Iowa basketball head coach Fran McCaffery after a game against Purdue University on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. The Boilermakers defeated the Hawkeyes 87-64. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

Solid programs with down years clash in Carver


Two seasons ago, Iowa and Wisconsin made the NCAA Tournament. Now, the Big Dance isn’t on either team’s radar.

Quick Facts:

Who: Iowa (10-11) v. Wisconsin (10-10)

Where: Carver-Hawkeye

When: 6 p.m.

Watch: ESPN2

By Adam Hensley

Let’s take a trip back to 2015.

Iowa finishes its season with a 22-12 record after losing to Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 7 seed. Wisconsin finishes with 36 wins and a loss in the NCAA Championship.

Now, let’s take it back to the present day. Iowa and Wisconsin enter tonight’s contest with a combined 20-21 record. The two have combined for merely four conference wins in 15 attempts. At this point, the NCAA Tournament isn’t on either program’s radar.

It’s a very different story from what played out just a few seasons ago.

Tonight’s matchup features two programs, both of which have previously been competitive among the likes of top-ranked teams, now faltering to stay above or at .500.

Expectations weren’t as high as what they were for the Badgers coming off their title loss in 2015, but nevertheless, not many Wisconsin fans could have seen this season coming.

To be fair, however, the Badgers’ schedule has been brutal, as Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery noted during his teleconference on Monday.

“You look at who they played — they played Xavier, they played Baylor, they played UCLA, played Virginia, they played Temple, Western Kentucky, Marquette — pretty impressive nonconference schedule,” McCaffery said. “Throw in Milwaukee, who’s very good, Yale, who’s very good. I think it’s a little deceptive there.”

Wisconsin ranks in the top 60 (No. 58) in strength of schedule, according to ESPN. Meanwhile, Iowa claims the 84th-toughest schedule.

Regardless, neither team has lived up to the preseason expectations brought on by fans.

Many viewed last season as a rebuilding year for Iowa, yet the team almost cracked an NCAA berth before making a run in the National Invitational Tournament. Minus Peter Jok, everyone returned, and new freshman faces joined a squad that led the Big Ten in scoring.

Wisconsin, coming off a 27-win season, lost seniors Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes, Zak Showalter, and Vitto Brown to graduation but retained then-sophomore sensation Ethan Happ.

It’s still the Happ Show in Madison (there’s a Happ for that), and even with Wisconsin’s down season, Iowa must key in on the 6-10, 235-pound big man, who averages 16.7 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game.

“Obviously, it starts with Happ,” McCaffery said during his teleconference. “He’s one of the most impressive players in the country — versatile, really effective in so many different ways.”

But the Badgers, while boasting a team full of inexperience, can gouge defenses in more ways than Happ.

Freshman guard Brad Davison averages 12.1 points per game and sinks his 3-point attempts at a 37.9 percent clip. Fellow guards sophomore Brevin Pritzl and junior Khalil Iverson score 9.1 and 8.4 points per contest.

If the Hawkeyes can look forward to anything, it’s that the Badgers don’t light up the scoreboard.

Wisconsin averages 68.4 points per game, good for 299th in the country. But Iowa’s scoring defense (289th in the nation) gives up 76.9 points per contest.

The Badgers don’t shoot the ball particularly well, knocking down shots at a 46.5 percent clip, which ranks 95th in the country. The Hawkeyes, as inconsistent as the offense has been, have hit shots to the tune of 47.6 percent (52nd).

Iowa gave up 20 3-pointers in its loss to Purdue on Jan. 20, and the Boilermakers hit 69 percent of their shots in the first half and led by 37 points in the second half; it was a defensive meltdown in Carver-Hawkeye.

“You don’t want to get so frustrated that you become too negative, but at the same time, you have to be realistic and honest, and that’s with each other freshman guard that’s the player and coaches,” McCaffery said in his teleconference. “We have to be honest with each other. The worst thing you can do is assess blame everywhere … you got to keep grinding.”

Following Iowa’s game against Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes will travel to Lincoln, Nebraska on Saturday to take on the Huskers in a 7 p.m. showdown.




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