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Tuesday, January 25, 2005
 
Next Up - Northwestern
Iowa (14-4, 2-3) at Northwestern (8-9, 1-4)
Wenesday, 7:05 CST
Welsh-Ryan Arena, Evanston, Illinois

Iowa makes their second trip to Illinois in less than a week, this time to face Northwestern. The Wildcats are one of three Big Ten teams with a sub-.500 overall record, and are coming off a loss to doormat Penn State, but they have a reputation for defending their home court. Last year's 10-3 record at Welsh-Ryan included victories against ranked Illinois and Wisconsin teams. Hawkeye fans will also painfully recall Northwestern beating Iowa in both Evanston and Iowa City. Wednesday's game gives Iowa an opportunity to avenge those losses, and more importantly, add another victory to this year's promising season.

Iowa scheduled Air Force this year as a test to prepare them for a Princeton-style offense similar to Northwestern's. Iowa shot shot 22 more free throws than Air Force and hit 68% of their shots that game, and still only won by 10. Ideally I'd comment more on that game, but it was one of the break games that I missed, so suffice it to say that I hope we can own the paint the way we did against Air Force.

Luckily, Northwestern could be without its two leading scorers - the statuses of Vedran Vukusic and Michael Thompson remain questionable as I write this. Vukusic injured his shoulder at the end of the Penn State game last Saturday, while Thompson is suspended indefinitely for cutting classes. Vukusic will be a gametime decision. Thompson has been cleared to practice, but Coach Bill Carmody has yet to decide if he will play. The absence of Thompson - NU's leading rebounder - was a likely cause of the team's 65-62 loss at Penn State, as PSU's Aaron Johnson outrebounded the Wildcats by himself, 21-17. Freshman guard Brandon Lee could also return from a suspension.

This is an interesting statistical matchup - it pits the Big Ten's slowest team against its fastest. The Wildcats average 58.6 possessions per game on the season, and 57.4 through their 5 conference games. Iowa is at the other end of the spectrum, averaging 71.0 poss/g overall and 69.4 for Big Ten games.

It also matches the conference's third most efficient offense (Big Ten games only, see Sunday's post) against the third best defense. I didn't ever expect to see Iowa rated as one of the league's best defenses. Some attention should be called to the fact that the offenses they've played have been less than stellar in conference play (but then again, the great offense of Illinois struggled against the Hawks). Consider me unconvinced by Iowa's defense at this point. To further contrast these teams, Iowa's offense has been one of the Big Ten's poorest, while NU's defense has been the worst. Should be a good chance for the Hawks to continue the offensive success they started against Purdue.

Points per 100 possessions (Big Ten games)
NU offense - 111
NU defense - 123

IA offense - 97
IA defense - 97

Here's a quick look at Northwestern's individual efficiency numbers (all games).
Stats Glossary

Player..............................MPG..........Floor%............Off Rtg...............% Poss
Vedran Vukusic................36.7.............0.478..................110....................25.9%
T.J. Parker........................33.8.............0.468.................102....................18.4%
Davor Duvancic................29.9.............0.502.................105.....................17.8%
Mohamed Hachad............28.3.............0.444...................94.....................18.0%
Michael Thompson..........29.0..............0.478...................93.....................29.7%
Tim Doyle.........................26.8..............0.414...................91.....................16.0%
Evan Seacat......................9.3...............0.352...................93....................20.6%
Michael Jenkins.................17.6..............0.458.................109....................11.4%
Vince Scott........................10.0..............0.454.................105....................19.3%

Looking at Thompson's numbers, I'm curious if the team would be hurt much by his absence. He's second in the Big Ten (behind Pierre Pierce) in % of possessions used, and he's been very inefficient in using them. Among players with 20 mpg, there are only two non-Purdue players with an offensive rating lower than Thompson's (yes, Doyle is one of the two).

Here are some of his other season numbers.
adjFG% = 49.4
FT% = 46.4
TO/G = 2.6

Not exactly the kind of production you want from a guy who's hogging the ball more than Bracey Wright.

Another question - if Vukusic and Thompson both had to sit out, who would fill the offensive void? These two account for more of their team's offense than any other Big Ten tandem. The 18% share for each of the other regulars is about the equivalent of Adam Haluska's offensive load, which is to say, not much.

Other NU Number of Note
Off Reb rate = 27%

Northwestern has roughly the same adjFG% and turnover rate as Iowa this season, but the Wildcats are the Big Ten's worst at offensive rebounding (finally, a team that won't kill Iowa on the boards!). Iowa also greatly outdistances NU in FTM/FGA, 0.29 to 0.20 (MSU leads B10 at 0.31).

Alright, I've successfully rambled through one of my least cohesive posts in quite a while. I'm going to call it a night. Hope you check back tomorrow night for a game recap.

Go Hawks!

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