Northwestern (13-18) vs. Iowa (20-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 14, 8:55 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: United Center (20,917) -- Chicago, Illinois. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Northwestern 8-11, Iowa 16-2. Away Record: Northwestern 3-7, Iowa 2-8. Neutral Record: Northwestern 2-0, Iowa 2-1. Conference Record: Northwestern 4-14, Iowa 9-9. Series Record: Iowa leads, 110-57.
GAME NOTES: The Northwestern Wildcats get one last crack at ending their lengthy slide as the meet up with the Iowa Hawkeyes in the opening round of the 16th annual Big Ten Conference Tournament at the United Center in Chicago on Thursday evening.
The 11th seed in this year's event, the Wildcats are one of a handful of programs that have never won the tournament title, nor have they had much success overall in the event with a record of 6-15. Successful outings have been few and far between over the last three months of the regular season as well, the Wildcats posting a total of only seven victories since around Thanksgiving. The squad enters the postseason riding an eight-game slide overall.
As for the sixth-seeded Hawkeyes, a team which has won this event twice, most recently in 2006 over Ohio State, they kicked off the 2012-13 campaign with 11 wins in 13 opportunities, but many of those victories came against weaker opponents. Down the stretch Iowa did pick up some momentum again with three wins in the last four games, finishing an even 9-9 in conference as a result.
The Hawkeyes own a huge 110-57 advantage in the all-time series, winning the most recent matchup back in February by a score of 71-57 at home. The survivor of the matchup this time around will move to the quarterfinals on Friday and face third-seeded Michigan State in the late game once again.
The Wildcats had just one player start all 18 conference games this season, Dave Sobolewski, and only a handful of others to even appear in every one of those contests, so it's no wonder the program had trouble getting consistent efforts from one game to the next. Reggie Hearn stands as the only active double-digit scorer in conference action for the Wildcats with his 12.3 ppg, but he shot just 39.3 percent from the floor and a dismal 25.4 percent behind the 3-point line for the group. Sobolewski (9.0 ppg) was responsible for a team-best 66 assists, which is certainly a good sign seeing as how he had trouble finding the basket from all over the field (.346), including 3-point range (.265) and the free-throw line (.538). As a group, Northwestern accounted for just 55.7 ppg.
Like the Wildcats, Iowa also had some trouble hitting shots from long range against league foes this season, connecting on a mere 28.4 percent beyond the arc, but at least the Hawkeyes were capable of still competing from an offensive standpoint with 66.3 ppg. Aaron White led the way with 13.6 ppg and was also first with just under six rebounds per outing, but getting more of the press coverage was Roy Devyn Marble who, after putting up 12.9 ppg and shooting a meager 36.1 percent from the floor in conference, was named to the All-Big Ten Third Team. Aiding White in the paint was Melsahn Basabe with his 5.0 rpg, chipping in with 7.2 ppg, but the fact that he had just seven assists in 18 league bouts is a bit troubling.
Northwestern has been slipping away for weeks now and there's no reason to believe the Wildcats will be able to turn it on for this tournament.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Iowa 66, Northwestern 58
03/14 10:36:41 ET