Iowa Hawkeyes (1-0) vs. North Dakota State Bison (0-1)
Date: November 17, 2014
Time: 7:00 p.m. CT
Location: Carver Hawkeye Arena
Line: Iowa -19.5
Outside of a dodgy stretch in the first half when the second unit couldn't make a bucket, Iowa was able to cruise to a win in the season opener against Hampton (going on a 34-15 run to end the first half didn't hurt). On paper, tonight's opponent, North Dakota State, ought to pose a slightly stiffer challenge than the Pirates. The Bison clock in at #165 in the KenPom rankings (Hampton was ranked #221) and were very successful a season ago: their 26-7 campaign included a Summit League championship, an NCAA berth, and an 80-75 upset of Oklahoma in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Alas, the Bison don't look well-positioned to build on 2013-14's success in 2014-15. Last year's team was one of the most experienced in the nation, per KenPom (#26), while this year's team is much more inexperienced (#238). More importantly, NDSU lost several major contributors from a year ago, including SG Taylor Braun (team leader in PPG, RPG, APG, and SPG), wonderfully-named PF Marshall Bjorklund (13.2 ppg), and C TrayVonn Wright (11.4 ppg). All told, the Bison lost 42.2 ppg, 14.9 rpg, 5.8 apg, 3.2 spg, and 1.9 bpg between those three guys. That's a lot of production to replace. They also lost their head coach, as Saul Phillips left the charms of Fargo, North Dakota, behind for Athens, Ohio, and the Ohio Bobcats. His successor, Dave Richman, was a career assistant (inasmuch as one can be a "career" anything at age 35) before NDSU made him a first-time head coach. This is probably not NDSU Head Coach Dave Richman (although this gentleman'sTwitter handle is @realdaverichman):
But we kind of wish it was.
This year's Bison squad appears to be led by PG Lawrence Alexander, who had a team-best 16 points against Texas last Friday night. SG/SF Kory Brown chipped in 10 points, but the stats from that game seem a bit meaningless because Texas blew their doors off from the word go. Texas led 14-1 before NDSU made their first field goal and they had a 38-18 lead at halftime. That game was never, ever in doubt and the Bison were playing from a steep deficit for basically the entire game. (They also shot terribly -- just 27.4% from the field.)
Texas had great success attacking NDSU inside -- they shot 58% on 2-point field goals and forwards Jonathan Holmes and Myles Turner posted identical 15-point, 6-rebound lines. Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh combined for 13 points and 10 rebounds from the center position for the 'Horns and, yeah, I think it's safe to say that they enjoyed an advantage down low against the Bison. That should be very good news for the likes of Aaron White, Adam Woodbury, and Gabe Olaseni (and perhaps Dom Uhl, too).
The Bison also appear to be on the slow side, tempo-wise. It's too early to tell if Richman will alter the way they're playing (they rank 173rd in the nation right now, but that's after one game in which they were playing from behind the whole way), but they were one of the slowest teams in the nation the last two years (#302 in 2014, #333 in 2013). If this game is played to Iowa's strengths (fast tempo, getting the ball down low to Woodbury, White, Olaseni, etc.), this should be a rout for Iowa.