Iowa's merry band of cupcake opponents this season has rarely led to games that generate much intrigue, but tonight's game with North Florida feels slightly different in that regard. That's not coming from a deeply fatalist "because this might be one of the last games Iowa wins for a while" standpoint (although have you seen the opening of Big Ten play? Yikes), either, but from a "we'd just like to see this team play well again to build some confidence" (our own and their own, frankly) standpoint. After the last two games -- and, in particular, the last two second halves -- I think everyone needs a bit of a pick-me-up.
Tonight's opponent is North Florida, who checks in with a KenPom ranking in the low 100s (#172, to be exact). On paper, it should be a comfortable win for Iowa -- KenPom gives Iowa 90% chance of winning and pegs them for a 13-point margin of victory. But in practice... North Florida beat Purdue in West Lafayette just over two weeks ago and while Purdue doesn't look like anything too special this year, neither does Iowa on current form. Iowa's played two games against teams that look comparable to North Florida: North Dakota State (KenPom #157) and Pepperdine (KenPom #125). Iowa torched NDSU behind one of their finest shooting performances of the season (58% from 2FG, 45% from 3FG), but they had an uncomfortable close win over Pepperdine when their shooting was much less scintillating (43% from 2FG, 36% from 3FG). It would be an enormous relief to see Iowa bust out of their current shooting funk in a big way and replicate that NDSU performance... but honestly, I just want them to show me something positive. This is the last chance for the Iowa players to catch their breath before diving into the deep end of the Big Ten -- give us something to hold onto, please.
The game tips off at 7 PM Central, with TV from ESPN3. (This is the last game this year on ESPN3, thank god.)
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