength, athleticism, and shotmaking is hard to come by. Woodson has already indicated that he plans to use Race Thompson as the primary defender against Murray.
The Hoosiers should really consider playing Jordan Geronimo over 15 minutes on Thursday, even though he’s only done it once since the start of December. Geronimo’s ability to take away space with his length could be a nice counter to Murray’s size. Geronimo would probably need some help in the low post but I think he could get the job done.
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Murray’s worst game of the season (and Iowa’s worst offensive game overall) came against Iowa State. Iowa State was unafraid to switch when Murray was the screener. When Murray got the ball, the entire defense loaded up to negate any driving angles for Murray. This forced Murray to either make contested shots or become a facilitator (which is the weakest part of his offensive arsenal).
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Murray did not score in the first half against the Cyclones and finished the game with just nine points on 4-for-17 shooting.
Iowa only shoots 35.5 percent on 3s and is at just 33.7 percent in four Big Ten games. Teams can force the ball out of Murray’s hand and make Iowa settle for 3s. As long as Indiana locates Jordan Bohannon (who has made the most 3s in Big Ten history), IU can probably get away with helping off of perimeter players to wall up Murray.
The other part of Iowa’s offense that makes the Hawkeyes so hard to guard is the ball handling. Seemingly every Iowa player can put the ball on the floor and get to the basket.
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Not only do the Hawkeyes have a surplus of ball handlers, but those ball handlers are also careful with the ball. Iowa leads the country with a 12.1 percent turnover rate. Iowa has turned it over even less in conference play (9.8 percent).
IU will have to be able to contain the drive against Iowa, and the backline should be ready at all times to clean up any mistakes made by wing defenders.
A BEATABLE DEFENSE
For the third year in a row, Iowa’s defense appears to be hindering a top-five offense. In six games against teams in basketball analyst Bart Torvik's top 100 teams, Iowa is allowing 1.139 points per possession, which ranks second-last in the Big Ten.
Iowa’s defensive problems start with rebounding. Iowa’s opponents grab offensive rebounds 30.6 percent of the time. That number jolts to an abysmal 40.4 percent in conference play, which is last in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes lost their top three rebounders from a season ago and they are now experiencing the consequences.
Indiana is not a team that necessarily emphasizes offensive rebounding, but IU absolutely should against Iowa. The likes of Trayce Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson, Geronimo and Michael Durr need to be active on the offensive glass against the Hawkeyes.
Other than rebounding, there’s nothing that Iowa is consistently terrible at defensively. The issue is that there is nothing that Iowa does consistently well either.
Some games this team gets beat by 3s, some games they get killed inside, other games they foul too much. The reason for it changes constantly, but this is an Iowa squad that is yet to show that it can guard a top-100 team.
As for how Iowa defends Jackson-Davis, you can expect double teams to come. Iowa has faced three premier big men: Illinois' Kofi Cockburn, Purdue's Zach Edey and Purdue's Trevion Williams. Everyone has to double Cockburn and Edey, who are both over 7-feet tall and 280 pounds.
But Iowa also decided to send two at Williams, who stands 6-foot-10. It is clear that the Hawkeyes do not trust their post defense to go one-on-one against top players.
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As per usual, IU will need to make smart passes out of double teams and swing the ball around to find the open man. If the Hoosiers do this effectively, there’s a good chance that Iowa’s defense breaks down once again.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND KEYS
To have success against Iowa, Indiana will need to play team defense and protect the paint. The Hawkeyes want to get the likes of Keegan Murray, Patrick McCaffery and Kris Murray going towards the rim.
The Hoosiers also need to emphasize running back in transition. Jackson-Davis and Thompson are two of the fastest big men in the conference and they will need to put that to use against Iowa. IU cannot get caught sleeping in transition against the Hawkeyes.
Offensively, Indiana will have to avoid turning the ball over. Due to how seldom Iowa turns it over, it will be important for the Hoosiers to not lose the turnover battle by a large margin. IU’s turnover rate has stayed below 15 percent in the past three games after being over 20 percent to begin the season. If IU can keep that trend going, the team should be in good shape.
This is a very winnable game for IU. Iowa has not shown the ability to guard inside, which bodes well for the Hoosiers. I expect the low post actions to be very efficient against the Hawkeyes.
On the other hand, all three of IU’s losses have been winnable games. All three of the losses have been on the road. We’re at the midway point of the regular season and so far, this looks like an entirely different squad when playing outside of the state of Indiana. The Hoosiers have a chance to fix that against Iowa.