Pre-Game Franalysis, NIT Edition: Iowa vs. TCU

By Matthew Lundeen on March 18, 2017 at 12:49p
Jamie Dixon brings his new team to Carver-Hawkeye, as Iowa takes on TCU in the second round of the NIT on Sunday.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

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Jamie Dixon brings his new team to Carver-Hawkeye, as Iowa takes on TCU in the second round of the NIT on Sunday.

Game Info

#1 Iowa (19-14, 10-8) vs. #4 TCU (20-15, 6-12)
Time: Sunday March 19th at 4:00 PM CT
Location: Carver-Hawkeye Arena
Tickets: University of Iowa
TV/Streaming: ESPN2/WatchESPN
Don't Forget: NIT Experimental Rules

Common Opponents

Iowa State
  • Iowa -- vs. Iowa State 78-64 W
  • TCU -- vs. Iowa State 84-77 W, at Iowa State 71-84 L, Big 12 Tournament 63-84 L

Note: All numbers are scaled so that zero is equal to the Division I average in each category. Anything higher than zero means that a team is better than average in that category. Meanwhile, anything less than zero means that a team is below average in that category. Lastly, I made a change this week, and adjusted the numbers for strength of schedule, which should make it so the four factors are more directly comparable than they were when Iowa played South Dakota.

On this side of the ball, we have the 45th ranked Kenpom ($) offense in the country vs. the 52nd ranked defense. The Hawkeyes are averaging 1.13 adjusted points per possession (PPP) this season, while the Horned Frogs are allowing 0.97. 

Jamie Dixon is in his first year at TCU, and his team's defense has been a real strength this season. Not only do Dixon's teams play at a slower pace on offense, but his defenses are also always very good at forcing other teams to slow down to a grinding halt, and this TCU team is no different. They are outstanding at limiting transition baskets, ranking 28th in the country in the lowest percentage of opponent shots taken within 10 seconds of the shot clock. That could prove to be an issue for Iowa, who relies pretty heavily on getting out and scoring quick baskets. If the Horned Frogs are able to prevent Iowa from running, Iowa's effective field goal percentage could really hinge on how well they run their half-court offense. 

Furthermore, TCU's defense makes it difficult for their opponents to score inside. The 6'10" Vladimir Brodziansky -- the #20 shot-blocker in the country -- can erase just about anything around the rim.

Jamie Dixon's penchant for mixing in 2-3 and 3-2 zone defenses also has had some success confusing opponents at times this season and led to turnovers and steals at a higher than average rate. So not only may it be a challenge for Tyler Cook and Cordell Pemsl to get clean looks at the rim in this one, Iowa can't afford to be lazy or telegraph their entry passes because guys like Kenrich Williams are outstanding at taking the ball from the other team. 

Cook and Pemsl could have some success getting TCU's bench bigs in foul trouble, but Brodziansky will probably play at least 25+ minutes of this game and record minimal fouls. 

There are probably two areas where Iowa looks to have an advantage on offense. First, opponents have made 36% of their three-pointers against the Horned Frogs this season. The small problem with that, however, is that TCU's defense is 54th in the nation at limiting three-point attempts, so this issue hasn't always hurt them as much as it could. Still, if Jordan Bohannon and Peter Jok can have big games, that would go a long way toward winning this game. And if someone like Isaiah Moss, Brady Ellingson, or Nicholas Baer wanted to step their game up from three-point range that would also help immensely. 

Second, Iowa's other advantage looks like it could be on the offensive glass. Brodziansky and Williams are really TCU's only defensive rebounders, as nobody else on the team has really done much on the defensive glass this season. If Cook, Pemsl, Baer, or Ahmad Wagner can crash the glass, that could help overcome any potential shooting struggles Iowa may have against TCU's defense. 

Overall, I have some concerns about how Iowa matches up on this end of the court. TCU is good at limiting three-point shots and blocking shots down low without fouling. However, if Iowa can make their threes and crash the offensive glass when they miss, they could have some success. I would probably lean toward TCU's defense if this game were on the road, but since it is in Iowa City, I will give Iowa the benefit of the doubt and call this a push.

Advantage: Push

On this end of the court, TCU's offense is ranked #48 in the nation by Kenpom, while Iowa's defense is ranked #112. In terms of adjusted PPP, Jamie Dixon's squad is averaging 1.13 on the season, while Fran McCaffery's team is surrendering 1.02. 

Like on defense, TCU slows the game down on the offensive side of things too. Normally ball control teams are all about... well, ball control. However, TCU has a real turnover weakness, which comes partially from having a sophomore and freshman as their primary ball-handlers. Iowa is above average in turnovers and steals on defense, so hopefully that is something they can take advantage of in this one. 

Meanwhile, Iowa also should have the advantage in free throws on this end of the floor. Brodziansky is about the only guy who gets any meaningful playing time that consistently draws fouls. That could be an issue for keeping Cook or Pemsl in the game, but overall I'm not expecting an overwhelming number of TCU free throws since Iowa normally has no trouble abstaining from fouling. 

What TCU is good at, however, is shooting the ball and securing their own misses. The Horned Frogs are 87th in the country in shooting and 49th in offensive rebounding. Guys like Brodziansky and Williams are good at scoring at the rim, but have enough versatility in their game to knock down the three or the mid-range jumper.

Meanwhile, Alex Robinson and Jaylen Fisher can knock down the three from distance or attack the middle of the defense and score at the rim. 

On the offensive glass, Brodziansky is 259th in the country at sucking up missed shots, while Wililams is 97th. And if that wasn't bad enough for an Iowa team that has been pretty atrocious in the defensive rebounding department this year, TCU's backups are also just as good, but not nationally ranked since they don't meet the playing time requirements. 

In all, Iowa has the turnover and free throw advantage here, while TCU is the shooting and rebounding favorite. Again, if this game were on the road, I would go TCU since I think their two advantages are greater than Iowa's. However, TCU's young guards -- while very talented -- can be inefficient scorers and very turnover-prone, so I wouldn't be totally surprised if they had some struggles away from home. Iowa can make them settle for tough shots and force enough turnovers I think they can win this side of the ball. But for now, I'm calling it a draw.

Advantage: Push

Players to Know

Note: The horizontal axis represents a player's usage rate, while the vertical axis represents a player's offensive rating. The logo size represents playing time (bigger means more time on the court). This chart should tell us how involved in the offense the player is, how efficient they are in doing so, and in how many minutes per game they accomplish all of this.

Vladimir Brodziansky C -- The tall and lanky native of Slovakia is playing 24 minutes and scoring almost 14 points per game this season. Those numbers went up to 27 and 16 in Big 12 play, so don't be surprised to see something similar against Iowa. Brodziansky has a versatile offensive game, and is very dangerous in the pick and roll. He can step out and knock down the jumper (like you saw when he slipped the screen in the video above), but he can also post up and go to work on his defender.

Outside of his scoring, he's a pretty good rebounder and an oustanding shot-blocker who never gets whistled for a foul. (He hasn't fouled out this year, and has been called for four fouls in a game just five times.) The potential for Cook and Pemsl getting in foul trouble while guarding him is a real concern, and I worry that Iowa doesn't really have anyone that can stop him. If he's eating them up in the post, expect Iowa to throw in a couple of different zone looks.

Alex Robinson PG -- Speaking of zone defense, Robinson may be another reason why Iowa switches to zone quite often. The 6'1" 180 lb. guard has a knack for getting inside the defense and scoring at the rim. On the season, he's giving TCU 11 points and six assists in 32 minutes of play. He's also an outstanding defender who takes the ball away from the other team 1.5 times per game. 

TCU poses a real issue for Iowa in man-to-man defense because there is nowhere to hide Bohannon. Both of TCU's starting guards can attack off the dribble, meaning Bohannon will have to guard one of them. Robinson is smaller and the better slasher. I would probably use Moss or Christian Williams (if/when he plays) on him, but I could see Fran just trusting Bohannon and moving to zone if that becomes an issue. All of that said, if there is any upside to all of this, both of TCU's guards are turnover-prone and that could help limit some of the damage they could do otherwise.

Kenrich Williams F -- Williams is a 6'7" 210 lb. junior, who plays both forward positions. His offensive game is versatile enough that he is making 56% of his shots at the rim and 36% of his threes this year, en route to 11 points per game. Despite being undersized, Williams is by far the best rebounder on the team in his 32 minutes on the court. He's 122nd in the country at hauling in defensive rebounds, but he's also 97th on the offensive side, and leads the team in putbacks off offensive rebounds this year.

On defense, he's an okay shot-blocker for a guy his size. However, his real strength lies in his ability to pick the other team's pocket. Thus, Cook and Pemsl will have to be careful with the ball when they catch it in the post.

Jaylen Fisher G -- Fisher is a 6'2" 195 lb. true freshman guard that plays nearly 30 minutes per night and scores just a hair under 10 points per game. He plays primarily as the two-guard, but can be the second point guard when needed. He averages four assists per game, but the downside of a true freshman as a primary ball-handler is that he is also turning it over almost three times per contest. Still, Fisher can score, and he's the best three-point shooter on the team this season, making 39% of his 140 attempts. 

Like I said earlier, Fisher and Williams could be an issue for Iowa as they both can penetrate a defense. I would likely go with Bohannon on Fisher because he is a little more of a shooter than a slasher, but he does have the ability to get to the rim too. No matter what, I would expect to see quite a bit of zone defense in this one.

J.D. Miller F -- Miller is the fifth and final starter, playing at the four position. The 6'8" 235 sophomore only plays 18 minutes a game, but averages seven points. Miller is another inside-outside forward that can score from up close, but can also step back and knock down the three. He isn't really much of a rebounder for a player his size, and he's only decent at blocking shots. Mostly, he appears to be another solid contributor on offense for this Horned Frog team.

The Bench -- Brandon Parrish or Desmond Bane appear to be the first guys off the bench. One of them usually replaces Miller and moves Williams down to the power forward position. Both guys average 6-7 points in 18-19 minutes per outing at the small forward position. Both guys can shoot from beyond the arc, but Bane appears to be more willing to drive to the basket, while Parrish seems to be more of a shooter. 

Aside from them, TCU's bench doesn't get much deeper. Karviar Shepherd is a 6'11 senior who only plays the 12 minutes or so per game that Brodziansky is getting a breather. He is actually shooting the ball pretty well and grabbing offensive rebounds this season, but he turns the ball over a ton and averages seven fouls called per 40 minutes. 

Then there is Chris Washburn and Michael Williams. Washburn has played in all but four games this season, while Williams has missed 11 of them. Washburn is another foul-prone (10.5 fouls per 40 minutes), turnover-heavy senior big man, while Williams is a senior guard who also has a major turnover problem. 

What Kenpom Thinks

Rankings: Iowa #69, TCU #42
Projected Outcome: Iowa 76 (52%), TCU 75(48%)
Projected Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.09, TCU 1.07
Possessions: 70

TCU was initially a 55% favorite when this game was first announced, but Kenpom has since switched to giving Iowa a 52% chance to win at home. 

On paper, TCU doesn't appear to have many quality wins this season, and Kenpom certainly has them ranked so highly because the Big 12 is rated the best conference college basketball this year. However, there are a couple of reasons why Jamie Dixon's team worries me. They seem to do a very good job of controlling the tempo and limiting transition possessions for their opponents. That, and the fact that they limit three-point attempts and block shots inside without fouling is cause for concern for Iowa's offense. 

On the other end, they have a two guards that could create trouble for Iowa by getting inside the defense and creating havoc. Not to mention, that I'm not sure the Hawkeyes can stop Vladimir Brodziansky and Iowa's defensive rebounding is really going to be put to the test against him and Kenrich Williams.

On the positive side, TCU gives the ball away a lot more than the normal ball control teams, which could help Iowa play at a quicker tempo that is more suitable for them and gets some easy transition buckets. And despite how tough TCU's defense appears to be, opponents have been able to make their threes against them this season. 

Iowa certainly has enough talent to win this game, and we've seen them beat tougher opponents in the friendly confines of Carver-Hawkeye this year. I'm not feeling completely confident about this game, but I'm hoping Iowa can use the home court to their advantage and come away with a victory.

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