Preview: Iowa vs. Northwestern

Story by Miles Klotz

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Mercifully, the 2017-18 Iowa Hawkeyes men’s basketball season is coming to an end.

Iowa will close out the regular season at home on Sunday against Northwestern at 6:30 PM on the Big Ten Network. It’s a match-up between two of the most disappointing teams in the Big Ten, facing off for the first time this year.

Before the game, Iowa will honor its only two seniors – seldom-used forward Dom Uhl and walk-on Charlie Rose. Neither saw much action this season.

For that reason, there’s reason to believe that this Iowa team could be better next season, with every important player returning. For Northwestern, that’s not the case. This was supposed to be the year that everything came together for head coach Chris Collins’ Wildcats, who made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history in 2017 and won a game. Northwestern brought back their top five scorers from last season – there was no reason to believe that the Wildcats wouldn’t reach the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.

Instead, everything fell apart. Northwestern started the season ranked in the top 25, and had fallen out of the rankings within two weeks. A mix of injury and ineffectiveness has put the Wildcats at 6-11 in conference play and needing a miracle at the Big Ten Tournament to return to the Big Dance.

For Northwestern, the prospects aren’t as bright for next season. Scottie Lindsey and Bryant McIntosh, the Wildcats’ two leading scorers, will both play in their final regular season games on Sunday. Neither took the step forward many predicted after stellar junior seasons, contributing the Wildcats’ down year. Northwestern will also bid adieu to productive big man Gavin Skelly.

Vic Law and Derek Pardon are arguably the two most talented players on the Wildcats’ roster, but Law struggled with injuries much of the season, and Pardon has been inconsistent at times. Pardon and Tyler Cook should match up inside, and it will be a big test for Cook, who has had trouble guarding talented big men in the Big Ten throughout the season. Pardon shoots 63.2% from the floor and puts up just over 11 points per game.

The game should be a clash of styles offensively, with the Wildcats ranking in the bottom third of the country in offensive tempo. They don’t particularly excel at anything offensively or defensively, but aren’t exactly terrible at anything either. Iowa will need a big game from Jordan Bohannon in order to win – he was silent in Wednesday’s loss to Minnesota, which made it almost impossible for the Hawkeyes to crawl out of a huge early deficit.

Prediction: Northwestern wins, 84-81. This should be a close one, but it’s hard to predict a Hawkeye win given how poorly they’ve looked over the past two weeks. Iowa hasn’t put together a quality 40 minutes of basketball in nearly a month.

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