When you think of the Big Ten’s elite teams, you think of the usual suspects: Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, etc. You usually don’t think of Iowa, but the Hawkeyes have earned a spot among the conference’s elite in 2014.
Iowa will visit Happy Valley on Saturday, when Penn State (13-12, 4-8) will host the Hawkeyes (18-6, 7-4) in a battle between one of the Big Ten’s best teams and one of its worst. The game will support Uplifting Athletes, and $3 for every ticket sold will help the organization.
It would be naïve to call Iowa’s season a “surprise,” but the Hawkeyes have been one of the better stories in the Big Ten, and the argument can be made that they are the best team in the conference. This is due to two things: the team’s depth and its ability to maul teams on the glass.
The team’s stars are senior guard Roy Devyn Marble and junior forward Aaron White. While those two get all the attention, they aren’t the only guys on the team who can have a major impact. An insane 10 players average at least five points per game, seven average at least three rebounds per game, and six average at least one assist per game.
This has led to the Hawkeyes being 8th in America in points per game, averaging 83.7 points per contest, which is the most in the Big Ten. This has also played a major role in Iowa’s ability to share the ball at an elite level, averaging 16.3 assists per game, a mark that is second in the conference and 15th nationally.
However, Iowa’s real strength is its ability to rebound the ball. The Hawkeyes are led on the glass by White and senior forward Melsahn Basabe, who are both averaging 6.5 rebounds per game. As a team, the Hawkeyes are pulling down an insane 43.1 rebounds per game, which leads the conference and is third nationally.
Keeping Iowa off the glass will be Penn State’s biggest challenge, and will be the thing Penn State needs to do if it wants to win. Ross Travis, Brandon Taylor, Donovon Jack, Jordan Dickerson, and to an extent Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill will need to focus on rebounding. The Nittany Lions are a very capable rebounding squad, but against a team like Iowa, you can’t be good. You have to be great.
If there’s one thing that Iowa doesn’t do well, it’s preventing teams from scoring. The Hawkeyes are eighth in the Big Ten in scoring defense, allowing opponents to score 67.1 points per game. Of course, a team can afford to do that when it is as good offensively in scoring, and despite being in the bottom-half of scoring defense, Iowa is still first in the conference in point differential.
Other than that, Iowa is probably the most complete team in the entire conference. It will be a tall task for Penn State to walk out of the BJC with a win on Sunday. I hate to say it, but I’ll take Iowa by a wide margin.
Prediction: Iowa 88, Penn State 67.