Iowa Hawkeyes (0-0) vs. Hampton Pirates (0-0)
Date: November 14, 2014
Time: 8:30 p.m. CT
Location: Carver Hawkeye Arena
Line: No line
Iowa opens its season with the first game of the 2K Classic against Hampton. There is no terrestrial television coverage listed by anyone, but the game is available on ESPN3. Iowa plays this game against Hampton and a second home contest against North Dakota State before heading to New York City for a date with Texas.
You might remember Hampton from an upset of Iowa State in the 2001 NCAA Tournament, a legendary victory seared into the country's collective memory by the image of coach Steve Merfeld jumping poorly and eventually being picked up by a player and carried around like a toddler. Merfeld left after another NCAA Tournament run in the next season, spent a handful of seasons at Evansville, and now serves as an assistant on Greg McDermott's staff at Creighton. Hampton fell apart; just two years after Merfeld had left, the Pirates were 13-17. A conference tournament run in 2005-06 earned them a play-in game loss; a 2007-08 berth ended the same way. Hampton has managed just one winning season in the last three, ending in a four-point loss to Penn State in last year's CBI Tournament. Hampton has not won a game against a team from a Power 5 conference since an upset of North Carolina in the 2002-03 opener.
Hampton went 13-3 last year in the MEAC based almost exclusively on defense. The Pirates were one of the nation's highest tempo teams (11th nationally, even a bit faster than Iowa) but managed to be physical enough on defense to hold opponents to a 45 percent effective field goal rate and force turnovers at an extraordinarily high rate. Despite not having a player over 6'8 on the roster, Hampton was 10th nationally in blocked shots and sixth in opponents' two-point shooting percentage.
Yet all of that couldn't get Hampton within rock throwing distance of even borderline-major teams. Virginia beat the Pirates by 29. Missouri State and Delaware won by double-digits. Only Penn State could not eventually pull away from Hampton. The Pirates' problems were exclusively on offense, where the high tempo did not lead to easy shots and made Hampton one of the nation's least efficient offensive teams. Hampton shot an Iowa-like 32 percent from three and just 46 percent inside the arc. The poor shooting even extended to the free throw line, where Hampton shot just 65 percent. Worst of all for Hampton: Its best player, forward Du'Vaughn Maxwell, graduated.
Point guard Deron Powers (11.8 ppg, 4.0 apg, 3.1 rpg in 2013-14) should be the key to Hampton's 2014 attack. He is joined by one other returning double-digit scorer, shooting guard Brian Darden (10.4 ppg). It's more difficult to find what Hampton intends to do in the frontcourt. Forwards Emmanuel Okoroba (6.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg) and Jervon Pressley (6.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg) should anchor Hampton up front, but neither looks like a significant threat. That shot blocking largely left with Maxwell, and the rim could be ripe for the taking. Iowa should do just that, both with its guards and -- probably more importantly -- its post players. It might not allow us much of a chance to see anything new from the Hawkeyes, but a win should be fairly elementary.