Iowa may hear its name called when the NCAA tournament bracket is announced on Sunday, but the Hawkeyes aren’t entering the event playing good basketball. Thursday night Iowa fell 67-62 to Northwestern in the first round of the Big Ten tournament, their sixth loss in the last seven games.
Looking solely at the score it wouldn’t seem as if the defensive issues that have plagued Iowa throughout conference play were present on Thursday night, but they were. Northwestern shot 52.3% from the field and made 11 of its 23 attempts from beyond the arc, with guard Tre Demps scoring a team-high 20 points. Drew Crawford (15 points) and Dave Sobolewski (ten points) also scored in double figures for Northwestern, who will face Michigan State on Friday.
Iowa’s allowed at least 1.04 points per possession in every game they’ve played since beating Northwestern on January 25 (0.64 points allowed/possession), and on Thursday the Wildcats managed to score 1.15 points per possession. The defense has been an issue for quite some time for Fran McCaffery’s team, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to be able to find a solution.
But even with that being the case it was assumed that Iowa would have enough offensive firepower to survive. Things didn’t work out that way against Northwestern.
Roy Devyn Marble scored 25 points and Jarrod Uthoff added 17 off the bench, but the other Hawkeyes combined to shoot 7-for-38 from the field. Starting guard Mike Gesell missed all ten of his shot attempts and Aaron White attempted just two shots (making both). Iowa can’t win in the Big Ten tournament, much less the NCAA tournament, when this level of offensive production occurs and sure enough the Hawkeyes are headed home after one game in Indianapolis.
Chris Collins’ team picked up a big win on Thursday, and the Wildcats certainly deserve credit for their performance. But Iowa has struggled mightily down the stretch, and the tumble will certainly impact their seeding in the NCAA tournament. The talent’s still there, but without the ability to string together stops the Hawkeyes may not be around very long.