IOWA HAWKEYES (13-3)
at OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (15-1)
Value City Arena - Columbus, OH
Tip-off: Sunday, 1:30 p.m. ET
Two teams with Big Ten championship aspirations meet on Sunday, as No. 20 Iowa travels to No. 3 Ohio State in a pivotal conference clash.
Both teams have been very impressive this season, with no bad losses. The Hawkeyes' three defeats all came against current top-10 teams (No. 4 Wisconsin, No. 8 Villanova and No. 9 Iowa State), while the Buckeyes suffered their lone loss in overtime on Tuesday at No. 5 Michigan State. Iowa has really struggled in this series, losing its past eight meetings with OSU since its last victory on February 2, 2008. However, the Hawkeyes are 6-3 ATS in the past nine matchups, and are coming off a dominating 93-67 victory over Northwestern on Thursday despite their coach Fran McCaffery being suspended one game for an outburst against Wisconsin. This is a classic matchup of explosive offense versus a shutdown defense, as Iowa 9-5 ATS, 3-0 ATS on road) ranks eighth in the nation in scoring (86.5 PPG) on a strong 47.5% FG clip (38.2% threes). While the Buckeyes have been great this season, they do struggle against teams with great size. Ohio State is coming off a tough loss on the road to Michigan State, but showed in that game the ability to play with anybody country. The Buckeyes (9-6 ATS, 6-5 ATS at home) have been successful this season because of their terrific defense that allows a mere 56.0 PPG (4th in nation) on 37.5% FG (10th in nation). Ohio State has not allowed a team to score 70 points in a game that ended in regulation (Michigan State scored 72 in an overtime game), and has held two teams under 40 points in a game, including then-No. 17 Marquette to 35 points. If the Hawkeyes are going to end their losing streak to OSU, they must be able to get the ball up the court and not turn the ball over. Iowa is 7-4 ATS (64%) after an SU win and 7-3 ATS (70%) with at least two days of rest this season, while Ohio State is 7-3 ATS (70%) with at least three days rest this season.
Can Ohio State bounce back from a tough loss on the road and continue its dominance over the Hawkeyes? For the latest college basketball picks, check out The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts selections every week throughout the entire 2013-14 season. The StatFox Experts have been rolling in college basketball Best Bets this season with a 61% ATS (143-91-5) mark, including a stellar 66% ATS (111-57) record since Nov. 23. StatFox Zach is leading the way at 64% ATS (30-17-1) on Best Bets this season, including 71% ATS (24-10) since Nov. 22, while StatFox Scott is 62% ATS (28-17) for the season and 69% ATS (20-9) since Dec. 2. StatFox Brian is 62% ATS (29-18-1) for the season and 67% ATS (22-11) since Nov. 26, while StatFox Dave is 59% ATS (27-19-1) for the season and 71% ATS (10-4) since Dec. 18. StatFox Gary is 59% ATS (27-19-2) for the season and 68% ATS (19-9) since Dec. 3.
Iowa has been close to contending in the Big Ten in the past couple of seasons, and appears to be on its way back to the NCAA Tournament. PF Aaron White (13.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.2 APG), a bruising power forward who has the ability to control the paint, has been leading the way for the Hawkeyes with a stellar 65.2% FG clip. White had a monster night in Thursday's win with 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, increasing his averages to 14.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG in his three conference games. White also had a team-high 13 points with seven rebounds in last year's 72-63 loss in Columbus. PF Melsahn Basabe (7.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG) is another guy that is going to work hard down low, and showed his potential against Northwestern on Thursday by going off for 16 points (5-for-5 FG) and 10 rebounds. He also had a game-high 10 boards in the loss to the Buckeyes last season. The Hawkeyes frontcourt is not the most athletic, but they are going to work hard the entire game, and do a great job of wearing out their opponents, pulling down an impressive 45.1 RPG (3rd in Div. I). However, if the Hawkeyes are going to be able to get the upset victory, then senior SG Roy Devyn Marble (16.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.4 APG) is going to have to play much better than he did at Value Center Arena last year when he made just 2-of-11 FG and had two assists in 30 minutes. But Marble has shined in Big Ten play so far, averaging 19.0 PPG, including 27 points in the loss Wisconsin last Sunday. At 6-foot-6, he is a very difficult matchup as he is too big for point guards, but too quick for small forwards. If Marble and sophomore PG Mike Gesell (6.6 PPG, 3.8 APG) are able to control the pace and limit turnovers, there could be an upset brewing in Columbus. However, it will not be easy.
Ohio State also has guys that are capable of scoring, but its 75.2 PPG ranks only ninth in the Big Ten. However, that can be misleading, as the Buckeyes do shoot nearly as well from the field (47.0% FG), as the Hawkeyes, but do not have the same number of possessions in the game. Senior PG Aaron Craft (9.3 PPG, 5.0 APG, 3.4 RPG) is the best defensive point guard in the country with 2.4 steals per game. He does a terrific job of harassing the opposing point guard, not allowing their opponents to get their offense set up. Craft is also the rare player with more steals than turnovers (1.9 per game) or fouls (2.3 per game). He stuffed the stat sheet in the win over Iowa last season with 12 points (8-of-10 FT), five assists, four steals and three rebounds, but also committed six turnovers. The player Craft sets up most for scoring opportunities this season is junior PF LaQuinton Ross (13.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG), but he must become a more consistent scorer. In Tuesday's loss at Michigan State, he was only 1-of-7 from the field, finishing with five points and two rebounds. For a guy with his athleticism and natural scoring abilities, he is a guy that should be flirting with a double-double on any given night. Senior SG Lenzelle Smith Jr. (12.4 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.6 APG) was another player that struggled against the Spartans (7 points on 3-of-11 FG), and must also play much better if the Buckeyes are going to get the victory. In last year's win versus the Hawkeyes, he finished with 12 points and six rebounds. However, the key player in this matchup will be junior C Amir Williams (9.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.1 BPG). He took only three shots against MSU, but did a terrific job battling down low, finishing with 11 rebounds and three blocks. In last year's meeting with Iowa, he failed to grab a rebound in 17 minutes of action, but made his presence felt with six blocks. The Hawkeyes post players compete, but are not going to blow you away with great athleticism. If Williams plays with the same intensity and battles as hard in this game, then the Buckeyes have a great shot of getting the win.