To reach 20 regular season wins, Ohio State needs to win seven of its final 10 games. Two of those 10 are against No. 2 Purdue and at No. 6 Wisconsin.
For any dimly lit flicker of hope for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid, the Buckeyes need to beat Iowa and snap both their 14-game road losing streak and three-game overall losing streak on Friday.
The Hawkeyes have been a middle-of-the-road Big Ten squad this season, going 12-9 thus far with a 4-6 mark in conference play. They’ve lost three of their last four contests, most recently dropping a 74-68 matchup at Indiana.
It's now or never for Ohio State.
Need to Know
With 114.2 points per 100 possessions, Iowa is 38th among all offenses in college basketball. What piles onto that efficiency advantage is the pace that the Hawkeyes play at.
Iowa lands 14th nationally in KenPom’s opponent-adjusted tempo metric, averaging 72.7 possessions per 40 minutes. That’s reflected in the fact that the Hawkeyes are 16th in the country with 84.4 points per game. They also shoot 47.4% from the field, good for 52nd in the nation.
"Their tempo is really high. They've always played fast, they play loose," Ohio State assistant coach Mike Netti said. "Fran (McCaffery) does a great job giving them freedom. ... They've got good skill, they can shoot it well, they can play it early in the (shot) clock."
Iowa’s winning percentage is still only .571 despite its strengths on the offensive end, and the reason is the other side of the floor. The Hawkeyes are in the bottom 35% of college basketball in points allowed per 100 possessions and are 311th in points allowed per game, giving up 77.2 points a contest.
Three Important Buckeyes
Only seven teams across D-1 college basketball take more two-point attempts per game than Iowa. The Hawkeyes throw up 2.5 times as many twos as they do threes, so interior defense will be important to slow them down. Okpara is easily Ohio State’s best in that area, currently second in the Big Ten with 2.5 blocks per game.
"We're gonna have to build our defense, we're gonna have to be tough on the ball and we're gonna have to contest shooters," Netti said.
Ohio State needs the most out of its star point guard on the road this evening. After a 3-of-11 (1-of-5 from three) outing against Illinois that saw him fail to reach double figures for the fourth time this season, he’ll be looking to bounce back in a big way.
The Buckeyes shortened their rotations against the Fighting Illini with just six players seeing the floor for at least 11 minutes. Middleton was the only player to clear that benchmark other than the team’s starters, scoring two points with one rebound and one assist in 20 minutes of play. Ohio State needs more out of its freshman wing, frankly, who is now averaging just 4.3 points per game in 16.6 minutes, shooting 38% from the floor.
Three Notable Hawkeyes
|15.5 PPG, 4.1 APG
|7.0 PPG, 1.9 APG
|15.0 PPG, 6.9 RPG
|15.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG
|10.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG
Ohio State and Iowa met three times last season. Even though the Buckeyes took two of those three contests, Perkins came away with his pound of flesh, averaging 20 points across the three games. He’s Iowa’s leading scorer this year with 15.5 points per contest, adding a team-high 4.1 assists per game.
The second of Iowa’s trio of 15-point-per-game scorers, the 6-foot-9 Krikke gets most of his work done on the inside. He’s struggled in the Hawkeyes’ past three contests, however, scoring 18 combined points on 6-of-28 shooting (21.4%).
Rounding out Iowa’s top-scoring trio is Sandfort, the team’s go-to three-point shooter. He takes 7.2 attempts from distance per contest, accounting for 36.1% of the Hawkeyes’ three-point shots by himself and 41.3% of their made triples. Sandfort shoots 39.5% from outside.
How It Plays Out
Line: Iowa -4.5, O/U 158
Going to sound like a broken record here, but it’s almost impossible to take Ohio State against any Big Ten foe on the road right now. It doesn’t help that the Buckeyes will be facing an offense as high-flying as the Hawkeyes’ after allowing at least 83 points to each of their last three opponents, losing each game by double digits.
Prediction: Iowa 85, Ohio State 79