Smile Politely

Illinois basketball preview: Iowa

What’s happening with Iowa basketball this season is kind of, sort of, exactly like what is happening with Illinois. Despite some signature wins (North Carolina, Ohio State twice, Maryland), the Hawkeyes have dropped some ugly games (Minnesota and Northwestern, back-to-back earlier this month) and now sit on the NCAA Tourney bubble, aiming to win three of the last four games to make selection a near lock. Hell, Iowa and Illinois even have the same record, 17-10. 

Iowa is not really a mirror image of Illinois on the floor, however. The Hawkeyes leading scorers are both forwards and both excellent at getting to the rim and getting to the rim again (i.e., grabbing rebounds). To wit, Aaron White is averaging 14.7 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, and Jarrod Utoff is averaging 12.2 points and 6.0 rebounds per game.

When the supporting cast is silenced, however, Iowa really struggles. In those losses to Minnesota and Northwestern, the forward duo were able to have an impact (Utoff had 17 and White had 13 against Minnesota and Utoff scored 25 against Northwestern), but production elsewhere was minimal. If Illinois can make White and Utoff win the game alone, they might prove unable to do so once again.

Of course, the same holds true for Illinois, as win will stem from solid performances by Malcolm Hill, Rayvonte Rice, and (not or) Kendrick Nunn. With a lot riding on this game in terms of Tourney selection, expect another physical game from the Illini. Whether a win should be expected is more questionable.

My prediction: Illinois 59 – Iowa 58

Related Articles