Zach and Chronic Hoosier break down the end of a losing streak, IU's stunning upset vs. MSU and whether this can be a turning point in the' season Indianapolis Star
IU Insider Zach Osterman previews the Hoosiers' upcoming game, with a look at key matchups and talking points, and a score prediction.
Thursday's game: IU (13-9, 4-7) vs. No. 20 Iowa (17-5, 6-5), 9 p.m., Assembly Hall, Bloomington.
TV: ESPN (Dan Shulman and Dan Dakich)
Iowa KenPom Ranking: 23.
KenPom projection: IU wins 75-74, 53 percent chance of IU victory.
SUBSCRIBE:Get 3 months of IndyStar for $3
▪ Run and gun: Iowa is top-four in the Big Ten in league games in adjusted offensive efficiency, 3-point field goal percentage, 2-point field goal percentage and effective field goal percentage, and nobody averages shorter possessions. The Hawkeyes play fast.
▪ Momentum: Losses to Michigan State at home and Minnesota on the road were buttressed last week by a defeat of Big Ten frontrunner Michigan. Overall, coach Fran McCaffrey's team has won six of its last eight.
▪ Big on big: Luka Garza and Tyler Cook form one of the best one-two punches in the conference in the post. Cook is an exceptional rebounder/finisher who draws 6.6 fouls per game, and Garza is both efficient at the free-throw line, and willing to step out behind the arc.
▪ Defense: It's been three years since McCaffrey had a top-30 defensive team in Iowa City, and he's only done that twice in nine seasons running the Hawkeyes. This team won't make it three. Iowa is No. 98 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.
▪ Bossing the rim: Despite that aforementioned size, Iowa is particularly vulnerable at the basket, allowed opponents to hit 52.4 percent of 2-pointers. That number climbs to 54.8 percent in league play, worst in the Big Ten.
▪ Forcing turnovers: A secondary problem within Iowa's greater defensive weakness, Iowa is only forcing turnovers on 15.6 percent of opponents' possessions in league play. That's a low number for a McCaffrey-coached team, and possibly a product of Iowa's zone looks.
Three to Watch
6-9 forward Tyler Cook (No. 25)
Cook's return from early draft entry sparked a turnaround season for an Iowa program that hasn't qualified for the NCAA tournament since 2016. He's averaging 16.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, and his rebounding percentages are some of the best in the Big Ten in league play.
6-11 forward Luka Garza (No. 55)
Solid as a freshman, Garza has expanded his role slightly in his sophomore season. He's taller than Cook but also possesses more range, and will step out behind the 3-point line if it's prudent. They complement each other well.
6-6 guard Joe Wieskamp (No. 10)
Lost in the Romeo Langford-Iggy Brazdeikis freshman-of-the-year debate is Wieskamp, a long, rangy guard shooting nearly 43 percent from behind the arc. Wieskamp doesn't have the scoring average of his classmates (11.4 ppg), but he's been named Big Ten freshman of the week multiple times, including this week.
Thursday's match-up is fascinating.
Iowa started the Big Ten season 0-3 and underwhelming, before winning five in a row, then backed up a two-game losing streak with the home blowout against Michigan. The Hawkeyes aren't Big Ten contenders, but they're an unexpectedly solid top-20 team now riding serious momentum into February.
Indiana's story is well-traveled. Strong nonconference, 12-2 start, seven-game losing streak, surprise upset Saturday at Michigan State. The Spartans' midweek loss at Illinois will take just a little bit of the shine off, but IU still has every reason to use that as a springboard for the backstretch of the Big Ten season, with six of nine remaining at home.
Juwan Morgan is back in practice, per coach Archie Miller, though not 100 percent. De'Ron Davis is coming off his best game in a long time, a 25-minute, 12-point performance that cued that upset. IU will need both of them and possibly more to deal with Garza and Cook.
And the Hoosiers will need to be sharp, on defense and in ball security, to hold onto Iowa's efficient offense and not hand out cheap points.
Two teams meet Thursday night at Assembly Hall feeling like the wind is in their sails. Somebody's bound to lose that wind.
Iowa 77, Indiana 72
Hoosier to click
How sustainable will Indiana's 10-of-20 3-point shooting mark in East Lansing prove to be?
The Hoosiers were the conference's worst 3-point shooting team in league play by some distance before that game. They're not out of the cellar yet, but they're climbing.
A second-straight performance of even similar accuracy would open up all sorts of opportunities for Langford, who struggled early at Michigan State before really turning it on down the stretch with some critical baskets.
If Indiana can free the rim up for its star freshman, he could thrive against a less-than-stellar Iowa defense.
Follow IndyStar reporter Zach Osterman on Twitter: @ZachOsterman.