February 8, 2008

Iowa @ Minnesota - Preview

As stated by me previously and PJS in his Iowa preview, the initial reaction to only playing the Hawkeyes at home was disappointing. The more road games you can play against the bottom 3 teams in the league the more road games you have a chance to win. Iowa was bad last year and appeared to be in a Tim Brewster type rebuilding mode this year. After an uninspiring 7-6 non-conference record I was certain the Hawkeyes would be fighting with Northwestern and Michigan to stay out of 11th.

BUT the Hawkeyes are playing much better than they were in December and are fighting with the Gophers for 6th in the conference. So with that all said, I am grateful that we don't have to make the trip to Iowa City this year.

Match Ups - all match ups go in favor of the Gophers with the lone possible exception of Justin Johnson and Hoffarber. Were this game played in Iowa City the match ups would look different.

Westbrook vs. Tony Freeman - Freeman is a nice junior point guard for the Hawks, he is quick and leads the team in scoring. I'm giving this edge to the defensive combo of Westbrook and Nolen. Freeman can get to the land and score but he is also prone to turnovers averaging 4.5 turnovers per Big Ten road game. Freeman is capable of scoring a ton and carrying Iowa to an upset (or near upset) but Westbrook and Nolen play good defense and should keep him contained.

Hoffarber vs. Justin Johnson (pictured right) - this is the guy to look out for. At 6'6" Johnson has good size and has been an outstanding shooter for the Hawkeyes this year. Johnson has hit six or more threes in a game five times this season. He seems to be much more comfortable at home as he is averaging 14.6 ppg at home (prior to Wis game) and 9 ppg on the road. With the Hoff getting the start this is a match up of two of the most dangerous three point shooters in the nation. They key will be defending Johnson and not letting him get comfortable.

Abu-Shamala vs. Jake Kelly - in 11 Big Ten games Kelly has scored 3 or fewer points in 5 of them. While Abu-Shamala does very little to get me excited I think he's capable of winning this match up.

Coleman vs. Cyrus Tate - 6'8" junior who isn't setting the world on fire with scoring (6.3) or rebounding (4.6) but he has increased production in both areas during the Big Ten season. But this is one that Coleman can not only win but dominate. DC averaged 17.5 vs. Iowa last year and I'm counting on 16+ tomorrow as well.

Tollackson vs. Seth Gorney - 7' senior center who is averaging an uninspiring 4 pts and 5 reb per game. I don't expect Tollackson to exactly dominate in the paint but this is a match up he should win.

BENCH - Iowa goes about two deep with Looby backing up the frontcourt and freshman Jeff Peterson contributing turnovers minutes to the backcourt. Add their short bench to the fact that McKenzie and Johnson will be coming off the bench, the gophers bench should dominate the Iowa bench. I'd like to see a tighter rotation allowing the top 8 or so Gophers get more experience playing together and seeing very little of Williams, Payton and Busch.

1. Turnovers - Minnesota is near the tops in the nation forcing turnovers while Iowa ranks 318th in the nation turning the ball over on over 25% of their possessions. But in addition to forcing turnovers we need to reverse a recent trend of turning the ball over ourselves.

2. Tempo - Iowa is a half court team that will score and defend you if the game is a half court game. We need to force turnovers and keep the game moving along. We are not a great scoring team in the half court (lack of athletes) so we need to dictate tempo.

3. Stopping JJ - He isn't exactly Redick, but Justin Johnson can take over a game. Keep him from hitting eight threes and we should be fine. Hoffarber will start out on him but I would expect to see Damian Johnson winning the Johnson vs. Johnson match up. I see Damian getting a big perimeter block on Justin and that will slow JJ's trigger just a little bit.


This game does not worry me (although maybe it should). I think we match up well and since the game is at home I see no reason we can't win this game by double digits. Coach Lickliter has his team playing better and competing (even beating-GASP) with the best of the Big Ten. But I like how we match up.

Gophers control tempo, get several easy baskets and win.

Minnesota - 71
Iowa - 59

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