Iowa-Northwestern Pregame Analysis
|Fans of slow-paced, bad offensive basketball are in luck tonight when the Northwestern Wildcats roll into town to face Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. This year’s Wildcat team is the worst Big Ten team in recent memory and has a significant chance of becoming the first winless conference team since the 1999-2000 season when Northwestern finished that season 0-16 in Big Ten play. Of course to do that this year, the Wildcats would have to lose an additional 2 conference games since the Big Ten has expanded to a total of 18 in-conference games this season.|
Iowa and Northwestern rank as last and second to last in almost every offensive category in the Big Ten. Northwestern is 10th in the conference in offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions), and Iowa ranks last in that stat, in fact the Hawkeyes are the only team in the Big Ten that has an offensive efficiency under 100. Iowa’s turnover problems on offense have also been very well documented this season as they rank last in the conference with a turnover percentage of 25.3%. That means the Hawkeyes are turning the ball over on 25.3% of their possessions. Northwestern is actually best in the Big Ten with a turnover percentage of only 17.7%. Both teams play at a very deliberate pace with Iowa being the only team in the conference that averages fewer possessions per game than Northwestern.
The Princeton style offense that the Wildcats run is based on playing at a slower pace and valuing possession of the ball. However, it also generally leads to few offensive rebound opportunities and also very few free throw opportunities. Northwestern ranks last in the Big Ten in both offensive rebounding % and free throw rate which helps to explain their very low offensive efficiency. Throw in the fact that the Wildcats also rank dead last in the conference in defensive efficiency and you have a team that is starring a 0-18 season directly in the face.
Northwestern does have three starters averaging over 10 points per game. Sophomore forward Kevin Coble leads the Wildcats with 15.3 points per game followed by junior guard Craig Moore’s 13.3 PPG. Freshman Michael Thompson is scoring 12.3 points per game and has a very bright future ahead of him in the Big Ten. Iowa’s leading scorer Tony Freeman is averaging 14.3 points per game followed by Justin Johnson, the only other Hawkeye averaging double-digits with 12.9 PPG. Senior Seth Gorney has stepped up his play recently, doubling his scoring output in the last six games. Gorney is scoring only 4.5 points per game this season, but in the Hawkeye’s last six he is averaging 9.0 points per game.
Tip-off tonight is set for 8:05 PM in Iowa City and the game can be seen on the Big Ten Network.