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Buy or Sell: Iowa-Northwestern men's basketball preview

BY RYAN PROBASCO AND BEN ROSS | JANUARY 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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To preview Iowa’s matchup against Northwestern on Saturday, men’s basketball reporters Ryan Probasco and Ben Ross answer some key questions surrounding Hawkeye basketball.

Buy or Sell: Iowa faces a tougher challenge against Northwestern than people think.

Probasco: Buy. Two weeks ago, when these two squads went at it, the game was very much a one-sided affair. Northwestern trailed 10-0 out of the gate and eventually walked out of Carver-Hawkeye Arena without forcing any lead changes.

But Fran McCaffery doesn’t necessarily have a great track record against the Wildcats, as shown by his 1-2 record in Welsh-Ryan Arena. On top of that, the ’Cats have shown some life recently, beating Illinois, Indiana, and Purdue. There’s no question Iowa should win this game, but Northwestern definitely can make it difficult on the Hawkeyes.

Ross: Sell. Contrary to almost no beliefs anywhere, Northwestern will not give Iowa a greater challenge than most people believe.

Even though Northwestern is riding a two-game winning streak, the Wildcats just are no match for Iowa’s skill and depth. The Hawkeyes trounced the Wildcats, 93-67, in Carver on Jan. 9.

Northwestern is averaging just 53 points per Big Ten contest, and that won’t be enough to beat Iowa in what will most likely be an empty Welsh-Ryan Arena. Iowa is going to be hungry after losing to Michigan. Things don’t look great for Northwestern.

Iowa will score more than 80 points Saturday against Northwestern.

Probasco: Sell. I’ll take the under here but just barely. Iowa’s scorers have been anything but consistent recently, relying more on individual spurts than steady production.

This is a game I see Jarrod Uthoff performing extremely well in. The sophomore’s gone through a bit of a scoring lull recently, totaling just 6 points combined against Minnesota and Michigan. That alone could motivate the Cedar Rapids native to light up the score sheet. But there is also evidence of Uthoff bouncing back well after droughts this year.

After scoring just 14 points total in three games at the Battle 4 Atlantis, Uthoff scored in double figures in all of Iowa’s next six games.

Iowa’s success is clearly dependent on the output of its bench, and Uthoff is as important as any component in that regard.  

Ross: Buy. This game against Northwestern has blowout written all over it. There’s an incredibly high possibility there will be more Iowa fans than those rooting for Northwestern at the game, which more or less makes it a home contest for the Hawkeyes. In its three home conference games, Northwestern is averaging a paltry 7,000 fans.

That being said, Iowa will return to its top-5 scoring offense after scoring a season-low 67 against Michigan. (Iowa also scored 67 in a win over Nebraska on Dec. 31). Not-so-bold prediction: Josh Oglesby hits at least four 3-pointers in the game.

The Hawkeyes will finish top three in the regular-season Big Ten standings.

Probasco: Buy. Could the Big Ten be weaker than we originally thought? A few weeks ago, Ohio State and Wisconsin were on some pundits’ Final Four radars. But now, with three and four conference losses respectively, both the Badgers and Buckeyes face serious climbs in the Big Ten standings. Iowa may crack the top three by default, as odd as that may sound.

Ross: Buy. Michigan State and Michigan seem to have No. 1 and 2 in the Big Ten solidified, which really just leaves room for Wisconsin, Iowa, and maybe Minnesota as the No. 3. Iowa has the ability to beat every team in the league, and there’s a good chance it could go undefeated at home. If Iowa can beat Michigan State in Carver on Jan. 28, then the Hawkeyes could get its highest conference finish since 2005-06, when it tied for second.

Of course, Iowa will need to keep its head level and play clean basketball against inferior teams such as Northwestern if any preseason expectations are to be met.


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