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Rutgers Men’s Basketball Game #28 Preview At No 22/21 Iowa

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Includes Steve Pikiell’s thoughts, how to watch, stats, & keys to victory

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers (13-14; 6-11) At No. 21/22 Iowa (21-7; 10-7)

How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes

Where: Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa

Tip-off: Saturday, March 2nd at 5:00 p.m. ET

TV: BTN - Kevin Kugler & Stephen Bardo

Stream: BTN2GO

Radio: Live Listen - WCTC 1450 AM/WOR 710 AM/XM 390- Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan; WRSU 88.7 FM - Randy DeGregorio & Raj Shah

KenPom Rankings: Rutgers #80; Iowa #32

(Rutgers has stayed even since the win over Minnesota)

KenPom Prediction: Iowa 78 Rutgers 69 ; Rutgers has a 19% chance to win.

Vegas Line: Iowa -8.5

Series History: Iowa leads all-time 6-1, including a 71-69 last second victory at the RAC on February 16th.

SB Nation Iowa site: Black Heart Gold Pants

Game 27 four thoughts

About Iowa

Head coach Fran McCaffery is suspended for this game and the next after some pretty strong verbal jabs at the officials following Tuesday night’s loss at Ohio State. Longtime assistant coach Andrew Francis will serve as head coach for the Rutgers game. Even after this week’s defeat to the Buckeyes, Iowa has still won 10 of its last 13 contests and at 21-7 are close to a lock to make the NCAA Tournament. It is also senior night for the Hawkeyes, who like Rutgers, have just one graduating player in Nicholas Baer.

They are a fascinating team in the sense that they are one of the best offensive units in all of college basketball, but are severely lacking on the defensive end. The problem with Iowa is they basically dare you to outscore them, which is far easier said than done, as Rutgers found out in Piscataway. For the season, Iowa averages 80.0 points per game and is shooting 46.6% from the field, 37.1% from three-point range, and 75.2% from the free throw line. They are the second highest scoring team in Big Ten play and have the third most efficient offense in league action at 109.5 and are ranked first in three-point shooting (37.1%), second in effective field goal percentage (52.6%) and tempo (69.0%), as well as third in free throw shooting (75.6%), free throw rate (36.5%), and two-point shooting (49.3%)

Defensively is a different story. They are last in scoring defense (75.8 ppg) as well as defensive efficiency (109.2). However, they are sixth in three-point defense in league play, holding opponents to 32.9% from behind the arc, as well as free throw rate (30.8%), while seventh in turnover rate (16.9%) and steal rate (8.8%).

Iowa continues to be a major challenge due to the fact that their offensive attack is so well balanced. They play at a fast pace and have five players who average around 10 or more points per contest, all of whom have each scored 20+ points in a game multiple times this season. That type of balance puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses because there are so many options to keep track of. Rutgers will need its best defensive effort of the season to win, especially on the road on senior night against a team playing for their suspended head coach.

Notable Contributors

Backcourt

6’6” freshman Joe Wieskamp - 11.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.0 assist

6’1” junior Jordan Bohannon - 11.5 points, 3.4 assists, 2.2 rebounds

6’5” junior Isaiah Moss - 9.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.0 steal

6’5” freshman Connor McCaffery - 4.6 points, 3.1 assists, 1.7 rebounds

Frontcourt

6’9” junior Tyler Cook - 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists

6’11” sophomore Luka Garza - 13.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.0 assist

6’7” senior Nicholas Baer - 6.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.1 blocks, 1.0 steal

6’9” junior Ryan Kriener - 5.6 points, 3.1 rebounds

Notes: Rutgers is averaging 67.4 points per game this season and are shooting 41.4% from the floor, 31.4% from three-point range, and 62.7% from the free throw line. On the season, Rutgers has one quadrant 1 and six quadrant 2 wins. Those seven victories from the top two quadrants is equal or better than six teams currently ranked or receiving votes in the AP poll, per Rutgers athletics. KenPom has RU as the most improved high major program, based on improving 68 spots in efficiency rankings since the beginning of this season.

Steve Pikiell’s Pregame Thoughts

On winning this game on the road

“I’m excited about our development and how our guys have improved. And there’s still better days ahead for our young players. Our guys come to practice every day with a great mindset. We’re heading to a real tough venue, with Senior Night in Iowa against a really good, ranked Iowa team. We’ll try and make some adjustments from the first time we played them. These challenges are exciting, but we have to go in there with the right mindset. It’s a whole different challenge that we are up against when we go on the road. We have to play great basketball on both ends of the floor to be able to have success.”

On playing a team a second time

“The second go-around is just a little different in that we try to make some adjustments from the first game, but also, these teams are very different now than they were the first time we played them. It doesn’t make it any easier in your prep the second go around. You just have a little more familiarity, especially our freshman, who have a little more familiarity with personnel from the other teams. We prepare always the same way, one game at a time. We’re playing really good teams. A ranked Iowa team at home that’s great on Senior night. Huge challenges for us and a sold out venue probably.”

On emotional statements made by Rutgers players after the loss to Iowa

“After games, you make some statements and things like that. Now, a couple weeks later, you got to play the game. We’ve got to play well. I talk to our guys about that all the time. You have to play good basketball on both ends of the floor when you play ranked teams on the road. You can talk about it, and that’s great, but all the talk in the world doesn’t get you to do what you need to do in these kind of environments.

On the advantage of less travel and more time in-between games this past week plus

“First and foremost, trying to get guys off their feet and get some rest. It’s a grueling season as you guys know with travel. We’ve been doing this since July and there’s a mental and physical part of it. To give them a couple days off their feet is going to help us a great deal. They needed some days off, mentally and physically, so that’s a good thing. The second go round with prep they are not learning teams for the first time. That helps in how we prepare film wise and some of the different types of things we are trying to do in practice. Show a couple different looks here and there. It gives us some extra time to put in some new stuff that I wanted to put in. A couple of new out of bounds sets and some different things we can use moving forward here in the last few games of the season.”

On assistant coach Andrew Francis coaching Iowa

I know they’ve got a great staff and he’s been with them for a long time,” Pikiell said. “Much respect to their whole staff and the whole program. I think they’re a program, so I’m sure at this time of the year, they’ve got a lot of veteran players and he’ll do a great job as Fran does. They’ll be well prepared, I do know that.”

Keys To Victory

I think this is a fascinating matchup, especially after how entertaining the first meeting was. Both teams should be playing with some added emotional oomph, with the way Rutgers lost to Iowa previously and the Hawkeyes having to watch their coach walk off the floor after senior day festivities. Iowa is 6-3 at home in Big Ten play and its the last game at Carver-Hawkeye this season, so they’ll want to close out a successful season in front of its fans. That being said, Rutgers last five road games look like this: a win over Penn State, a hard fought loss to an Ohio State team playing its best, a wild, exhausting OT loss at Illinois, a win over Northwestern, and a great first half against Michigan State followed by getting run over in the second. After responding to that last road outing with a come from behind victory Sunday against Minnesota at the RAC, one thing you can be sure of is Rutgers will have confidence when they step on the parquet floor of Iowa.

The scary part of playing Iowa is the Jordan Bohannon Factor, as the crafty guard has the innate ability to change a game with one shot. He is so active throughout the game that he can be quiet for the majority of the action, only to wait for a crucial moment to wear you down and hurt you with a big shot. Bohannon gets the Iowa crowd going like no one else either when he connects from behind the arc. Montez Mathis did a good job on him during the first game and knows what to expect this time around. He is the best defender Rutgers has, but I expect them to switch it up at times to preserve Mathis’ legs and vary looks on Bohannon. Still, the matchup with Mathis is one to watch.

I think Iowa will try and get big man Tyler Cook involved early with the hope of him being more productive than the first meeting, while also hoping to create more open looks from the perimeter as the game progresses. Luke Garza can be a problem as well, but Rutgers held both players to a combined 19 points in the first meeting. Eugene Omoruyi versus Cook will be a key one, while Shaq Carter needs to give Rutgers quality minutes off the bench. Myles Johnson can be a huge factor on the boards, which Rutgers needs to control as much as possible if they want to win this game. They can’t allow Cook or Garza putback chances off of offensive rebounds and need to limit Iowa to as many one shot possessions as possible.

The Hawkeyes are a much better three-point shooting and free throw shooting team, so Rutgers needs to be extremely efficient in the paint near the rim. They can’t afford to miss shots within 5 feet of the basket, which they have too many times this season in close games. Rutgers needs to attack the offensive glass like always to maximize second chance scoring opportunities. They don’t need to shoot the lights out per say, but I’d say they need to shoot the lights dim to win. Iowa is not a good defensive team and perhaps Rutgers can replicate it’s offensive efficiency from its road game at Illinois, when they seemingly scored at will at times.

A balanced scoring attack and ball movement in the halfcourt, while looking to run in transition are things Rutgers needs offensively to be successful against Iowa. Perhaps most importantly, they have to do a better job from the free throw line. They have to hit the freebies if they want to keep pace with Iowa, who are going to make more three’s and are a great free throw shooting team. They also can’t be sloppy and allow for costly turnovers that result in easy baskets for Iowa.

It’s going to take an A+ effort on both ends to win and the best performance of the season. However, Rutgers has yet to play a complete game to their potential and I honestly believe they have such a performance in them to deliver before the season ends. Could it happen against Iowa? Odds are against it, but I do think the fact that Iowa is not good defensively gives Rutgers a chance to make this another close game and cause the Hawkeyes fits with their defense. Adjustments will be made by both sides after the last meeting and whichever team can capitalize the most on them will have the upper hand. Hall of fame football player Jack Youngblood famously said, “Good luck is the residue of preparation.” We know that Rutgers will be prepared by the coaching staff. It’s a matter of this team digging deep and taking another step forward in the rebuilding process by beating a ranked team on the road.

Appropriate Music Selection

For this game, I chose Victory by the Walkmen. They are a lesser known band but one of my all-time favorites. I’ve seen them live twice and they were excellent. They are no more, but their music lives on. This song I think is appropriate for this game, here are some lyrics:

“We all get even. And we all get wise. Take what’s good for me. I know what I fight.”

“Victory right beside me. There’s blood all over my hands. Victory should be mine.”

Rutgers had victory snatched out of their hands against Iowa at the RAC two weeks ago. I think we all felt bloodied after that loss. Hopefully they can get even with its best road performance since joining the Big Ten against the Hawkeyes on Saturday, in what would be the best victory of the season so far.