Since picking up wins over Minnesota and Ohio State, Iowa has dropped its last two games ahead of Saturday’s matchup with No. 5 Wisconsin in Iowa City. With Iowa sitting at 13-7 overall and 4-3 in Big Ten play, avenging their 82-50 loss in Madison on January 20 would undoubtedly enhance their chances of making a return trip to the NCAA tournament.
However, head coach Fran McCaffery has two health issues to take into consideration with front court contributors Aaron White and Gabe Olaseni at less than full strength. White suffered a stinger in Iowa’s loss to Purdue, and Olaseni rolled his right ankle during practice on Monday. With Wisconsin being led by the front court trio of Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes, having all available bodies is critical for Iowa if they’re to beat the Badgers.
According to McCaffery, it’s likely that White will give it a go Saturday afternoon.
“We want him in the lineup. He wants to be in the lineup,” coach Fran McCaffery said of White. “I think there’s a good chance he’s probably going to try to do something. We’re going to see what happens when he gets out there.”
Iowa’s biggest problem in the first meeting was their sluggish start offensively, as they scored 17 points and shot 28 percent from the field in the first half. Faced with an 18-point deficit to make up, the Hawkeyes shot better in the second half (61.9%) but Wisconsin wasn’t far off (58.1%) and managed to score 47 points.
Avoiding a similar start is critical for Iowa, which is part of an five-team logjam in the middle of the Big Ten standings. The Hawkeyes are one of five teams with three conference losses, and this weekend should provide some clarity in regards to which teams can make a run over the final full month of the regular season.