Northwestern (13-18) vs. Iowa (20-11)
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 13, 8:55 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bankers Life Fieldhouse (18,165) -- Indianapolis, Indiana. Television: ESPN 2. Home Record: Northwestern 8-9, Iowa 13-4. Away Record: Northwestern 5-7, Iowa 4-6. Neutral Record: Northwestern 0-2, Iowa 3-1. Conference Record: Northwestern 6-12, Iowa 9-9. Series Record: Iowa leads, 113-57.
GAME NOTES: The nightcap of the first round in the 2014 Big Ten Conference Tournament features a matchup between the Northwestern Wildcats and the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Northwestern has had a rough year under new head coach Chris Collins, going just 13-18, which includes a 6-12 league ledger. As a result, the Wildcats were given the No. 11 seed in this event. As for Iowa, it logged a 20-11 record, and went a disappointing 9-9 against Big Ten foes, and as a result was awarded the sixth seed.
The winner advances to face third-seeded Michigan State in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Iowa has two Big Ten Tournament titles to its credit (2001, 2006), logging a 15-14 record all-time in the event, while Northwestern has yet to hoist the trophy and owns a miserable 6-16 mark in the tourney.
The teams met twice during the regular season, with the Hawkeyes winning each time. As a result, they lead the all-time series by a resounding 113-57 margin.
Iowa had actually begun conference play with a 4-1 mark, but losses in eight of its final 13 games left the team scuffling as it prepares for this postseason gathering. The Hawkeyes, who lead the Big Ten in scoring offense (82.6 ppg) but rank near the bottom in scoring defense (70.2 ppg), lost consecutive bouts to Michigan State and Illinois to bring the curtain down on the regular season, and it will be crucial for guys like Roy Devyn Marble (17.0 ppg, 3.5 apg) and Aaron White (13.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg) to lead by example if coach Fran McCaffery's club has any shot at making their stay in Indianapolis a long and fruitful one.
While it's true the Wildcats have had a tough time of it in 2013-14, the team isn't totally devoid of talent. Drew Crawford (15.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg) ranks in the top-10 in the Big Ten in scoring, while also pacing the club in rebounding, and Tre Demps (10.9 ppg) is the only other active double-digit scorer, as Jershon Cobb (12.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg) was lost for the season back late last month due to a leg injury. The team as a whole is producing a league-low 59.5 ppg, but has stood its ground on defense for the most part, ranking third in the conference in yielding only 63.3 ppg. Northwestern is the worst shooting team in the Big Ten both overall (.392) and from 3-point range (.299), while also bringing up the rear in rebounding margin (-4.1) and steals (135).
The 'Cats will have to be at their feistiest to have any shot at pulling off the upset here, and while Crawford and company are sure to forth maximum effort, they will likely come up short against an Iowa club that has the ability to catch lightning in a bottle and go on a run to the tournament title tilt.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Iowa 74, Northwestern 59
03/13 10:31:46 ET