This never gets old.
For the fourth time this season, Iowa is playing a game on Friday night, which everyone knows is reserved for high school games ("Hawkeyes or City West? Sorry Iowa, gotta root for my Trojans"). But unlike the first three contests, this one may as well be against a high school opponent: the Iowa State Cyclones.
Iowa State sucks so bad. This we know. We've known it for forever. This year is no exception; ISU is 6-2, yes, but against one of the worst schedules in the nation (RPI rating: #315. No, seriously). Beating Iowa State will probably drop Iowa's RPI, as a matter of fact. Stop the rivalry!
Iowa State's best weapon is Craig Brackins, a 6'10" beast who averages 17 points a game. Does Iowa have anyone who can adequately D up on Brackins one on one? Uh... well... Andrew Brommer's probably getting his five fouls.
But Brackins is only one man, and decent denial defense will probably keep him somewhat in check. And if he gets 25, fine, I guess, because there isn't another reliable scorer on the squad.
The ISU roster is full of names that are familiar to Iowa fans. Okay, not "full of," per se, but there's three of them. Former Iowa commit turned Canadian non-qualifier (fuckin' Canadians, man) Jamie Vanderbeken is still not very good, but he leads the team in blocks and is a competent 3-point shooter. Watching Cyrus Tate try to guard him 20 feet from the basket might be an adventure, and god help us if Iowa keeps switching on every screen and we see a matchup like, let's say, Vanderbeken on Peterson.
There's also Sean Haluska, who is not nearly as good as his brother, and Iowa transfer Alex Thompson, who still goddamn sucks. They are of no use to Iowa State and thus, we encourage them both to be on the court as much as possible.
For the good guys, Anthony Tucker remains on suspension for doing his best Jack Torrance impression.
That's fine, though, as Tucker's 44.3% rate of success on 3s is only 4th best on the team; sure, David Palmer making it on there at 2 of 3 is kind of (very) cheating, but Jeff Peterson has hit 46.2%, and Matt Gatens has been unconscious from behind the arc to the tune of 20 for 33 on the year, a 60.6% clip. And no, that can't continue all year long. But the freshman record for 3-pointers, set last season by Jake Kelly, is 43.4%. In order for Gatens to drop below that, he'd have to A) miss his next 14 threes, or B) maintaining his shooting frequency through the rest of the year, hit just 27 of his next 76 threes. That works out to 35.5%: yes, it's plausible, but considering Gatens' uncommon, dare we say Tebow-esque propensity to avoid mistakes, it's also improbable.
Past that, you know the usual suspects; Cyrus Tate is a big man in a small-man system, and though he's still converting at an absurd clip (64.4%), he's only scoring 7.4 points a game. That's mainly because the ball rarely gets to him. Iowa struggles mightily with pressure (so thanks for the passive defense, UNI!), and Peterson and Kelly are usually trying to dribble out of trouble instead of finding Tate in the post.
So it comes down to this: if ISU presses Peterson and the other guards and is athletic to overplay the passing lanes, they'll have a shot at this game. But they're not West Virginia or even Kansas State, and they're just not long and explosive enough on the wings to cause too much trouble for Iowa in the backcourt. Barring unreasonable production from the ISU shooters (or unreasonable coldness from Iowa's), this should be a win for Iowa in the neighborhood of 6-10 points.