Franimal Planet: Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Abilene Christian Wildcats Preview

Mmmm, pop tarts...

Iowa (3-0) vs. Abilene Christian (0-3)

Date: November 17, 2013
Time: 3:30 p.m. CT
Location: Carver Hawkeye Arena
Television: Mediacom 22 and Big Ten Digital Network/BTN2
Line: No line

Welcome to the Battle 4 Atlantis, which starts in Iowa City because it's raining. Iowa faces Abilene Christian, with the winner moving on to play Penn Friday. That winner will be Iowa. This much is clear.


Abilene Christian is in its first season of Division I basketball, as a member of the Southland Conference. On its face, the move to Division I is peculiar, especially for a program that has been to the Division II tournament exactly once since 1987. The basketball promotion looks to be part of getting Abilene Christian's other sports programs -- most prominently, their 32-time national champion track team -- into the Southland. The Wildcats are playing the typical schedule of a team transitioning to Division I: A brutal run of checkbook games against top programs coupled with a handful of lower-division cupcakes -- Abilene Christian plays both Western New Mexico and Northern New Mexico next week -- before conference play begins.

As a result, we've seen the Wildcats against the likes of Duquesne and Maryland so far, and they are considerably better than advertised. Junior guard Harrison Hawkins is posting 13.7 ppg so far and making 37.5 percent from behind the three-point arc. Six-seven forward Austin Cooke is averaging 9.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, while junior point guard LaDarrien Williams is dishing out 3.3 assists per contest. Junior guard Julian Edmonson, who transferred to ACA from Middle Tennessee State, has been a spark off the bench. He's also really, really excited to play Iowa:

ACA actually held a one-point lead on Maryland at halftime Wednesday night before the Terps ran away with it, which sort of answers the question: The Wildcats have some quality players and can pose a threat, but they do not have nearly enough depth to make that threat anything more than fleeting. They can go ten deep, but the quality of play falls considerably after the top six, and their 40.4 percent effective field goal percentage is especially susceptible to a high volume of possessions.

The biggest issue here: Iowa's rebounding, which is second nationally so far, should eat up ACA's inside players. Abilene allows opponents to rebound a staggering 43 percent of their missed shots; Iowa could reasonably rebound 50 percent of its own misses Sunday. That, combined with a tepid inside presence from ACA -- they have blocked just 1 in every 59 shot attempts so far -- sets the stage for a lot of inside scoring.  Look for Aaron White and Adam Woodbury to have big days.

Iowa is still eleven days from starting non-conference competition in earnest, but the tune-ups have largely gone according to plan (UNLV only beat Nebraska-Omaha by three points Friday, by the way).  This should be more of the same.  Enjoy low-stress basketball while you can; it goes away soon.

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