Iowa (3-0) vs. Penn (1-2)
Date: November 22, 2013
Time: 6:00 p.m. CT
Location: Carver Hawkeye Arena
Line: Iowa -23
There are a lot of human interest connections in Iowa's Friday night game against Penn. For one, it's Fran McCaffery's alma mater. It's also where Peter Jok's brother, Dau Jok, plays basketball (be sure to read Dochterman's story on the Jok brothers sometime today, if only because their third brother, Jo Jo Jok, has one of the greatest names in the history of names). So we're sure to hear the BTN announcers talk about both of those angles.
Fortunately there are sub-stories, because the game itself doesn't look like much. The Quakers enter at 1-2, with a 12-point loss to Penn State last weekend and a previous loss to Temple. Penn is especially bad at a couple of things that do not bode well against Iowa. For one, the Quakers are terrible rebounders: Opponents are recovering 40 percent of their own misses, one of the worst percentages in the nation so far. They are also especially poor at both blocking shots (5.4 percent of shot attempts, 294th nationally) and avoiding having their own shots blocked (13.2 percent of all attempts). Penn does not shoot well from the perimeter: The Quakers get only 20 percent of their points from behind the arc, and shoot barely over 30 percent from three. Most dangerous for Penn -- and most interesting for an Ivy League team -- is their absurdly high tempo. Penn wants to run. Iowa won't have any problem letting them do just that.
More than almost every other team Iowa has played to date, Penn relies on four players. Sophomore guard Tony Hicks averages 18.3 points per game, and is one of only two outside threats on the Penn roster. Backcourt-mate Miles Jackson-Cartwright is the other perimeter shooter on the roster (38.9%), and puts in 14.3 points per contest. The front line is led by 6'10 forward Darien Nelson-Henry scores 18 ppg, makes 58 percent of his shots, and grabs nearly nine rebounds per game. Forward Fran Dougherty adds 10 points per game, and has shot an absurd 56 percent from the field so far this season, including 63 percent inside the arc. Those four players account for 82 percent of Penn's scoring, making the Quakers the most top-heavy team that Iowa has played to date.
We are finally getting to the end of this run of cupcakes, and not a moment too soon. Things have become fairly boring, to be frank, and having to flip between Iowa's 60-point win over Abilene Christian and Iowa State's home game with Michigan just to make sure I'm still alive certainly does not help. Iowa's Kenpom numbers entering Friday's game are absurd: The Hawkeyes lead the nation in effective field goal percentage allowed and sit fourth nationally in both three point percentage allowed and free throw ratio (as in, the number of free throws allowed as a percentage of field goal attempts). It all adds up to the most efficient defense in the nation, though that drops to 14th when the opponents' ability is factored in. Iowa is also running the shortest possessions in the nation, which is probably something worth watching. We'll learn a lot more next week in the Bahamas. For now, search the stands for Jo Jo Jok. Dude's gonna win Name of the Year.