Pre-Game Franalysis, NIT Edition: Iowa vs. South Dakota

By Matthew Lundeen on March 15, 2017 at 12:00 pm
Tonight's game should be a track meet, as Iowa hosts South Dakota in the first round of the NIT.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight's game should be a track meet, as Iowa hosts South Dakota in the first round of the NIT.

Game Info

#1 Iowa (18-14, 10-8) vs. #8 South Dakota (22-11, 12-4)
Time: 8:00 PM CT
Location: Carver-Hawkeye Arena
Tickets: University of Iowa
TV/Streaming: ESPN2/WatchESPN
Line: -10.5 Iowa
Don't Forget: NIT Experimental Rules

Common Opponents

  • Iowa -- at Nebraska 90-93 2OT L, vs. Nebraska 81-70 W
  • South Dakota -- at Nebraska 61-73 L
Nebraska Omaha
  • Iowa -- vs. UNO 89-98 L
  • South Dakota -- vs. UNO 86-69 W, at UNO 83-91 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, all numbers, unless otherwise specified, are from conference play.

On this end of the court, we have a battle between Kenpom's ($) 47th ranked offense and the 119th ranked defense. Looking at T-Rank's conference-adjusted numbers, Iowa's offense finished sixth in the Big Ten, averaging 1.15 adjusted points per possession (PPP) in conference play this season. Meanwhile, in the Summit League, South Dakota's defense ranked #1, but allowed an adjusted PPP of 1.03. For proper context, that number would have ranked dead last in the Big Ten this season. And before I go any further, I should talk about the proper context for looking at these numbers. 

I normally like to use conference numbers starting in the middle/end of January through the end of the season because it not only removes the non-conference cupcakes out of the data, but it also gives you an idea of how a team is playing more recently. For instance, the way Iowa played in November is much different from the way they are playing now. Additionally, when we look at the raw numbers (only the PPP numbers are adjusted for competition), we have to keep in mind that the Big Ten was second in the country in average adjusted defensive efficiency this year, while the Summit League was 13th in average adjusted offensive efficiency. What that means is that Iowa's offense played a much tougher batch of defenses this season than South Dakota played offenses. Thus, the raw four factor numbers are a bit flawed.

I thought about using overall season numbers because the quality in conferences was so vastly different. However, I think Iowa's conference numbers tell their story better, and outside of games against Gonzaga, Nebraska, and Houston, I didn't think South Dakota's non-conference numbers would give us any better insight.

With that out of the way, the raw four factor numbers from conference play look pretty close upon first glance. However, adjusting for the fact that Iowa has played tougher defenses than South Dakota has offenses, the Hawkeyes probably have the advantage in three or more factors.

When looking at shooting, Iowa's Big Ten numbers closely mirror what South Dakota surrendered in Summit League play. They Coyotes are above average at contesting shots inside the three-point line, thanks to an average number of blocks. However, their two starting post players are all of 6'6" and 6'7" tall, which will be a nice break from the monster front lines of the Big Ten that Tyler Cook and Cordell Pemsl have faced all year. On top of that, Summit League opponents shot 38% from deep on the Coyotes this season, and their defense is only average when it comes to limiting those attempts. All of that together, would appear to be an advantage for Iowa.

As for turnovers, the Coyotes are good at forcing steals (which is something to pay attention to), but below average at forcing turnovers in general. Iowa has been average at holding onto the ball this year, which means they can generally go either way on any given night. But against a below average South Dakota team at home, I like Iowa.

On the offensive glass, I like Iowa's odds against this undersized South Dakota front court. They have been outstanding on the defensive glass this year, but I trust Iowa's track record with offensive rebounds against Big Ten front courts more.

Finally, with free throws, South Dakota appears to be good at abstaining from fouling. However, it should be noted that their three biggest post players are all averaging more than four fouls called per 40 minutes this season. They may not foul out, but the potential for Tyler Cook and Cordell Pemsl to get to the line is definitely there. Although, with the experimental rules being used in the NIT this year, I am not exactly sure what to expect when it comes to free throws.

Overall, Iowa should simply prove to be too much on this end of the court for South Dakota to stop them. Barring a ridiculously off shooting night, Iowa should be able to take advantage of South Dakota's lack of size and potential fouling issues in the post, while at the same time exploiting their weak three-point defense. 

Advantage: Iowa

Flipping sides of the floor, South Dakota's offense is ranked 185th in the nation, according to Kenpom, while Iowa's defense is 109th. T-Rank's conference-only numbers have the Hawkeye defense at 10th in the Big Ten, allowing 0.99 adjusted PPP against conference foes. As for South Dakota, they ended the Summit League season, scoring 1.06 adjusted PPP against conference opponents, which was good for seventh in their league.

Like we did in the last section, we also need to adjust for the differences between both conferences. In saying that, it's important to keep in mind that the Summit League was awful on defense this season. I mean, you already saw that their adjusted PPP of 1.03 would have been last in the Big Ten, but was actually good enough for first in their conference. As a whole, the Summit League finished the year allowing an average adjusted PPP of 1.07, which ranked 23rd out of 32 Division I conferences. Basically, South Dakota's offense ain't played nobody.

As for Iowa, their defense was definitely a weak point this year, but they also played in a much tougher offensive conference. As a whole, the Big Ten ranked fourth in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency with an average adjusted PPP of 1.12. 

Keeping the proper adjustments in mind, we can probably close some of the gap between the two teams on the four factor chart. At first glance, South Dakota looks to have a distinct shooting advantage against Iowa, but if we account for the awful defenses in the Summit League and the strong offenses in the Big Ten, we probably start to see that move closer to a draw or even an Iowa advantage with home court.

The Coyotes are #68 in the country in the number of two-point jump shots they take, which should help Iowa's defense, since that's the most inefficient shot in the game. However, they are the 31st in the country, knocking down that shot 41% of the time. And while they Coyotes shot 38% in their conference on three-pointers, they are only 34% on the season and attempt them way fewer triples than the average Division I team. Iowa, of course, gives them up way more than the average Division I team does, but if the Coyotes can't make them, that could be an advantage the way it was against Penn State. 

Something to keep in mind, however, is transition possessions. Like Iowa, South Dakota takes a good chunk of their field goal attempts within the first 10 seconds of the shot clock. The Hawkeyes have struggled with transition defense in some notable losses like Omaha and in the Big Ten Tournament against Indiana. If that proves to be an issue in this one, South Dakota may be able to surprise on this side of the ball. 

As for turnovers, South Dakota looks to be legitimately good at taking care of the basketball. They did turn it over 18 times against Nebraska earlier this year, but they only had 14 against Gonzaga (in an 82 possession game) and 12 against Houston. Iowa, of course, got a lot better at forcing turnovers as the season went on, and finished third in the Big Ten in turnovers forced and third in steals. 

Rebounding-wise, both teams are awful on this end of the court. In South Dakota's case, I'm not sure whether it's on purpose or because they just have smaller personnel, but they really struggle to create second chances off their missed shots. Their post players are undersized and they will run out a four-guard lineup for a decent number of minutes per game, but their lack of offensive boards may also be purposely designed to take away transition baskets. And, according to Hoop-Math, South Dakota is 19th in the nation in limiting field goal attempts in transition. Teams are shooting 55% when they do get out in transition, but opposing teams are only doing that on 17% of their field goal attempts this year. And it's worth noting that the Summit League is the most up-tempo conference in the country this season at 72 possessions per game.

Anyway, Iowa isn't very good on the defensive glass this season, but I would expect that to be different in this game.

As for free throws, South Dakota has been outstanding at earning their way to the line, while Iowa has been stellar at keeping opponents off of it. I also lean Iowa here, though, because Gonzaga and Nebraska had no trouble at limiting Coyote free throw attempts, and Iowa so rarely has fouling problems.

Overall, I like Iowa on this side of the ball. They tend to play at least one good half of defense at home this season, and I think South Dakota's offensive inefficiency will really show in a game on the road against a non-Summit League defense. The only thing that worries me is Iowa's transition defense. So long as that doesn't get out of hand, I think the Hawkeyes are a pretty heavy favorite here. 

Advantage: Iowa

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.

Matt Mooney G -- Mooney is the offensive star for this Coyote team. At 6'3" and 210 lbs., the redshirt sophomore and transfer from Air Force, is playing a team-high 31 minutes per game and scoring just shy of 19 points in that time this year. He has the ability to attack the basket off the dribble or make a cut and finish at the rim, but he's mostly a jump shooter, as Hoop-Math classifies 76% of his shots as coming away from the rim

(Warning: Video has music.)

Iowa should make it a point to find Mooney in transition, as he is very good at spotting up and hitting the three in those open court situations. On the defensive side of the ball, he is currently 44th in the country in steals. Finally, for reference, he averaged about 15 points (but only shot 4-15 from three), four rebounds, and a steal in 29 minutes per game against Gonzaga, Houston, and Nebraska earlier this season.  

Tyler Flack 6'7" F -- Flack is a senior and the second leading scorer on the roster. He missed nine games this year because of an injury, but has averaged 15 points in 27 minutes per game when he's been healthy. He starts at the five position and will step out and take the occasional three (he's only a 26% shooter this season), but the bulk of his damage is done closer to the basket, where he has a knack for throwing down thunderous slams.

He's also one of the best rebounders on the team, and an excellent shot-blocker. Against the trio of Gonzaga, Houston, and Nebraska he averaged 13 points, six rebounds, and one block in 26 minutes played. It's fair to assume that he could do the same against Iowa. 

Trey Dickerson PG -- As you all probably know, Dickerson made his way to our neighbor to the northwest following the 2015 season, and is averaging 10 points in 22 minutes per game as the starting point guard this season. He is still the speedy, penetrating point guard that we all thought he was when he was at Iowa.

(Warning: Video has music.)

And while he is very good at getting to the free throw line and converting his free ones into points, he is only shooting 49% on his shots at the rim this season and 32% from beyond the arc. Combine his inefficiency on field goals with a meh assist rate for a point guard and an averagish turnover rate, and you have a guy who grades out as an average player against Summit League competition. That being said, his quickness could be a potential mismatch if Jordan Bohannon is called on to guard him in man defense for long stretches of time. Against Gonzaga, Houston, and Nebraska, Dickerson averaged 10 points (on 9-28 shooting), four assists, two turnovers, and a steal in 24 minutes per game.

Trey Burch-Manning F -- The other Trey on the roster is 6'6" 200 lbs. and plays in the post instead of on the perimeter. As a sophomore, he's giving the Coyotes nine points in 27 minutes per game this season. Along with Flack, he's the other undersized post player in the starting lineup. He gets the majority of his nine points per game by battling on the block and earning his way to the free throw line. However, he just barely misses out on being the team's fourth double-digit scorer, since he only shoots 58% from the line this year. He is a pretty good rebounder, although the numbers aren't outstanding enough on their own to make you think they would necessarily translate against better competition. Against Gonzaga, Houston, and Nebraska, he averaged seven points and four rebounds in 26 minutes per game. 

Carlton Hurst G -- Hurst is the fifth and final starter, who plays out on the perimeter with Dickerson and Mooney. He started his career at Colorado State, and is now a redshirt junior after sitting last season out due to transfer rules. Hurst uses a lot fewer possessions than the Coyotes other starters do, but is still scoring eight points per game in 28 minutes a night this season. 52% of his shots come at the rim and he is #65 in the country in free throw rate, highlighting his ability to attack the basket off the dribble. He is also a good spot up shooter, making 21 of his 42 attempts from the outside this season. Finally, he's also a good offensive rebounder for a 6'3" guard. Against Gonzaga, Houston, and Nebraska, Hurst averaged five points and four rebounds in 25 minutes per game. 

What Kenpom Thinks

Rankings: Iowa #69, South Dakota #144
Projected Outcome: Iowa 83 (83%), South Dakota 72 (17%)
Projected Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.14, South Dakota 0.99
Possessions: 73

Kenpom likes Iowa by 11, which isn't all that surprising given the disparity in ratings and the game being played on Iowa's home court. South Dakota has some pretty good players, but it's difficult to try and transpose their performances onto Non-Summit League competition. For example, according to Kenpom, South Dakota has played just four games against Tier A or B competition this season. Iowa, on the other hand, played four of those types of games by the end of November, and played 19 such games over the course of the entire season. 

The point being: Iowa should win this game, and they should do so (hopefully) fairly easily. 

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