We can go ahead and keep this short because it’s Casual Friday, am I right?
The Iowa Hawkeyes (3-0) will face the Connecticut Huskies (3-0) in the final of the 2K Empire Classic, which is pretty cool, even though it’s a four-team tournament.
UConn finds themselves in this position after beating Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse Orange, 83-76. Go figure that would be the higher scoring of the two semifinal games? They rode the hot shooting of their guards, Alterique Gilbert and Christian Vital, as they combined for 27 points on 8/9 shooting from downtown. Their 12/21 shooting from deep as a team was their best performance on the young season.
Though Dan Hurley starts a more traditional lineup, expect the Huskies to regularly throw out four guards in a stark contrast to the Oregon Ducks’ length we saw last night. Could we be in store for more Riley Till?!? Though their shot distribution leans towards two-pointers, they will not be afraid to pull the trigger over a zone Iowa might employ from any spot in Madison Square Garden.
Much like the Hawkeyes did to Oregon last night, Connecticut jumped to an early lead against their favored opponent. Their defense aided in Syracuse posting an eFG% of 43.9% but they only forced 11 turnovers to 20 they gave up. If Iowa plays with a similar intensity to last night, they might find themselves in the same fate.
My big question:
Sustain? Can Iowa carry over the impressive late night defensive performance into a matinee-ish showing today? Tyler Cook really did all the little things who didn’t seem to mind being the 4th leading scorer on the team. Joe Wieskamp and Connor McCaffery also provide some fire and ice behind steady faces. You know Luka Garza, Nicholas Baer, and Ryan Kriener will bring the heat.
But last night, Iowa hit an opponent in the mouth and didn’t face a ton of adversity outside of 80% of their starting lineup sitting with foul trouble for 6:30 in the first half. The second half surge from Oregon never really came like I suspect it will from Dan Hurley’s Huskies, if faced with a similar situation. Heck, what does this Iowa team look like when they’re down in the second half?
But I have an optimism which might be more founded in reality than I expected about this team. Hopefully I don’t feel like an idiot less than a day later.
How To Watch
Opponent: Connecticut Huskies
Game time: 5:30 p.m. // Friday, November 16, 2018
Location: Madison Square Garden // New York, NY
Mobile: WatchESPN App
Odds: Iowa -4