Men’s Basketball Big Ten Quarterfinals
No. 5 Iowa (23-9; 12-8) vs. No. 4 Rutgers (18-12; 12-8)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana (capacity 20,000)
Tip-off: Friday, March 11 at approximately 2:00 p.m. ET
TV: BTN - Kevin Kugler, Stephen Bardo and Rick Pizzo
Stream: FOX Sports Live
NET Rankings: Rutgers No. 77; Iowa No. 15 (Quad 1 opponent)
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers - No. 74, which is three spots worse following a 59-58 win over No. 87 Penn State on Sunday. Iowa - No. 13, which is one spot better following a 112-76 win over at No. 85 Northwestern on Thursday.
Efficiency Rankings: Rutgers - Offense 106.2 (116th) Defense 95.3 (39th); Iowa - Offense 121.2 (3rd) Defense 98.1 (78th)
KenPom Prediction: Iowa 77 Rutgers 69. Rutgers has a 23% chance to win.
Vegas Line: Iowa -7
Series History: Iowa leads the all-time series 9-3 but Rutgers won 48-46 at home on January 19 in their lone meeting earlier this season. You can read our game recap here. You can read Dave White’s Four Thoughts here. You can read about the defensive performance for the ages here.
Podcast with Iowa great/BTN Analyst Jess Settles:
Iowa: 6’8” sophomore Keegan Murray - 23.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 1.4 assists, 1.3 steals, 55.9% FG, 39.3% 3-pt FG; 6’1” senior Jordan Bohannon - 11.1 points, 1.8 assists, 1.3 rebounds, 38.8% 3-pt FG; 6’9” sophomore Patrick McCaffery - 10.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 31.1% 3-pt FG; 6’8” sophomore Kris Murray - 10.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 49.6% FG, 40.8% 3-pt FG; 6’4” sophomore Tony Perkins - 7.1 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.0 steal, 34.9% 3-pt FG; 6’9” senior Filip Rebraca - 6.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 54.0% FG; 6’7” freshman Payton Sandfort - 5.1 points, 1.8 rebounds, 36.5% 3-pt FG; 6’0’ junior Joe Toussaint - 4.4 points, 3.4 assists, 1.8 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 29.0% 3-pt FG; 6’3” sophomore Ahron Ulis - 3.4 points, 2.3 assists, 2.1 rebounds, 33.3% 3-pt FG; 6’5” senior Connor McCaffery - 2.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 38.2% 3-pt FG
Rutgers: 6’6” senior Ron Harper Jr. - 15.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.1 steals, 39.9% 3-pt FG; 6’4” redshirt senior Geo Baker - 12.0 points, 3.9 assists, 2.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 31.7% 3-pt FG; 6’11” sophomore Cliff Omoruyi - 11.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 61.7% FG; 6’6” junior Paul Mulcahy - 8.9 points, 5.2 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 35.3% 3-pt FG; 6’7” senior Caleb McConnell - 6.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.2 steals, 2.1 assists, 25.0% 3-pt FG; 6’6” sophomore Aundre Hyatt - 4.6 points, 2.9 rebounds; 6’8” Jaden Jones - 3.6 points, 1.2 rebounds; 6’7” sophomore Mawot Mag - 3.2 points, 2.0 rebounds; 6’10 sophomore Dean Reiber - 3.2 points, 1.2 rebounds, 54.0% FG; 6’8” senior Ralph Gonzales-Agee - 1.9 points, 1.1 rebounds; 6’8” sophomore Oskar Palmquist - 1.5 points, 5-11 3-pt FG; 6’2” freshman Jalen Miller - 0.7 points
The Hawkeyes are 5-7 against KenPom Top 50 teams and are 11-9 against Top 100 teams. They went 10-1 in non-conference play (327th SOS) with the lone loss coming to rival No. 39 Iowa State. A major reason that their NET ranking is high at No. 15 because they have won 19 games by double digits.
Iowa is once again an offensive juggernaut this season, averaging 84.2 points per game and allow 71.1 points per contest. They play with an extremely fast tempo (70.0, 50th) and are 3rd nationally in offensive efficiency (121.2). This includes being 1st nationally in non-steal turnovers (5.6%), 3rd in turnover rate (12.%), 33rd in three-point shooting (37.0%), 48th in offensive rebounding rate (32.6%), 51st in block rate (7.3%), 75th in two-point shooting (52.4%) and 92nd in free throw shooting (74.3%).
They also had the most efficient offense in Big Ten play with a rating of 112.9, just beating out Purdue.
Keegan Murray is the second most efficient player in the country after making a massive jump in his second season. He is an elite player and has scored 20+ points in 11 of his last 12 games.. He can score in multiple ways and is a handful for every opponent. He is shooting 62.5% from two-point range but is also a deep threat as well at 39.3% 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 25 attempts per game. Virtually their entire rotation is comprised of shooters who are dangerous from behind the arc.
Defensively, the Hawkeyes are vastly improved since they last played Rutgers. They’re 78th in defensive efficiency (98.1) overall and finished fifth in Big Ten play. They were first in the conference in defensive turnover rate (19.4%) and were only behind RU in steal rate (10.3%). Their one major weakness on the defensive end is keeping opponents off of the glass. They allowed opponents a 29.7% offensive rebounding rate overall (239th) and were last in Big Ten play allowing a rate of 31.0%.
For the season, the Scarlet Knights are averaging 67.7 points per game and allowing 65.2 points per contest.....RU is shooting only 49.0% from two-point range (208th), 33.8% from three-point range (175th) and 70.0% from the foul line (230th)......They are ranked 28th nationally in assist rate at 59.0%, 39th in two-point defense in holding opponents to 46.0% shooting, 48th in defensive block rate at 11.9% and 59th in defensive steal rate at 10.9% .......Rutgers finished 9th in offensive efficiency and 4th in defensive efficiency in Big Ten play this regular season......RU was 3rd from three-point range at 36.7% shooting but just 11th in free throw rate (25.0%) and 13th in offensive rebounding rate (18.7%) in league play........They finished in the top five in seven defensive categories in Big Ten play including 1st in steal rate (10.6%), 2nd in block rate (12.2%), 3rd in turnover rate (17.6%), 4th in effective field goal percentage (49.2%), free throw rate (26.7%) and 5th in two-point shooting (48.1%) and three-point shooting (33.8%).....Rutgers is 8-5 against KenPom Top 50 teams and 11-8 against KenPom Top 100 teams.
Stat To Know
In Big Ten play this season, Rutgers is 10-0 when holding opponents to 65 or fewer points. Iowa has been held under 65 points just twice the entire season, which was against Rutgers and Iowa State, both losses.
On Rutgers gaining respect in the Big Ten
“I think it’s definitely there now. I don’t think anyone looks at Rutgers the way they used to. (They don’t) talk about Rutgers the way they used to for sure. The perception has changed, but again, we had to earn that. That wasn’t just given to us.”
On the adversity faced this season
“We took those losses and we learned from them. We could have easily laid down and just said ‘oh, the season’s over’ because that’s what everyone else is saying, but we have a great coach who understands the ups-and-downs of basketball and great veterans who understand the same thing.”
On the Big Ten Tournament loss to Purdue in 2018
“For me, I always had the belief we were going to break through and do something special, (but) I think MSG gave everybody else belief. (Everyone) was happy. I remember going back to Rutgers and everyone was giving us praise. It changed the outside perspective. That’s where the groundwork got laid.”
On the team’s mindset entering the postseason
“I don’t know if it’s really changed, the last two games of the regular season were kind of like a win-or-go-home too. That is kind of how I was thinking about it. So I think that we kind of already had that mindset, but we want to win a Big Ten Championship so we feel like we are in a good position to do that. So we are just going to lock in on scouting reports on whoever we are playing against and do our best to make that happen.”
On their chances to make the NCAA Tournament
“It’s really out of our hands, it’s hard for me to say. At the end of the day it’s up to the committee. I think when you look at all of the awards that our guys got it would be hard to leave us out of the tournament just because we have the defensive player of the year, a guy on the second team, a bunch of guys getting honors. I just think that it’s an entertaining basketball team and we can beat good teams but right now our focus is just getting to the semi-finals of the Big Ten Tournament and then to the championship and winning it. Just control what we can control.”
Ron Harper Jr.
On Rutgers gaining respect in the Big Ten
“We’re getting respect, and we’re looking to get a lot more respect. We got a lot of basketball left to play.”
On the team’s mindset entering the postseason
“We feel good. I feel like going into the Big Ten Tournament we have to look at ourselves as the underdogs because it doesn’t matter who we play in our first quarterfinal game, they’ll have us as an underdog. So we’re just going in there with an underdog mindset, an us-against-the-world type of mindset and we’ll try and win the Big Ten. One thing the guys have to realize is that we weren’t too many games away from winning a Big Ten regular-season championship so in the postseason let’s go and win the Big Ten Tournament Championship.”
On having extra rest due to the double bye
“We’re definitely grateful to have those extra days off. We haven’t had the pleasure of the past couple of years I’ve been here so it’s definitely good for our legs, good for our bodies. It’s important because we play a grueling schedule and those last ten games we played we might be a little worn down a bit but we get a couple days of rest. We play in the best conference for basketball so we’re going to keep showing up to practice, going to the trainer and keeping ourselves healthy and real fresh.”
“We wanted this game (against Rutgers), and we got it now.” —Keegan Murray— Chad Leistikow (@ChadLeistikow) March 10, 2022
Keys To Victory
Iowa just delivered an offensive performance for the ages by waxing Northwestern 112-76. They shot 61.4% from the floor and 19 of 29 for 65.5% from three-point range. Head coach Fran McCaffrey was able to pull his starters midway through the second half, so that is a positive for the Hawkeyes with less than 24 hours before playing Rutgers.
Now Iowa faces the team that held them to 27% shooting in their only meeting this season, which was easily their worst offensive performance in years. RU held the third most efficient offensive team in the country to five field goals in the final 17 minutes and 40 points below their season scoring average. It was the most impressive defensive performance of the Pikiell era.
One thing is clear…it’s not happening again. Of course, Rutgers needs to play tremendous defense once again, but the reality is their offense has to score points too. If the Scarlet Knights win the game, the final score probably needs to be in the mid 60’s to low 70’s.
Obviously Rutgers has to defend the arc really well and not allow Iowa open looks from deep. They have to be in step with their defensive rotations and not overcommit by jumping passing lanes or doubling the ball in the halfcourt. Expect Steve Pikiell to run some fullcourt pressure and zone like he has of late, but Rutgers has to be sharp when they do. However, I think they may do this less especially if they’re closing out on shooters well playing man to man.
Arguably the biggest key of the game is the battle on the glass. Rutgers held a +11 rebounding margin in the win over Iowa in mid-January. It’s the biggest differentiator for Iowa this season in regard to games they’ve won or lost. The Scarlet Knights held them to just 9 offensive rebounds and 8 second chance points in the first meeting.
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. Preventing long offensive rebounds and boxing out the shooter are key to doing this.
Keegan Murray will be a problem and score in bunches but the key is containing the rest of the Hawkeyes. That’s why defending the three and cleaning the glass is so important.
Defending without fouling is crucial as well. When Iowa relies mostly on three-pointers to generate offense and isn’t making frequent trips to the foul line, their offense is missing a gear.
Another major key is the turnover battle. Iowa has the second lowest turnover rate in the country and were the most disruptive team in Big Ten play in forcing takeaways. They are aggressive in jumping passing lanes. Rutgers has to take care of the basketball better than they have in Big Ten play. Allowing easy baskets off of turnovers and in transition against the Hawkeyes is a death sentence. Rutgers can’t let Iowa speed them up to the point of being careless or sloppy, which will lead to mistakes.
Teams with experienced backcourts have an advantage in postseason play. Geo Baker and Paul Mulcahy know what to expect and need to maintain their poise in this game in leading the offense. Ball reversals and moving it in the halfcourt forces Iowa to play defense. Make it a physical grind to wear on their tired legs and don’t settle for contested jumpers early in the shot clock.
At the end of the day, the starting five of Rutgers have to all have productive games and all hands on deck are needed. 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 today to have a chance to win. A really good defensive performance against this Iowa team would be to hold them to under 70 points. That still means Rutgers has to score. While Harper Jr. needs to connect 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 smaller defenders. 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. They were just 7 of 22 from close range in the first meeting.
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 Dean Reiber, Aundre Hyatt and Mawot Mag, would be significant. Iowa plays a deep bench, so Rutgers needs some type of production from their reserves as well or that could be a big disadvantage in the game.
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 make even more history by advancing to the Big Ten semifinals for the first time in program history.
For this game, I stuck with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with “I Won’t Back Down”.
The reality is if Rutgers loses this game, they leave their NCAA Tournament fate in the hands of the selection committee. While they are currently projected by most Bracketologists to go dancing, a lot can change over the next couple of days. Winning this game would solidify their resume with a seventh Quad 1 win. No team with that many has ever been left out of the field.
This postseason is a legacy enhancing opportunity for this senior class and the program as a whole. Rutgers controls their own destiny coming into this game. Sharing the basketball, staying connected defensively and fighting through adversity while limiting big runs is their path to victory. Don’t back down and take what is yours. They crave respect.
Iowa is the hottest team in the Big Ten and a win over them would raise the respect level and give them an extremely notable victory before Selection Sunday. Their offense is relentless and Rutgers can’t back down. Keep grinding. Time to go get it.