Iowa Hawkeyes (2-2) vs. Pepperdine Waves (3-0)
Date: November 24, 2014
Time: 7:00 p.m. CT
Location: Carver Hawkeye Arena
Point spread: Iowa -15.5
After suffering two losses in New York City last week, the Hawkeyes return home to face a trio of cupcakes. The first victim: The Pepperdine Waves Monday night at Carver Hawkeye Arena.
I could spend time telling you that Pepperdine handily defeated Fresno State and San Jose State -- both teams in ostensibly a more prestigious conference -- in the early season. I could tell you that junior forward Stacy Davis (6'6, 245 lbs., 17.7 ppg) leads the Waves in scoring, is second in rebounding and third in assists, that point guard Amadi Udenyi (6'0, 195 lbs., 5.0 apg) majors in drawing contact in the paint and scores almost exclusively from the free throw line (19% from the field, 75% from the charity stripe). I could tell you that Pepperdine has allowed opponents to shoot just 19 percent from behind the three-point arc, though that statistic is widely considered pure chance, or that they get the ball stolen from them more than nearly any team in the country so far this year, or that they play at Iowa's tempo and don't mind running at all. I could tell you all kinds of things about Pepperdine, but none of them would matter.
The fact is that Iowa has not allowed an opponent from a non-major conference within 10 points since the second game of last season, and that win over Omaha was by 8 and should have been by 18. If you want to find the last time Iowa allowed a "mid-major" opponent to have a genuine chance to win a game late in CHA, you have to go back to the loss to Campbell in 2011. Iowa is due for a scare about once every November, and this could be that game, but the Hawkeyes generally pull away eventually.
I'm not saying this game doesn't matter. It does, and Pepperdine is a pretty good team that would have a chance of contending in a West Coast Conference that doesn't include Gonzaga and BYU (the WCC is currently ranked higher by Kenpom than the American, Conference USA the Mountain West, and the Missouri Valley). Of Iowa's cupcakes this year, the Waves are by far the meatiest (unless you're calling UNI a cupcake, in which case you need to read a history book or something).
I'm not saying this game is unimportant, but I am saying that, regardless of outcome, this game will not fix Iowa's fundamental problems. After last weekend, Fran McCaffery is now 7-17 in one-possession games since coming to Iowa City, 2-15 against ranked opponents since 2012, and 1-9 in his last ten games against power conference opponents going back to last February. Iowa is not going to lack for opportunities to play NCAA Tournament-caliber teams this year, but if it does not resolve its problems with actually beating those teams, it's not going anywhere this year. Thursday and Friday highlighted obvious problems with the team and program that aren't going to be addressed against Pepperdine. This one will be entertaining, but it's December 3 at North Carolina and a December 12 visit from Iowa State that are going to be meaningful.