Busting Brackets

Iowa vs. Minnesota: 2018-19 college basketball game preview, TV schedule

EAST LANSING, MI - DECEMBER 03: Tyler Cook #25 of the Iowa Hawkeyes reacts to a call during a game against the Michigan State Spartans in the second half at Breslin Center on December 3, 2018 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
EAST LANSING, MI - DECEMBER 03: Tyler Cook #25 of the Iowa Hawkeyes reacts to a call during a game against the Michigan State Spartans in the second half at Breslin Center on December 3, 2018 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Golden Gophers host the Iowa Hawkeyes on Sunday in a battle for position in the Big Ten. Which team comes out on top in this key conference game?

TV Schedule: Sunday, January 27th, 5:00p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1

Arena: Williams Arena, Minneapolis, Minnesota

The No. 19 Iowa Hawkeyes may be one of the hottest, yet least talked about teams in college basketball. Fran McCaffery’s team sits at 16-4, and 6th in the Big Ten with a 5-4 mark. Coming off an 82-67 loss to Michigan State on Thursday, Iowa travels to Williams Arena on Sunday to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers 14-5 (4-4), a team squarely on the NCAA bubble right now and seeking its third win over a ranked league foe this season.

Iowa has quietly gone about their business this season, beginning the year 6-0 and unblemished in the non-conference portion of their schedule, 11-10, including wins over Oregon, UConn and Iowa State and aside from a one-point win over a pesky Pittsburgh team, the Hawkeyes’ other 15 wins have been by at least five points. All of their losses have come in league play, back-to-back to Wisconsin and Michigan State, then a loss at Purdue which was sandwiched around a couple of five-game winning streaks.

The Hawkeyes average 82 points per game and shoot the ball at a 47% clip and while they don’t necessarily rely on the three-point shot, making 8.4 per game, they also shoot that well at 36.5%. One thing they do very well is getting to the free throw line and make their shots when they get there. Their mark of 76% from the free throw line is 18th in the country and their total attempts (530) is 4th best and the 403 they’ve made is tops in the nation. Iowa is one of the few teams in the country that has four of five starters in double figures and the quartet of Tyler Cook, Luka Garza, Joe Wieskamp, and Jordan Bohannon, not only account for 53.2 of the team’s points but also 313 of those free throws and 243 of the makes, shooting over 78% as a group from the free throw line.

Richard Pitino’s Golden Gophers began the year 10-1 during the non-conference portion of their schedule, with wins over Washington, Utah, and Oklahoma State, with their only loss coming at Boston College. But, since the beginning of league play Minnesota is just 4-4, some of their wins have been impressive, over Nebraska and Maryland, but their losses have been head-scratching, to say the least. They have fallen on the road to Ohio State and Illinois and at home to Maryland, it isn’t head-scratching that they lost these three games, but that they did by an average of 20 points certainly is.

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Now having alternated wins and losses since the turn of the calendar, the Golden Gophers need a win over a team like Iowa to get on the right side of the bubble, especially after the heartbreaking last-second loss they took at the hands of Michigan last time out.

Minnesota has a few things in common with their opponents, like Iowa, the Golden Gophers have four of their five starters averaging in double figures, and the 5th, freshman guard Gabe Kalscheur, at 9.7 ppg. They are led by Amir Coffey and his 15.4 per game and senior forward Jordan Murphy who is a double-double machine, averaging 14.6 points and 12.1 rebounds, and his 12 double-doubles are the 4th most in the country. Also like Iowa, Minnesota is elite when it comes to free throws. They are 7th in the country in total attempts with 499 and the 336 they have made on the season is 12 most.

Key matchup

The key matchup in this one will come, not at the free throw line, but at the three-point line. For Minnesota to have a chance in this one their ability to defend Iowa’s three-point shot will be key. The Hawkeyes shoot the long ball at 38% and Minnesota struggles a bit defending the three, allowing opponents to shoot it at 31.6%. Wieskamp and Isaiah Moss lead the way for Iowa percentage wise, shooting it 43.8 and 44.1% respectively, and Bohannon, while he doesn’t shoot it as well, 37.6%, he does attempt the most on the team with 117.

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Iowa continues their quiet winning ways, and on the back of knocking down over eight threes, the Hawkeyes will knock off Minnesota by at least eight.