By Justin VanLaere
The big buzz this past month in the sports world has been Jeremy Lin. It’s time to retire Linsanity and bring out the Mattness. Matt Gatens just put together back-to-back historic performances against two Top 25 teams. I don’t need to go into details on what he’s done, anyone following Iowa Basketball is well aware of the roll Gatens is currently on. He’s a guy that is not ready to quit on the season or his career as a college basketball player. The Hawkeyes head to Champaign to face an Illini team that has lost six in a row and nine out of their last ten. However, Illinois has won the last six games against Iowa.
Iowa Hawkeyes (15-13; 7-8) vs Illinois Fighting Illini (16-12; 5-10)
POMEROY RATINGS: Iowa – 88, Illinois – 67
REALTIMERPI: Iowa – 116, Illinois – 86
CBS RPI: Iowa – 136, Illinois – 69
MASSEY RANKING: Iowa – 102, Illinois – 62
SAGARIN RATINGS: Iowa – 97, Illinois – 54
Tip Off: Sunday, February 26th, 2012; 5:00 PM CST
Champaign, Illinois; Assembly Hall (16.618)
TV: BTN, BTN2GO.com
Radio: AM 600, 1040, and 800. SiriusXM: 91
Illinois leads the series 80-66.
LINE: Iowa is a 6.5 point underdog on the road. Pomeroy predicts a 6 point Iowa loss.
LIVE CHAT: Click HERE for the link.
G – Devyn Marble, 6’6”, 194 lb, SO
G – Matt Gatens, 6’5”, 212 lb, SR
G – Josh Oglesby, 6’5”, 190 lb, FR
F – Aaron White, 6’8”, 225 lb, FR
F – Zach McCabe, 6’7”, 232 lb, SO
G – Tracy Abrams, 6’1″, 185 lb, FR
G – D.J. Richardson, 6’3″, 195 lb, JR
G – Brandon Paul, 6’4″, 200 lb, JR
F – Tyler Griffey, 6’8″, 230 lb, JR
C – Meyers Leonard, 7’1″, 245 lb, SO
Here’s a look at a graphical comparison of the teams from statsheet.com
We’ve seen this before. Iowa reels off a couple of great games, only to go on the road and drop a big ol’ egg. Iowa is just 2-8 on the road and haven’t won away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena in almost two months. Not to mention Iowa doesn’t win many games in Assembly Hall.
KEYS TO GAME FOR IOWA:
– Defense. Yes, Matt Gatens has been the primary reason why Iowa has back to back wins over ranked opponents. However, it’s no coincidence that Iowa’s defense has stepped up huge these last few games. Melsahn Basabe, in particular, has been terrific down low. Dev Marble shut down Jones/Hulls, as well as Jordan Taylor. Can he lock up another defender this game? On the road? It’s going to be a big difference in the game if he can, especially against Abrams who has looked great recently. Let’s not forget, that Iowa will inevitably going through one of their offensive funks – in the last 7 minutes of the Wisconsin game, prior to Gatens’ game-winning FTs, Iowa scored two points. Two. They had just six points in the final 9:12 of the game (just 4 before the aforementioned FTs). How did they win? Defense. Illinois is not a great 3 pt shooting team (296th in the nation) – so zone isn’t completely out of the question in this one.
– Build Energy and Sustain It. The Orange Krush is going to be big in this one. If Iowa can get out in front of Illini early, the fans will likely get on their team and coach. If the cards are flipped, the Krush is going to be going crazy and Iowa might not recover. Guys like Basabe feed of the crowd, feed off other players’ energy. Iowa must get the energy high and sustain it for 40 minutes inside Assembly Hall or they could be facing a blowout in the wrong direction. Oh yeah, by the way, Gus Johnson is on the mic… hopefully Iowa will be spicy and fresh.
– Gatens has to Bring the Mattness. The four year starter hasn’t had All-Star performances inside Assembly Hall throughout his career. His point totals have been 8, 10, and 14… nothing awful, but nothing spectacular. Now I am not expecting Matt to continue with his Fredette-like performances, but I do expect him to come out composed and ready on both ends of the court. The rest of his teammates will feed off that. Matt has made some tough shots from the outside in his last few games, he should get better looks in this one. Illinois gives up an astounding 37.9 3 pt% by their opponents (309th in the nation).
PREDICTION: While Iowa doesn’t particularly match up well with the Illini, it’s a tale of two teams. Illinois looks dead in the water with, what appears to be, a lame-duck coach on the sidelines. Iowa, on the other hand, has something to play for. They know that the NCAA Tournament is a real possibility if they can win their remaining three games and one or two in the Big Ten Tournament. It starts in Champaign, a place that has not been kind to Iowa. Will the fans show up and make Assembly Hall a nightmare for Iowa or will the Illini yet again fade at the end of the season? It’s going to take everyone in a Hawkeye uniform to have a good game for Iowa to win this one. Like the Hawkeyes, I’m going with the Mattness to carry Iowa to the victory. FINAL SCORE: Iowa 74, Illinois 69