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2017 Big Ten NIT Preview: #4 TCU at #1 Iowa

The Hawkeyes look to move one step closer to MSG against TCU on Sunday

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off their first-round win over South Dakota, the Iowa Hawkeyes will take on TCU in the quarterfinals of the NIT on Sunday.

TCU is a very tough team who is on a roll at the moment. In fact, KenPom has them ranked 27 spots higher than the Hawkeyes, despite being the lower seed. The Horned Frogs are No. 42, while Iowa is ranked No. 69, respectively.

You can preview Sunday’s game below, with betting odds courtesy of KenPom.

-TCU Horned Frogs at Iowa Hawkeyes

  • Time/TV: 5:00 P.M ET — ESPN2
  • KenPom spread: Iowa (-1)

1. Can Nicholas Baer Become A Factor Again?

Ironically, ever since Baer won the Big Ten’s Sixth-Man of the Year Award, he hasn’t played like it. In his two games since the conference’s awards came out, he’s only scored five points combined and been a complete non-factor.

Now, the Hawkeyes were able to win their opening-round game despite Baer’s poor performance, but the competition will get stiffer on Sunday so they’ll definitely need more from him.

On the season, Baer averaged 7.3 points per game, while shooting 38.2 percent from deep.

2. Which TCU Defense Will Show Up?

Throughout the year, the Horned Frogs have had a pretty good defensive unit, allowing only 70 points per game. However, ever since tournament play started, they’ve turned things up a bit.

In their three wins following the regular season, TCU is only allowing 65 points per contest. They held Oklahoma to only 63 points in the Big-12 Tournament and Fresno State was only able to manage 59 points in the first-round of the NIT.

With that said, it will be interesting to see which TCU defense shows up. They’ve struggled against teams who push the tempo and that’s what Iowa will try to do. Whoever controls the pace in this game should end up coming out on top.

It seems elementary, but if it’s a high-scoring game, the Hawkeyes will be safe. However, if TCU can muddy things up, the ‘black and gold’ could be in trouble.

3. Which Group Of Freshmen Will Be The Biggest Factor?

Iowa’s freshmen have gotten a lot of fanfare this year; Jordan Bohannon and Tyler Cook were both All-Freshman selections, while Cordell Pemsl won the conference’s field-goal percentage crown. In addition, Chicago-native Isaiah Moss has come on lately, averaging 13.5 point in tournament play.

It turns out that TCU has also has a few freshmen standouts. One of them, Jaylen Fisher, has the potential to make or break the game. Fisher is the Horned Frogs facilitator on offense, but has been inconsistent in his first year. The program struggles when he plays erratic, but are successful when he’s effective. For example, the Horned Frogs are 1-3 when Fisher has 5+ turnovers, but are also 4-1 when he has 7+ assists.

Their second freshmen contributor, Desmond Bane, has played in every TCU game this year. Like Fisher, his performance could also be a huge factor for the Horned Frogs. If his shots are falling, the team usually wins, going 8-1 when Bane scores in double-figures.

Overall:

Being at home is the one factor that really helps the Hawkeyes. Iowa City fans love Hawkeye basketball, and with an NIT title in view, expect them to be out in droves.

Lay the points with Iowa, as this one gets up in the 80’s.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Iowa

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Casey’s Record vs. The Spread: 46-26-2