Bama State already has two more wins than they did in last year’s non-conference schedule, as they beat to two Division III schools, LaGrange and Birmingham Southern in their only two home games before conference season kicks in. Their blowout losses were at Iowa State and South Dakota State.
The Hornets return 69.7% of their minutes from last year’s squad which ranked 339th according to KenPom ($). They finished 8-22 and 8-10 in conference. Reginald Gee and Jacoby Ross both average over 15 points and are pretty proficient behind the arc, combining for 20/46 (43.5%). Gee, a junior, and Ross, a sophomore, were their top two leading scorers last year at 15.5 & 12.5 points per game. Branden Johnson, 6’7”, is the center who will do most of the work down low and averages 8 points and 8 rebounds at about 24 minutes a game.
Since ASU often plays 4 guards a game, they’ll be a facsimile to the facsimile of the Connecticut Huskies. If Iowa’s bigs are not ready to defend the perimeter, it could provide an avenue for the Hornets to keep it close. 47.4% of their points come from the three, which ranks 6th in KenPom’s database. Also in his numbers say they only assist on 38.1% of their field goals which is in the bottom 20.
Really, there is little reason to think Iowa won’t run away with this save a Stand by Me-style incident at Iowa’s pregame turkey dinner (I’m assuming). But there are going to be some things to watch out for, like:
Yes, all caps for a pay game. The Hawkeyes set a baseline last week with their effort and you know what: might as well hold them to it. The Hawkeyes have already matched last year’s season long streak of four games holding their opponent under a point per possession, which happened against Southern, Drake, Southern Utah, and Colorado.
It’s a pretty tough number to obtain (the last time Iowa held opponents under that mark more than 50% of the time was 2015), it’s often a harbinger for success - only three times in 53 games has Iowa lost. Even last year, Iowa was 7-0 in games where their opponent scored less than a point a possession.
It’ll come down to a lot of things but with the Thanksgiving break a game away, it’s easy to see why the Hawkeyes might not want to try as hard as they did in NYC. That’s exactly the reason it’ll be impressive if they do.
Iowa’s still struggled with maintaining possession of the ball. There are a number of players who have had a propensity to turn it over this season. Whether it’s Joe Wieskamp acclimating himself to the college level or Tyler Cook adjusting to life on the outside, it’s frankly just a thread on the sweater of the young basketball season. If Hawkeyes continually yank at that thread, well, it’s likely to reveal a stomach a little too reminiscent to last year’s potbelly.
Iowa ranks second as of this writing in free throw attempts to field goal attempts by KenPom at .765. It is, frankly, unsustainable but makes for something to watch out here. ASU hasn’t been the fouling type (only .267 FTA/FGA) but they are totally overmatched inside. Fouling might be the only way to keep Cook, Garza, or Ryan Kriener from an easy bucket. It’d be nice to see them continue their early season trend of hitting a little over three out of four free throws.
May the Hawkeyes get everyone’s Thanksgiving break off to a rollicking start!