Iowa (13-4; 3-3) at Rutgers (10-6; 4-2)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway, New Jersey (8,000 capacity)
(Vaccination policy for indoor events here)
Tip-off: Wednesday, January 19 at 8:30 p.m. ET
TV: BTN - Kevin Kugler and Robbie Hummel
Stream: FOX Sports Live
NET Rankings: Rutgers No. 116; Iowa No. 19
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers - No. 93, two spots better following Saturday’s 70-59 win over Maryland; Iowa - No. 19, two spots better following a 81-71 win over Minnesota on Sunday.
Efficiency Rankings: Rutgers - Offense 104.6 (142nd) Defense 96.1 (54th); Iowa - Offense 121.7 (3rd) Defense 102.2 (158th)
KenPom Prediction: Iowa 79 Rutgers 74. Rutgers is given a 34% chance to win.
Vegas Line: Iowa -3.5
Series History: Iowa leads the all-time series 9-2 which includes a season home and home series sweep last season.
Iowa: 6’8” sophomore Keegan Murray - 23.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, 1.5 steals, 1.1 assists, 59.7% FG, 36.2% 3-pt FG; 6’1” senior Jordan Bohannon - 10.9 points, 1.5 assists, 1.1 rebounds, 37.3% 3-pt FG; 6’9” sophomore Patrick McCaffery - 10.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 31.7% 3-pt FG; 6’8” sophomore Kris Murray - 10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.1 blocks, 41.7% 3-pt FG; 6’4” sophomore Tony Perkins - 7.6 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.1 steals; 6’9” senior Filip Rebraca - 6.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, 58.1% FG; 6’0’ junior Joe Toussaint - 5.4 points, 5.8 assists, 1.4 steals, 49.4% FG; 6’7” freshman Payton Sandfort - 5.2 points, 1.4 rebounds, 33.3% 3-pt FG; 6’3” sophomore Ahron Ulis - 3.9 points, 3.0 assists, 2.3 rebounds; 6’5” senior Connor McCaffery - 1.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists
Rutgers: 6’6” senior Ron Harper Jr. - 16.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.4 steals, 47.0% 3-pt FG; 6’11” sophomore Cliff Omoruyi - 11.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 60.6% FG; 6’4” senior Geo Baker - 11.2 points, 4.3 assists, 2.0 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 31.8% 3-pt FG; 6’6” junior Paul Mulcahy - 7.3 points, 4.7 assists, 4.1 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 32.4% 3-pt FG; 6’7” senior Caleb McConnell - 6.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.2 steals; 6’6” sophomore Aundre Hyatt - 5.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists; 6’8” freshman Jaden Jones - 4.4 points, 1.4 rebounds; 6’7” sophomore Mawot Mag - 4.1 points, 2.0 rebounds; 6’8” senior Ralph Gonzales-Agee - 2.6 points, 1.3 rebounds; 6’10 sophomore Dean Reiber - 2.0 points, 1.4 rebounds; 6’8” sophomore Oskar Palmquist - 1.9 points, 4-8 3-pt FG; 6’2” freshman Jalen Miller - 1.3 points
The Hawkeyes own five Top 100 victories per KenPom with its win last week over No. 28 Indiana its best so far this season. Their three losses in Big Ten play are all by single digits to No. 4 Purdue, No. 12 Illinois and No. 25 Wisconsin. They went 10-1 in non-conference play (340th SOS) with the lone loss coming to rival No. 27 Iowa State.
Iowa is once again an offensive juggernaut this season, averaging 86.2 points per game. They play with an extremely fast tempo (71.4, 45th) and are 3rd nationally in offensive efficiency (121.7). This includes being 1st nationally in turnover rate (12.3%), block rate (4.5%) and non-steal turnovers (5.3%). While they are a solid 34.7% from three-point range (107th), they are elite in shooting 55.5% from two-point range (29th) and 76.8% from the foul line (34th). They also have an offensive rebounding rate of 32.6% which is 55th nationally.
Keegan Murray has made a massive jump in his second season, as he leads the country in scoring and is an elite player. He can score in multiple ways and is a handful for every opponent. He is shooting 68.7% from two-point range but is also a deep threat as well at 36.2% from behind the arc. Murray also rebounds at a high rate, rarely turns it over and is a very good shot blocker.
As a team they are still dependent on the three-point shot, averaging 24 attempts per game. They have multiple shooters with over 40 attempts on the season in Keegan Murray (36.2%), Jordan Bohannon (37.3%), Kris Murray (41.7%), Patrick McCaffery (31.7%) and Payton Sandfort (33.3%).
Defensively, the Hawkeyes are mediocre at best. They’re 158th in defensive efficiency (102.2) and are susceptible inside. Opponents have an offensive rebounding rate of 30.6% (265th) and are shooting 50.6% from two-point range (215th). They do have a defensive block rate of 12.8% (49th) and a defensive steal rate of 11.2% (54th).
In Big Ten play, Iowa is 2nd in the league in offensive efficiency and 12th in defensive efficiency.
For the season, the Scarlet Knights are averaging 69.0 points per game and allowing 65.1 points per contest.....RU is shooting only 47.8% from two-point range (248th), 34.2% from three-point range (136th) and 67.2% from the foul line (291st)......They are ranked 9th nationally in assist rate at 63.2% and 91st in turnover rate at 17.5%.......Rutgers is 10th in offensive efficiency and 6th in defensive efficiency in Big Ten play so far this season......RU is shooting a league best 44.2% from three-point range in Big Ten play......They are in the top 5 in six of eight defensive categories in Big Ten play including 2nd in 3-pt defense, 3rd in steal rate and free throw rate, 4th in turnover rate and 5th in effective field goal percentage and block rate.......Rutgers is 9-2 this season when holding opponents under 70 points.
Keys To Victory
The two things that stand out the most in analyzing Iowa’s four losses is they were beaten badly on the boards and were less effective from the free throw line than normal.
Iowa has a +100 rebounding margin in their 13 wins but is -76 in its four losses. They were -12 against Purdue, -29 against Illinois, -18 against Iowa State and -17 against Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes play very fast but the key is getting quality shots in a short time period. They aren’t rushing and forcing bad looks. However, when you take away their ability to get offensive rebounds, limiting them to one shot possessions, Iowa becomes easier to contain. They also are averaging two less attempts and three less makes from the foul line in their four losses compared to the season. Those two factors are a major reason why Iowa is only averaging 71 points in their four defeats, 15 points less than their season average.
That makes it obvious Rutgers must control the boards and defend without fouling in this matchup. Limit Iowa to one shot possessions, extend their own possessions on the offensive glass and keep them off the foul line. Defending the three by closing out on shooters is key as well against Iowa, as well as identifying where the shooters are on the floor.
Another major key is the turnover battle. Iowa has the lowest turnover rate in the country and forces them quite a bit as well. They are aggressive in jumping passing lanes. While they held a +26 turnover margin in their four losses, they came against some of the best teams in college basketball that were able to overcome that one issue. Rutgers can’t afford to take that risk tonight and have to take care of the basketball better than they have in Big Ten play. They are just 13th in league action with a 20.8% turnover rate. Tonight is a game they have to be careful and not allow Iowa to score quickly in transition off of turnovers. The Hawkeyes have the ability to put together back breaking runs before the opposition can blink. Rutgers can’t let Iowa speed them up to the point of being careless or sloppy, which will lead to mistakes.
The Scarlet Knights were tremendous against Maryland in the second half when they stopped fouling and stopped turning the ball over. Same formula is needed tonight.
Keegan Murray will be a problem, but the key is holding him closer to 20 points rather than 30+. Expect Ron Harper Jr., Caleb McConnell and even Mawot Mag to rotate in defending Murray. It’s typical for Steve Pikiell to throw multiple defenders at the opposing team’s best player, but it’s likely whoever is more effective between Harper Jr. and McConnell will take him down the stretch. Of course, Ron will need to have a big offensive night so perhaps he gets less of the assignment overall.
At the end of the day, the starting five of Rutgers have to all have productive games. Paul Mulcahy needs to play with confidence and trust his feel for the game without forcing the action. If he can continue to become more of contributor scoring wise, along with sharing the basketball, RU will be that much more dangerous offensively. Cliff Omoruyi has a chance to dominate inside on both ends of the floor. Feeding him early to establish the paint will be key and help generate open looks from the perimeter as the game progresses. McConnell is really needed on the boards and defensively, but taking advantage of scoring chances by attacking the rim would be a positive.
Of course, Harper Jr. and Geo Baker need to provide a 1-2 scoring punch tonight to have a chance to win. A good defensive performance would be to hold Iowa to under 75 points. That still means Rutgers has to score. While Harper Jr. has been red hot from behind the arc, I’d like to see him attack the rim early and attack the glass. He can get to the line and slow the game down. Geo has the potential to be effective off the bounce with penetration against a soft Iowa defense. Chances from three will come organically if Rutgers is smart by making Iowa work on the defensive end in the halfcourt. When attacking the rim, they need to finish layups and dunks as much as anything.
An x-factor is which team is just flat out tougher in this game, both mentally and physically. Any lift that the bench can give in this game, in particular Aundre Hyatt and Mawot Mag, would be significant. Iowa plays a deep bench, so Rutgers needs some type of production from theirs as well.
These two teams have had their share of battles over the years and if Rutgers can keep their composure and play within themselves, they have a real chance to earn a much needed Quad 1 statement win.
For this matchup, I chose “The Long Way” by Eddie Vedder. It’s a song from his new solo album “Earthlings”. There is some parallel to the current situation for Rutgers in his opening lyrics.
“His eyes appear vacant. He’d taken more than his share. Trying hard not to awaken. The voice of regret in his ear. He can’t escape the timeline. So much worse than he had feared. Lived every moment. Wishing the past would disappear. He took the long way. On the freeway.”
Rutgers squandered opportunities in the non-conference schedule and dug an almost insurmountable hole for them to get out of this season. Almost is the key word and I firmly believe their best basketball has yet to be played. They’ll need to take the long way to March Madness. Tonight is a great chance to take a big step forward towards NCAA Tournament contention.
This is a winnable home game. If Rutgers can play unselfishly, while tapping into the program’s DNA with a strong defensive and rebounding performance, the result should go the way they want it to.