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Minnesota Basketball: Previewing Iowa

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Gophers come back home to suddenly hot Hawkeyes

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Rutgers
What FRANCON level will we reach on Wednesday?
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Gophers finally got out of the doghouse and into the win column with a convincing victory on the road against Illinois. Reggie Lynch miraculously stayed out of foul trouble while Nate Mason and Akeem Springs took care of things in the backcourt. It stemmed the bleeding, but the win was just the first step in a series of steps needed to get the season back on track.

The Gophers head back home to square off against an Iowa team that has rebutted a three-game losing streak with a three-game winning streak. In fact, it’s been a season of streaks for the Hawkeyes, who confounded themselves in the non-conference season with separate streaks of four losses and five wins.

Iowa has a couple of good wins this year, which came against Iowa State and Purdue, both at home. However, they’ve been on the losing end against the RPI Top 50 more often than not, and are just 2-6 against those teams. And they’ve been particularly brutal on the road, racking up a record of 1-5, with the lone win coming against Rutgers in Piscataway. Iowa rolls into this one at 14-10 overall and 6-5 in the conference.

Still, it’s a dangerous game for a Minnesota team that hasn’t exactly dominated at home. In fact, the four conference wins for the Gophers, three of them have come on the road. This is their only matchup with the Hawkeyes this year.

Essentials:

Who are the Gophers playing?

Iowa Hawkeyes (14-10, 6-5)

What time are they playing?

8 p.m. CT

Where are they playing?

Williams Arena

Can I watch the game on TV?

Yes, BTN

Can I listen to the game on the radio?

Yes. ESPN 1500.

Tell me more about the opponent.

Iowa is coached by none other than Fran McCaffery, so you’re guaranteed to be annoyed at some point in the game by his antics. Fran, if you missed it, let his inner child out a couple weeks ago at the end of a home loss to Maryland. You never quite know what you’re going to get.

The offense begins and ends with Peter Jok, who leads the Big Ten and ranks 27th in the country averaging nearly 21 ppg. The Hawkeyes hardly missed his absence due to a back injury and they got him back Sunday in a win over Nebraska. Jok is very difficult to guard and he’s averaging a career high in points, assists and rebounds. He’s also dangerous from three.

However, after a hot start to the conference season, he has cooled off a bit, and has averaged only 10 ppg in his past four contests. He’s also gone cold from three in that span.

The Hawks have also seen improved output from two freshmen — Jordan Bohannon and Tyler Cook. Bohannon earned the Big Ten Freshman of the Week award this week and is leading the team in assists.

Keys to the Game

1. Keep Springs hot

Akeem the Dream has been a true revelation since he’s been inserted into the starting lineup and he’s scored 15 or more points in four straight games. He brings high energy and has also shown a nose for the ball, as evidenced by his rebounding numbers. Along with Nate Mason, who’s also been rejuvenated, the Gophers have a backcourt attack that can separate them from teams if the defense continue to do its job. As long as Springs stays hot the Gophers will be in the game.

2. Bring the defensive pressure

The Hawkeyes have the third-best scoring offense in the Big Ten and a major part of that is Jok. They’re a decent three-point shooting team, but if the Gophers can continue to close out and revert to their conference-best three point defense they can put Iowa in a tough spot. Lynch held down the paint for Minnesota against Illinois, and staying out of foul trouble again will be imperative to securing a victory.

Predictions

KenPom likes the Gophers in this one, predicting an 80-71 victory. I have a dubious prediction losing streak going right now, so I’ll take the Hawkeyes by 2 and hope I’m wrong.