The Iowa basketball team and the Cincinnati Bearcats have two common opponents from this season. Here’s what we can glean from those matchups.
When two teams haven’t played before in a given season, it can be difficult to understand exactly how they will match up come tournament time. That’s exactly the dilemma we face when analyzing the Iowa basketball team’s matchup with Cincinnati. Although there are reasons to believe the Hawks should be able to come away victorious Friday, what additional information can we glean from each of their contests versus their two common opponents, Ohio State and UConn?
The Iowa basketball team obviously played Ohio State twice this season, going 1-1 in those games, both victories coming from the home teams. Furthermore, they knocked off UConn in their fourth game of the season.
Cincinnati, meanwhile, faced Ohio State in their very first game of the regular season. The result was a 64-56 loss to the Buckeyes. They also faced the Huskies twice throughout the regular season going 2-0 in those games.
In line with the general mantra of Cincinnati’s squad, they struggled offensively against the Buckeyes’ 27th ranked defense (according to KenPom). The Bearcats shot just 27.4% from the field and 23.1% from three-pointer. Oddly enough, outside of the score and shooting percentages, Cincinnati held the advantage in most other major categories including rebounds (39 to 33), assists (12 to 7), steals (4 to 2), and turnovers (10 to 13). This fits the bill though of Cincinnati being a defensive-minded squad, and their size (which is comparable to that of the Iowa basketball teams) would give them an advantage on the boards.
Iowa’s two games against Ohio State produced similar themes, yet completely different results. The Hawkeyes struggled from behind the arc shooting 25% in their win and 31.6% in their loss, both below their season average of 36.1%. The main difference in the first game was Ohio State’s 21 turnovers compared to their 11 in their win versus Fran McCaffery’s squad. Furthermore, the Buckeyes, despite possessing a smaller squad than Iowa crashed the boards hard in both games tying the Hawks in game one and outrebounding Iowa by 10 in game two.
The three UConn contests hold slightly less wait in my opinion simply because the Huskies weren’t very good this year. What I did find interesting though is their inconsistency in shooting the three throughout all three contests. Against Iowa, UConn shot 15% from three-point, while they shot 40% and 17% in their two games against Cincinnati.
One thing of note though is that UConn’s defensive adjusted efficiency margin was 133rd in the nation and yet the Bearcats were still unable to score more than 74 points against them.
So what can we glean from this?
First and foremost, Ohio State’s defense (and UConn’s for that matter) wasn’t able to contain the Hawk’s offense, but they were able to render Cincinnati’s virtually useless. This bodes well for Iowa’s dismal defense that they may have a hope of containing the Bearcats.
Secondly, I worry about the Iowa basketball team giving up quite a few second-chance points to Cincinnati. Through transitive property, the Hawks should get smoked on the boards, and the advanced analytics support this conclusion. The Iowa basketball team’s 29% defensive rebounding percentage ranks 222nd in the nation whereas as Cincinnati’s offensive rebounding percentage of 37.6% is 4th best in the nation. This can wear a defense down, especially one of Iowa’s stature.
Finally, forwards Kaleb Wesson and Kyle Young had great days against Cincinnati putting up 25 points combined. This is exciting news for Iowa’s frontcourt duo of Luka Garza and Tyler Cook when they match up against Cincinnati’s Tre Scott and Nysier Brooks. Sticking with the theme of offense, UConn’s ability to shoot the three against Cincinnati is a sign of hope for the Hawks when they take on Cincy as well.
Although it would be nice to have a bigger sample size of similar opponents, we can only do the best we can with what was given to us during the regular season matchups.
We will find out just how much these things mean in just two short days when the Iowa basketball team begins the 2019 NCAA Tournament.