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Home Cookin’: No. 21/23 Hawkeyes Host Savannah State

The Tigers aren’t good but they are fast!

NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

In the #21/23 Iowa Hawkeyes’ (9-2, 0-2) final game before Christmas, they take on the Savannah State Tigers (3-10) at 12:00p on Saturday.

Though it is another game against a really bad team (Iowa is given a 99.9% chance of winning instead of just 99%, per KenPom), Savannah State is unique in their pace. They’ll play at the second fastest tempo in the country and have the ball the least amount of time among the 353 Division 1 programs at 12.3 seconds per possession. Nearly 60% of their field goal attempts are from three and they score a higher proportion of their points from distance than any team.

They do it despite not being particularly good from deep, as their team is shooting only 28.4% from range. Collins Joseph leads the team from a bench role in three point percentage at 36.4% but is seventh on the team in attempts per game. The 8.8 points he averages is fourth.

They’ll play basically five-out: their starting “center,” Tyrell Harper, has made only 15 of his 51 three point attempts (29.4%). Romani Hansen will often play alongside Harper and has shot 32 times from deep but made only 6 (18.8%). Hansen does lead the team in offensive rebounds, at nearly 2 a game. However, because they miss so many shots, it does not translate into an impressive number as their 28.4% offensive rebounding rate is very middle of the road.

Zach Sellers and Jaquan Dotson will play a lion’s share of the minutes in the back court. Sellers takes a more traditional role at point guard and has averages a very respectable 5.0 assists a game to lead the team. Dotson is the Tigers’ leading scorer at 13.2 points a game and is pretty good taking it to the hoop, though he does not do it all that often. He is shooting 62.8% from two on 3.3 attempts a game.

So yeah, Savannah State is not good. Their KenPom page is littered with shades of red. If they are making shots and able to set up their defense, one area they are pretty good is stealing the ball. If not, well, they lost the Race to 69 in the first half against Wisconsin.

Start Fast

Unlike past year’s, this Iowa team has been successful getting early leads on their opponents. What concerns me, ever so slightly, in this department is the start time of 12p. While it might be the perfect time for many of Iowa’s fans to catch a basketball game before a blue plate special, it is uniquely early. In a 2:00p start, Iowa was not able to pull away from a better but still bad Green Bay team until the last five minutes or so.

As almost always, Iowa will have the advantage inside. Tyler Cook and Luka Garza are turning into matchup nightmares for any four-guard lineup. If Iowa is able to get them the ball cleanly - more of their looks inside have come through sets but Iowa still stagnates when looking to post - this game should never be in doubt.

Weird things happen, though! Maybe this is overly pessimistic, but I could see Savannah State catching the Hawks off guard, getting to a quick 6-2 or 9-4 lead, and forcing Fran to make one of his patented line changes.

Hopefully not. A quick start nullifies that.

Shot Making

There is a pretty clear distinction between shot making and offense which has Iowa fans thinking this offense is not that good. They have a top 20 efficiency according to KenPom, are shooting well from two and the free throw line (where they still have the highest ratio of free throw attempts to field goal attempts), are moving the ball, and have turnovers relatively under control.

But their making about 34% of their threes and it seems like things are not going well. But it is okay. Iowa does not have an offense reliant on a 6’1” point guard’s shooting anymore. Yes, Jordan Bohannon will need to find his stroke to help this team reach their potential. Hopefully he can get it going against the Tigers.

And really, it is mainly him who is struggling. He has just taken 20 more attempts than Joe Wieskamp so it seems like it is the whole team hurting. Wieskamp, Isaiah Moss, Nicholas Baer, and Luka Garza are all shooting around 40% from deep.

With only two more games before conference play restarts, Iowa cannot fall into any bad habits they’ve largely avoided this season. With a week before the Hawkeyes’ next game, there is certainly enough motivation to make that as easy as possible on the practice court. A clean win against Savannah State is the best gift they can give themselves.