On Thursday night, the No. 21 Wisconsin Badgers (15-7 overall, 9-6 Big Ten) welcome the No. 11 Iowa Hawkeyes (15-6 overall, 9-5 Big Ten) to the Kohl Center for another important chance for UW to earn a marquee conference win. This is the first meeting between the two rivals this year and we had some questions.
Thankfully, Harrison Starr (aka BoilerHawk) from Black Heart Gold Pants was available to talk Hawks with us. Here are his answers and here are my answers to his questions that were posted on BHGP on Wednesday.
1) We all know Luka Garza is good and well “get his” against the Badgers. No need to talk about him again, tbqh. Of the Iowa games I’ve watched, I’ve been kinda impressed with Jack Nunge. What does he bring to the table when Garza is on the bench?
I respect turning the discussion straight to Jack Nunge.
He’s a very interesting player and despite being sophomore eligibility-wise, is in his fourth year in the program. His first was spent out of position on the wing, the second was a true redshirt year, last year he tore his ACL early and received medical clearance so here we are. Just before this season, his father passed away unexpectedly, so he’s had his fair share of adversity.
Turning to the hardwood, Fran McCaffery has talked how Nunge regularly grades out as the second highest player during practices (behind Garza, of course), so we are finally seeing that ability translated to games.
He’s a little more perimeter-oriented than Garza, which enables the two to share the court regularly, and is kind of a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none type of player. He’s got some lowpost game, but Iowa won’t necessarily run a ton of sets for him. He’s a solid passer (had six assists against Michigan State) and will be used in big-to-big entry passes. He does have a little quicker footspeed than LG which enables some dribble drives against bigger defenders. He’s also got the fourth highest block rate in conference, and has increasingly been a guy who will max out with hustle plays.
He’s a little up-and-down from a production standpoint, but mainly it’s because he doesn’t need to get his for Iowa to be great.
2) What’s up with CJ Fredrick? Is he going to be available for Iowa on Thursday night? If so, how much will he play and if not, who takes his minutes?
The million dollar question. There have been a number of analyses detailing the value Fredrick provides but it essentially boils down to this: Iowa’s 29-9 with him and just 5-8 without him. Fran McCaffery and Fredrick himself, have been incredibly coy about what ails him - the inconsistency in his availability leads many to believe its plantar fasciitis or a stress reaction - so it’s impossible to say if he’ll be ready to go. He truly is day to day.
That being said, it does look like he is especially unlikely to go against Wisconsin. Keegan Murray has been the go-to-guy to take his place in the starting lineup. Though he provides incredible effort and slithery athleticism, he is not the same guy as Fredrick in his perimeter offense or defensive versatility as Fredrick will often take the best perimeter player to allow Jordan Bohannon to take a less capable guard. Fran may simply brute force the rotation, with increased minutes for Bohannon or Joe Wieskamp, or lean on freshman Tony Perkins who has been the cleanest facsimile for Fredrick in terms of perimeter defense.
3) Fredrick has the highest 3P% on the team (by .001) but even if he’s out the Hawkeyes still have four players that shoot over 36% from deep. Are there any good strategies for stopping this offense? What did Indiana do to hold Iowa below 70 points twice (both Hoosiers wins btw)?
The first IU game was when Fredrick’s absence first arose this season in the second half. WIth him out, they were able to collapse the defense around Garza with timely doubles. The second IU game featured Fran’s dreaded two-foul rule, which sent Luka Garza to the bench for 12 minutes in the first half. He would have been useful to stymie a 14-2 IU run to close the stanza.
Ultimately, I think the best way to play Iowa is as straight-up as possible. While it forces post players to defend Garza one-on-one, it does not enable Iowa’s shooters to get open and can make entry passes tricky. While guys like Murray, Nunge and Connor McCaffery are not great shooters, they can certainly hit open shots if teams are doubling off them as they combined for 7/10 from deep against Michigan State. When Iowa’s offense stalls from a shooting standpoint, the default is to get LG the ball. Quick & timely doubles can throw him a bit but is by no means a guarantee.
4) Iowa doesn’t foul much and they block a lot of shots. What are the problems the Hawkeyes have on defense that makes their AdjD rating on KenPom No. 107 in the country?
Broadly speaking, Iowa just...kinda lets teams get what they want. They over-trust their offense to put up a number opponents can’t match which hasn’t necessarily worked.
McCaffery typically cycles through defenses to throw teams off but against Michigan State, Iowa finally beefed up the man-to-man defense. Now, not every team has a Foster Loyer to stick Jordan Bohannon on, but the sentiment - stopping the guy in front of you - was much needed for this team and came at the right time: it was Iowa’s first convincing win this season without Fredrick.
If Iowa returns to their multiple defenses, the high post is going to be there in the zone, guys will over-help around it, and it will lead to open perimeter shots. Then, Iowa will have to corral the defensive rebound, which has proven tricky at times.
5) Who wins this one and if the Badgers win, does Jordan Bohannon owe Greg Gard a Big Mac?
Haha, oh Jordan. Nobody makes a story out of nothing quite like him. Gard might not get a Big Mac, but he may get an apology with a Badger win.
No shots taken, shots were taken at NCAA and how idiotic their system is. I loved Wisconsin growing up. They didn’t want me and I wanted to go to Iowa.— Jordan Bohannon (@JordanBo_3) February 17, 2021
This game absolutely feels like a toss up, simply because I expect some regression from both teams - Iowa is not going to shoot 52% from three like they did against MSU and Wisconsin is likely to shoot better than 31% against Michigan. However, I think Iowa looks to get Garza going early after scoring just eight points against MSU which may put Wisconsin bigs in a precarious position fouls-wise. Ultimately, Iowa’s firepower (didn’t even talk about Joe Wieskamp who is playing the best basketball of his career right now) is too much for the Badgers to overcome: 75-69 Iowa.