NIT Finals Preview - Iowa

NIT Finals Preview - Iowa

The Bears are going to the finals of the NIT for the second time in the last 5 years, this time looking to come out victorious.

When it came down to the nitty gritty time of the game, the Bears offense devolved into get the ball into their best players hand and get out of the way. And boy did it work. With the game tied at 52 with just fewer than 8 minutes to go, the Bears finally made their run in a game that saw no deficit larger than 5 points either way. But at that 8 minute mark, Pierre Jackson started to assert himself as the best player on the floor and someone that BYU had no chance of stopping.

He found Cory Jefferson open for a jumper off of pick and roll action. He got a defensive rebound and forced a foul then hit both free throws. He made a jump shot and then a 3-pointer. After that barrage, it was a 10 point game and the Bears were advancing to the NIT finals to face Iowa Thursday night at 8:00 p.m CT under the bright lights in New York City.

With that game deciding run, Pierre Jackson would score 24 points and finish with 10 assists, his third straight game with at least 20 points and 10 assists and 4th in his last 6 games. Pierre has been on an incredible roll since our loss to Texas on March 4th. Since that game, the Bears are 5-1 with the one loss being the tough one to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 tournament. In that run, he is averaging 23.33 points per game and 9.67 assists per game. Those are incredible numbers.

Joining him in the amazing run has been the other half of the presidential ticket for the Bears (see what I did there, pretty sweet). Cory Jefferson again played under control and efficiently on offense. He finished with 21 points on 8-11 shooting from the field. Since that OSU loss, he has shot 48-66 from the field, with no games under 57%. That is about as efficient as you can get while getting up at least 7 shots in each game and averaging just under 20 points per game. The last two games have been truly special for Jefferson, tying a career high 26 points against Providence in the quarterfinals before showing the national stage what he can do against BYU.

Up next for the Bears is the Iowa Hawkeyes, a team that has quite an impressive advanced statistical resume, ranking 17th by Sagarin and 20th by KenPom, two sites that had the Bears higher than most and the Hawkeyes even higher than them. They are 25-12 on the year, including a 9-9 finish in conference. They did beat Iowa State at home this year, something the Bears could not do this year, and also have wins over Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois. They were just a 3-seed in the NIT this year, but I really don't see that bad of a profile.

They played in the best conference during the regular seanso (the Big 10) and had some nice wins. They did lose early in the year to a bad Virginia Tech team, and then lost to a terrible Nebraska team, but the rest of their losses were to tournament teams and an overtime loss at Purdue.





















AP Poll



Coaches Poll



The Hawkeyes have a very tall team, with Aaron White a 6-8 forward, Basabe, Olaseni, Zach McCabe a 6-7 forward, and Adam Woodury at 7-1 getting the bulk of the minutes. They have a ton of bodies to throw at the Bears, but only White plays over 50% of the available minutes. The rest rotate in and out for a few minutes to stay fresh.

NCAA Basketball Stats

Their best player is probably Roy Devyn Marble, a 6-6 wing player who is their top scorer and focal point of their offense. He takes 25.8% of their shots and most of those are mid-range or 3-pointers. He is a shooter with good size and the Hawkeyes do a good job of screening him open. Outside of him and Aaron White though, it is a committee approach. They have 7 players averaging between 4 and 10 points per game. They also have a team approach on the glass, with no dominant statistical rebounder, though Adam Woodbury gets a large percentage of rebounds in his very scarce minutes.

Defensively, they simply stop team from making shots. Their size allows them to challenge shooters all over the court and make you shoot over them. I fully anticipate Brady Heslip struggling to create space and get his shot off. The Hawkeyes allow the 13th lowest effective field goal percentage in the country. And are incredibly adept at stopping 3-point shooting team (just 29.5% shooting, 11th best defense).

College Basketball

Keys to the Game

-Force Iowa to shoot from deep – This is a bad 3-point shooting team, similar to TCU if you want a good comparison. They only take 17.4 3-pointers per game (193rd in the country) but they make just 30.9% of them (297th out of 347 schools). They have just one player that makes over 1/3rd of his attempts that takes more than 2.5 per game. He has made just 49 of them on the year, which would finish 36 behind Pierre Jackson and 33 behind Brady Heslip on the Bears.

-Keep attacking inside – The Bears offense is simply better when the ball touches the paint, either by passing it to a big man down low, or by dribble penetration. When the Bears go on droughts, it usually is because they pass the ball around the perimeter and then take a long jumper. When they go inside though, the Bears offense is a well-oiled machine. The key cog to that is Cory Jefferson recently. As stated above, he is making an absurd amount of his shots.

Against Iowa though, he will have to deal with a team full of shot blockers. Iowa has the 14th most blocked shots in the nation this year, and block 11 % of all shots at the rim, and 14% of 2-point field goals. Jefferson and Isaiah Austin have to be strong with the ball and keep taking it inside, and not allow the Bears offense to float out to the perimeter.

-Keep the ball moving – The other area that really makes the Bears offense run is excellent ball movement. In the NIT, they are averaging 22 assists per game, up from the 15.75 they have averaged on the year, which was still 22nd most in the country. While Pierre Jackson has just been incredible at finding the right guy, you can also point to more minutes from Gary Franklin as well. He has not racked up a ton of assists, but he has made some excellent "hockey assist" plays where he made he pass to open up the assist pass. Baylor is best when they are being unselfish and making the extra pass.


KenPom – Bears lose 73-70 (41% chance for win)

Massey – No prediction posted…weird.

BearsIllustrated – Bears win 71-68

I look at Iowa and I see a very good team; one that plays well together and uses their size all around the court to their advantage on both sides of the court. But honestly, they have no player nearly as good as Pierre Jackson and probably not as good as Cory Jefferson right now. Roy Devyn Marble (great name by the way) is a very good scorer but someone that AJ Walton should be able to cover. I also think the pure speed of Pierre and the dual post threat options the Bears have will be too much for Iowa. The Hawkeyes should be able to stay in it due to their tremendous defense, but I just can't bet against the team with probably the two best players on the court. Recommended Stories

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