A mere 11 days ago, the Iowa Hawkeyes entered Madison ranked No. 25 and on a two game winning streak. Brimming with confidence, they looked to take down the cream of the Big Ten conference crop. If you've suffered short term memory loss since then, allow me to refresh your memory...that game did not go well for Iowa. The Badgers won by 32 and only committed one turnover, while Iowa had one player in double figures and I'm pretty sure were all playing with gravel in their shoes.
The game seemed to send the teams in opposite directions. Wisconsin went on the road and gutted out a tough overtime victory over Michigan last weekend and Iowa took a different tact and, uh, went on the road and lost to Purdue.
The Badgers are now the road team and travel to Iowa City to battle the Hawkeyes on Saturday morning. I again exchanged emails with Ross (@RossWB) from Black Heart Gold Pants to see what has changed in the last week. Turns out it's kind of a lot!
B5Q: If Iowa is missing Gabe Olaseni and Aaron White for Saturday's contest (Editor's note: it looks like they'll both suit up), who will need to step up and fill in for Iowa's frontcourt? Will Adam Woodbury have to play all 40 minutes? Will the parameters of his parole, after his arrest for #Gougeghazi, allow him to be on the court that long?
Ross: Even when he keeps his hands away from opponents' faces, Woodbury has had a bit of trouble staying on the court; he's averaging only 20.4 minutes per game this year, fifth-most on the team, and is prone to picking up a foul or three at times. But if Olaseni is indeed out for this game, the pressure is definitely going to be on Woodbury to play more minutes on Saturday, especially because if Olaseni can't go, Woodbury is the only Iowa player who can really defend Kaminsky at all. If White and Olaseni are out, Iowa's frontcourt looks perilously thin -- those two are averaging 46+ minutes per game for the Hawkeyes and there aren't any obvious replacements for them on the bench. Iowa's main options are probably giving more minutes to freshman Dominique Uhl (who's flashed immense promise at times but has had consistency issues, which is not unusual for a true freshman) and/or having Jarrod Uthoff spend more time in the paint than on the perimeter. Neither option would be terribly appealing, especially against Wisconsin's own deep and talented frontcourt.
B5Q: Purdue is never an easy place to win (ask Wisconsin from earlier this decade), but what happened to the Hawkeyes in West Lafayette? Was it just as simple as White getting hurt or were there other factors?
The Last Time
The Last Time
Ross: Is it a bad thing to have 15 more offensive rebounds than the other team and still end up losing the game? I feel like it is. How do you lose when you get that many offensive rebounds and have so many second chance opportunities? Probably when you shoot 32.8% from the floor and just 23.5% from deep. If you're missing the first chance opportunity AND the second chance opportunity... well, the end result is still the same: no freaking points. The scoring burden fell on Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok in White's absence and they struggled mightily 4/23 (for real) from the floor. That isn't going to cut it, even if Mike Gesell's prayers to the ginger god are going to be answered and he's going to pour in 18 points on 7/14 shooting.
B5Q: Olaseni had (and I quadruple checked this stat since the last time we did this I thought the game was in Iowa City) 11 offensive rebounds against Purdue and the team had 24 in total. In conference play, according to KenPom, the Hawkeyes lead the B1G in offensive rebounds percentage, grabbing an absurd 37.8% of their misses. The Badgers allow the second least amount of offensive rebounds to their opponents in conference play. Is this one of those "whoever wins this category wins the game" kind of stats?
Ross: I have to say "no" because Iowa played a game where they absolutely dominated the offensive glass... and they lost anyway because they couldn't shoot straight. Optimist Me says that was just an unusually poor shooting effort for Iowa -- for the season they rank 7th in the Big Ten with a respectable 48.6 eFG%. Pessimist Me says Iowa's shooting in the early part of the conference slate was uncommonly good and they were due to regress; including non-conference and conference games, they have a 46.7 eFG%, "good" for 254th in the country. The truth seems to be that Iowa just isn't a terribly good shooting team this season. They rely on second chance points off easy buckets from offensive rebounds and getting to the free throw line frequently to compensate for their subpar overall shooting. That's a bit of a problem against Wisconsin, since the Badgers don't let teams get offensive boards or go to the free throw line very often. If Wisconsin wins the offensive rebound stat, I'll be very surprised if they don't win the game comfortably -- I think the only thing that could stop that is some uncharacteristically torrid outside shooting from Iowa. If Iowa wins the offensive rebound stat, their odds of winning the game definitely improve -- but there's still a very good chance that they lose the game anyway.
B5Q: Iowa had momentum heading into last week's game against the Badgers, having beaten Minnesota and Ohio State, but come into this game on a two-game losing streak. Carver-Hawkeye Arena is a tough place to win for anyone in the B1G and Iowa will be looking for revenge against UW. How do you see this game playing out? Is it a "must-win" for Iowa's Tourney hopes?
Ross: I don't think it's a "must win" game, no. Iowa still has good road wins over North Carolina, Ohio State, and Minnesota (though the value of that last one is cratering a bit with the Gophers' poor performance in the Big Ten) and they've avoided any bad losses -- although the sheer number of losses (7, right now) is certainly starting to add up. But a loss to a top-5 team -- a game that, on paper, Iowa isn't supposed to win -- isn't going to be fatal to their tournament hopes. The key for Iowa remains the back half of the Big Ten season, which is softer than the front half (no Wisconsin, no Ohio State, no Michigan State) and should contain several opportunities for wins. Iowa needs to take care of its business in those games and grab some more wins. That said, a win over Wisconsin on Saturday would be an absolutely huge boost for Iowa's NCAA Tournament aspirations. It probably wouldn't make them a certified lock, but it would leave them in very good shape. Unfortunately, it's tough for me to see a win looming. I felt that way even before finding out that White and Olaseni might not be available to play on Saturday; this is a very good Wisconsin team that Iowa seems to match up with fairly poorly. Unless the spirit of Matt Gatens' unholy 3-point shooting against Wisconsin from a few years ago possesses Josh Oglesby, Mike Gesell, and Peter Jok and Iowa is able to bomb away from outside with great success, it's hard for me to see Iowa emerging with a win on Saturday. I don't expect another 30-point shellacking, but I see Wisconsin winning comfortably, say, 72-57.
B5Q: It appears that Dan Dakich will be on the call again for this testy matchup. It seemed like Dakich was the only one calling for Woodbury to be sent to Guantanamo Bay after the Eye Gouge Game. Even Frank Kaminsky and Bo Ryan played it off as "eh, it happens during the game sometimes." Will Fran McCaffrey punch, kick, or Stone Cold Stunner Dakich pregame?
Ross: I'm more worried about Dan Dakich taking justice into his own hands and attempting to taze Woodbury for his heinous actions last week. But I would pay a good deal of money to see Fran McCaffery deliver a Stone Cold Stunner on Dakich pregame, in-game, postgame -- whenever he wanted to do it. I'm fairly certain the roof of CHA would literally be blown off its moorings if that occurred on Saturday, too.
Thanks again to Ross for helping us out and answering all of our questions with aplomb. The game tips off at 11 a.m. CT on Saturday morning on ESPN. Bob Wischusen and Iowa City's favorite son Dan Dakich are on the call. You can check out my answers to Ross' questions right here and you can follow Black Heart Gold Pants (@BHGP) for the Hawkeye perspective on the game.