Points in Transition: Iowa vs. South Dakota NIT preview

Hawkeyes welcome Summit League regular season champs, former Iowa guard Trey Dickerson to town

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The Iowa men’s basketball is a No. 1 seed in the NIT, so the Hawkeyes get at least one more game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena this season. The first of which welcomes the Summit League’s South Dakota into town (8 p.m., ESPN2), as well as a former Hawkeye in Trey Dickerson as the Coyotes’ point guard.

For each NIT game, we’ll look at key players, strengths and weaknesses for both teams and the key to winning for both sides. Here’s a breakdown of the matchup between Iowa and South Dakota:

Key player

Iowa: Jordan Bohannon, guard — Bohannon and Cordell Pemsl carried the pale for the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Tournament loss to Indiana, and he’ll have to stay at that level for Iowa to keep playing beyond Wednesday night. The freshman has handled the point like a much more mature player all season, and he’ll have a former Hawkeye — likely wanting to show out in his old arena — opposite him to deal with.

South Dakota: Trey Dickerson, guard — Dickerson isn’t the leading scorer, but as a member of the Summit League’s All-Newcomer team, Dickerson is one of the leaders of the Coyotes on both ends of the floor. His assist rate is in the top 10 percent of all players nationally (209th) and while he scores in double digits (10.7 per game) he also helps get other teams in foul trouble with dribble penetration (5.0 fouls drawn per 40 minutes). He’ll have something to prove at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, too.

Strengths

Iowa: Even with how the Indiana game played out in the end, there were some bright spots in that game that carried over from how the Hawkeyes played to end the regular season. Most of all, it was the offensive performance of a few freshmen.

Bohannon, Pemsl and Isaiah Moss had the most positive impact on the game last Wednesday. Bohannon’s scoring kept Iowa in the game to start, Pemsl’s rebounding buoyed the Hawkeyes throughout the first half and into the start of the second half and Moss’ attacking in transition was effective until everything went south in the second half.

Yes, they lost that game, so those impacts come with a bit of an asterisk. What’s most important about those games, though, is that they stepped up when other usual contributors — Peter Jok, Tyler Cook and Nicholas Baer — didn’t play as they usually do. Bohannon, Pemsl and Moss could’ve been better — especially defensively — but to know the team has a group to lean on when others might struggle has to be a source of comfort headed into the NIT.

South Dakota: The Coyotes finished the regular season on a six-game winning streak, en route to the regular-season Summit League title before a loss to tournament champ South Dakota State gave them the auto-bid to the NIT. While they didn’t overwhelm opponents all season, USD did a few things very well.

Led by First Team All-Summit League guard Matt Mooney at 18.5 points per game, the Coyotes won in the regular season in large part to their ability to take care of the ball. Season-long KenPom.com stats left USD ranked 34th overall in offensive turnover percentage at 16.1 and an offensive steal percentage of 6.9. They also get to the free throw line at a high rate — as referenced about Dickerson — with a 42.8 percent free throw rate.

Patience and ball security keeps USD in games where the team doesn’t shoot well — which happen fairly regularly.

Weaknesses

Iowa: Coach Fran McCaffery said after the Indiana game that his team looked like it had reverted back to the struggles of the early parts of the season where defense was consistently a step behind and shooters roamed basically free. He also gave a lot of credit to Indiana for making that happen — with their aggressive ball movement and efficiency of speed and spacing both in half-court and in transition offense.

That kind of performance defensively was an outlier compared to the previous four games, where the Hawkeyes anticipated much better and were far more active in both half-court and full-court zone pressure.

The other aspect to what Iowa struggled with was far more surprising than a defensive lapse. For whatever reason — credit Indiana if you’d like, because they did have a lot to do with it — Jok and Baer did not have the games they or anyone else expected. Baer not registering a rebound for the first time all season was not among the things that would’ve had good odds to happen. Jok’s early aggressiveness drawing fouls faded. Iowa needs both to be much better to advance in the NIT.

South Dakota: The Coyotes aren’t very efficient on offense or defense, ranking 185th in Adjusted Offense at 1.038 points per possession and 119th in Adjusted Defense at 1.022 ppp per KenPom.com. A lot of that has to with the Summit League having several teams that play a more up-tempo style, including USD itself, which averages around 70 possessions per game.

In addition to that, though, the Coyotes struggle from the field and in forcing opponents into bad shots.

The Coyotes have a 49.7 effective field goal percentage, ranking them 209th on KenPom. USD shoots 34 percent from 3-point range, ranking them in the bottom third of the country, while at the same time allowing teams to shoot 37.3 percent from that distance. The Coyotes have also not forced a ton of turnovers, with a turnover percentage of 18.5.

The fact that Iowa shoots well from outside and thrives when not turning over the ball makes this a bad combo for USD.

Iowa wins if …

the Hawkeyes’ defense returns to the form it saw to end the regular season and they can exploit the Coyotes’ inability to force turnovers or close out on shooters with effectiveness. Bohannon is shooting out of his mind lately and the team itself plays very well at home. Putting together a reasonable 40 minutes should take care of business.

South Dakota wins if …

the Coyotes can figure out a way to disrupt Jok as other teams have while also getting Tyler Cook and maybe even Cordell Pemsl in foul trouble. USD won’t have a size advantage on Iowa, so the Summit League champs will have to get creative to stop a very talented Hawkeyes frontcourt inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

l Comments: (319) 368-8884; jeremiah.davis@thegazette.com

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