There aren’t many easy stretches in the Big Ten this season, if any, and that’ll likely be the main problem for teams that could be sitting near the bubble come March. Iowa and Ohio State could eventually fit that mold, as both have already lost at home, while the Bucks already have a bad loss on the Schedule at Rutgers and enter this one having lost back-to-back.
Consistent scoring has been the main issue for both of these teams and Iowa only gets a slight nod playing at home. The Hawkeyes were awesome scoring 93 points in last weekend’s win over Nebraska, but they’ve scored 70 points or less in every loss and only managed 72 against lowly Bryant a couple weeks.
It doesn’t help that Ohio State has some of the better defensive numbers in the conference, namely allowing less than 45% in effective field goal percentage. Even though Michigan State torched them last weekend, the overall numbers are still some of the best in the country. That’s something Iowa can overcome with an array of scoring and multiple ways of finding points. In fact, the Hawkeyes have the highest free throw rate in the country, which means they’re drawing a ton of fouls, but maybe also depending on free throws too much at times.
Either way, Iowa is a more balanced team than OSU with Tyler Cook doing most of the damage with 17.3 points and 8.3 boards per Game. second-leading scorer LUke Garza (12.3 ppg) just returned from a sprained ankle and looked fine posting 16 points in Wednesday’s win against Northwestern. Otherwise, three other players average at least nine points per Game in Jordan Bohannon, Joe Wieskamp and Isaiah Moss. Throw in Nicholas Bear and Iowa has Four guys that average at least 37 percent from deep. To stop Iowa, you have to start with Cook because the offense often relies on getting him the ball. If Garza is back to full strength, that would be an immediate problem for the Buckeyes because they’d have to use Andre Wesson or Kyle Young on him, both of whom give up size and experience. Even if Garza doesn’t start, Iowa has looked to Ryan Kriener a little more in recent Games, which means Cook doesn’t have to guard Kaleb Wesson and whoever Wesson doesn’t guard will have a size advantage.
The other end could end up going the same way because Iowa doesn’t have anyone that can body Kaleb Wesson down low. Cook, Garza and Kriener all have height, yet none of them have the bulk of Wesson, who has had some huge Games and averages 17.1 points and 6.9 boards per Game. The question is if someone outside of Wesson can step up offensively on the road. CJ Jackson is having a solid senior season averaging 13.4 points, 4.4 boards and 3.9 assists per Game, but he’s still a hard guy to trust offensively. And if Jackson gets going, there’s a chance Iowa throws a taller Isaiah Moss or Connor McCaffery on him instead of Jordan Bohannon. Other than that, it’s a mixed bag of freshmen in LUther Muhammad and Duane Washington to the more experienced Keyshawn Woods and Andre Wesson, though neither are offensive weapons. It also doesn’t help that the Buckeyes don’t have a knockdown shooter to turn to, which is always a bonus on the road.
Kaleb Wesson may be the best player in this Game, but Iowa has more balance and can get production from more players, which could end up being too much, especially in Iowa City.
Our Pick – Ohio State +2.5