On Tuesday afternoon, Iowa and Ohio State tipped off to start conference play. Both teams entered the game with reasonable expectations and the game was good enough to land in the honorable mention category on BTP's Game of the Week post. Iowa came into the game at 9-4 and Ohio State entered at 11-2. The teams split their matchups last season with Iowa winning in Columbus and Ohio State winning in Iowa City. Entering this game, Ohio State had won its last 4 conference openers in a row.
During the game, Iowa jumped out to an early lead and maintained it for the entire 1st Half. The Buckeyes did make a run in the middle of the 1st Half, but Iowa pushed the lead back out by halftime. In the 2nd Half, Ohio State gradually made a run, but never really got close enough to make noise until the last few minutes of the game. However, although the Buckeyes did make it close, Iowa was able to hold on for a 71-65 win. So what did we learn?
What We Learned
The Hawkeyes Could Be Dangerous In Big Ten Play
During non-conference play, opinions on Iowa were mixed, but at this point in the season, we finally have enough evidence to validate Iowa as a team. The Hawkeyes are 10-4 overall with 2 impressive road wins, no bad losses on the season, and just 1 loss at home to a really good Iowa State team. It's unknown whether Iowa can become good enough to challenge the likes of Maryland and Wisconsin in the Big Ten, but this looks like a team that should have a good enough resume for the NCAA Tournament and can win on the road.
Jarrod Uthoff Could Be Vital For Iowa
Coming into this season, there were a lot of questions about who would step up for Iowa. Most figured that star forward Aaron White would make an impact, but without Devyn Marble, there were a lot of question marks about how this team would produce offensively. Well, one of the big contributors so far has been Jarrod Uthoff. Not only is Uthoff coming off back-to-back double-digit scoring performances, but he went 6-10 from 3PT range and averaged 9.5 rebounds and 5 assists during that stretch. He is putting up really nice performances not only from long range offensively (40.7% from 3PT range), but also with his value on the defensive glass (17.5% defensive rebounding rate) and with his passing (16.6% assist rate). This is still White's team, but Uthoff could be the most important piece behind him.
Ohio State Is At A Turning Point
The Buckeyes remain one of the best unproven teams in the country right now. Ohio State played a very unbalanced non-conference schedule with a few very high end teams and a boatload of mediocre teams - at best. When the Buckeyes failed to beat Louisville and North Carolina, it meant that Ohio State would need to score marquee wins in conference play. Well, no such luck for Ohio State as they sit one game into Big Ten season. Iowa is a good team, but if Ohio State really is worthy of its KenPom ratings - they were #10 before Iowa and #21 afterward - these are the type of games they have to win at home. With Illinois, Minnesota, and Indiana up next, this is going to be a huge test of whether Ohio State really is a contender or if they have just been a pretender.
D'Angelo Russell Underwhelms Against Another Good Team
As of now, Ohio State has played a total of 3 teams ranked in the KenPom Top 100. If you add in Marquette - slated at #102 - this gives us a total of 4 teams. Despite Ohio State freshman D'Angelo Russell's hot start this season, his performance against these 4 opponents has been underwhelming to say the least. In the 4 games, Russell averaged 11.7 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists, but when you look at Russell's efficiency, turnovers, and fouling, these numbers are not so great. During the 4 games, Russell went 16-58 (.276) from the field, averaged an offensive rating of 76.7 with 3.2 turnovers and 3.5 personal fouls per game. There is no doubt that Russell is a player with a lot of potential long-term, but when he has performances like he did against Iowa where he goes 4-16 from the field and commits 4 fouls, it's really going to hurt the team. It will be interesting to see if Russell can change this trend going forward against more quality teams.
This was a big win for the Hawkeyes and although they still have a long way to go, it's not hard to see them as a legitimate NCAA Tournament contender and a team that could make noise in Big Ten play. The Buckeyes lost another big game, but they still have plenty of talent and potential and should be a factor down the line.