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Monday, March 14, 2005
 
Cincinnati By The Numbers
Iowa drew the 24-7, 23rd ranked Cincinnati Bearcats as their first round opponent in the tournament. Like I do before every game, I want to take a look at Iowa and Cincinnati's season statistics and attempt to identify each team's strength's and weaknesses, and any possible strategies Iowa might find useful.

Stats Glossary

Offense
Team....................Off Eff.......adjFG%....TO/poss....Oreb Rt.....FTA/FGA....FT%.....3A/FGA....3pt%
Cincinnati................112...........0.496........0.197.........0.396..........0.464........0.693......0.327......0.347
Iowa.........................108..........0.521.........0.214.........0.327..........0.406........0.689......0.305......0.379

National Rank
Cincinnati.................34............170..............54............top 35..............9...........153.........165...........168
Iowa..........................78.............60.............135............~ 200.............68..........173..........219............43

Note - I don't have defensive data for every team, so I estimate offensive rebound% from each team's missed FG and FT, which leads to the lack of precision in ranking offensive reound rate. The rates listed for Cincinnati and Iowa are accurate, though.

Cincinnati is an interesting team - they have a solid offensive rating without any great outside shooters. Of the 33 teams scoring more points per possession than the Bearcats, only Syracuse has a lower 3-point% (0.314). Their mediocre shooting is made up for by outstanding offensive rebounding and a ton of trips to the free throw line, with second-team All-CUSA Jason Maxiell and third-teamer Eric Hicks being the main cause of both. Cincinnati's offense is loosely similar to Michigan State's in that they both get a lot of offensive rebounds and shoot a lot of free throws, but that's about where it ends. Cincy is just an average free throw shooting team and has no consistent shooters. Their prowess on the offensive glass looks intimidating at first, but I'm comforted by the rebounding job Iowa did against Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament.

As with that game, my main suggestion is to play Doug Thomas as much as his foul situation will allow, as Erek Hansen would likely be overmatched by Cincy's big guys. I know I say that before every game, but it's especially applicable this time. Hicks and Maxiell run about 240 and 250 lbs, respectively, and I don't think the 210 lb Praying Mantis can keep from getting pushed around against them. Another suggestion I've read is for Iowa to play a zone defense to limit the big guys's touches and make Cincinnati beat them from downtown. That seems reasonable, though I would worry about Maxiell and Hicks cleaning house on the glass if Iowa's players didn't know who they were blocking out.

Iowa's offense is fueled by frequent trips to the line and some solid three-point shooting, as Jeff Horner and Adam Haluska are at 41% and 40% on the season, respectively. I'm always a little suprised to see Iowa ranked so low in three attempts as a percentage of field goal attempts - it seems like they shoot a lot of threes when I watch in person, but I guess Horner and Haluska are the only two guys on the team taking more than 1.5 threes a game. Iowa's offensive rebound rate seems misleadingly low to me - they played Hansen a lot of minutes earlier in the season, but their rate has improved throughout the season as Thomas ate away at Hansen's playing time. You might be surprised to know that the Hawks were actually third in the Big Ten in offensive rebounding - these guys can hold their own when Thomas is on the floor.

Defense
Team....................Def Eff......adjFG%....TO/poss....Dreb Rt.....FTA/FGA.....3A/FGA.....3pt%
Cincinnati..................95...........0.428.........0.210........0.650..........0.292..........0.336.......0.341
Iowa..........................99...........0.472.........0.225........0.675...........0.341..........0.318......0.344

Cincinnati certainly doesn't allow any easy scoring - that adjFG% is very low. Maxiell and Hicks block a lot of shots down low, but neither of them commits many fouls, so opponents don't get a lot of free throw attempts. Despite their reputation as a good rebounding team, the Bearcats give up a lot of offensive rebounds, even more than Iowa, if you can believe that (yes, I double and triple-checked the numbers). That seems to be about the only hole in their defense, so hopefully Greg and Doug can sneak in with a few offensive putbacks. Any other baskets will likely be tough to come by.

What worries me about Iowa's defense in this game is the propensity of their big guys to foul. Maxiell and Hicks draw a ton of fouls, and Thomas, Hansen, Seth Gorney and Alex Thompson are all hack-tastic. The same factors were at work against Michigan State, as the Spartans shot 59 free throws in 2 games against Iowa. Take a look at Cincy's free throw rate for their big men, as compared to a couple familiar Big Ten players -

Player.....................FTA/FGA
Jason Maxiell.............0.916
Eric Hicks..................0.621

Carl Landry...............0.753
Greg Brunner............0.514

For the uninitiated, that figure of 0.916 is a lot. It means that Maxiell has almost as many free throw attempts on the season as he does field goal attempts. Landry was third in the Big Ten (conference games only) in this stat, and he's not even close to Maxiell. If you're not worried yet, here's something to get your knees shaking -

Player......................Fouls/40 min
Doug Thomas.................7.14
Erek Hansen...................6.66
Seth Gorney....................6.32
Alex Thompson...............5.21

Thomas's number might seem a little high now, since he's cut down his fouls a lot in recent games, but he and Hansen still rack up the personals at an alarming rate. Hansen led the Big Ten in this category (for conference games only).

Other than that, I like what Iowa has been able to do on the defensive glass with Brunner and Thomas in the game. I think Doug's staying out of foul trouble and in the game will be an important factor for Iowa's defense and the end result of the game.

Coming tomorrow (Tuesday) - a detailed breakdown of the players on each team.

Also, I hear there will be a tournament preview Tuesday at The Juice Blog that you'll want to check out.
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