In the Iowa Hawkeyes (1-0) return to the Gavitt Tipoff Games, which pits Big Ten and Big East teams against each other, they’ll face the DePaul Blue Demons (3-0). As of this writing DePaul is tied with three other teams as the winningest in the country, with victories over Alcorn St (#338 in KenPom), Chicago (NR), and Farleigh Dickinson (#236).
After three seasons mired with less than 10 wins under head coach Dave Leitao, they saw an uptick to 19 wins and a second place finish in the postseason College Basketball Invitational.
The Blue Demons were similarly slanted as the Hawks, with a much more highly rated offense (49th via KenPom) than their defense (223rd). Though lost three impact seniors off that squad, KenPom’s early returns place the Demons’ defense higher than the offense. None of their three opponents have eclipsed 60 points in three home games.
The Hawkeyes’ history in the event is mixed with a win at Marquette in 2015 and a loss to Seton Hall in 2016. The series has ended in a tie the first three years with the Big Ten edging out the Big East 5-3 last season. If I may editorialize, I’m not sure why this has ended in a tie since each conference has had excess teams to add a 9th game.
- Charlie Moore: Hawk fans may remember the name from his recruitment in the summer of 2015. Fran McCaffery was after the 5’11” point guard before backing away ahead of Moore’s commitment to California. He averaged 12 points on 39% shooting for the Golden Bears before transferring to Kansas. After sitting out a year, he struggled to find a place in Bill Self’s rotation and darted to DePaul. He received a waiver to be made available ahead of this season and has not been a disappointment in his limited playing time.
He’s averaged 19 points per game on 61% shooting, including 57% from deep, plus 5 assists. After Farleigh Dickinson went ahead 50-47 around the midpoint of the second half, Moore scored or assisted on 12 points in an 18-3 run ($) which locked up the game for DePaul.
- Paul Reed: The second highest-rated Blue Demon according to KenPom has averaged 11.3 points so far this season (65% shooting) after accumulating 12.3 in 2018-19. Playing power forward, he’ll show an inside out game after shooting 40% from deep last year while banging away for rebounds. He averaged nearly 3 offensive boards per game, which is an area Iowa has struggled throughout the last few seasons.
- Romeo Weems: The freshman wing came to Chicago as a top 100 recruit and has played well in their first three games. He’s averaging 9 points on 63% shooting and has used his length to accumulate 5 steals and 3 blocks. As their starting small forward, he’ll get the matchup on Joe Wieskamp.
- Can Iowa continue their march to the free throw line? Iowa’s best offense isn’t always pretty, but it can be doubly effective as Iowa puts points on the board while putting opponents in a precarious position with their depth. In the game against SIU-Edwardsville, the margin between made free throws accounted for 23 of the 27 point difference. Weems, Reed, and center Jaylen Butz all have block percentages of 4+% so they will be looking to end Hawkeye possessions that way. Though DePaul’s starting posts seem well-adjusted in terms of not fouling, Joe Wieskamp should be able to take advantage of Weems aggressiveness as he has 10 fouls in 3 games.
- Will Iowa’s defense be ready for jump in athleticism? Iowa did a pretty good job defensively against the Cougars, as they forced 16 turnovers with 9 steals and just 8 fouls but Charlie Moore is a different level opponent. He’ll be able to beat Iowa off the bounce and from deep (even Bohannon range). Iowa should lean on Joe Toussaint to limit Moore’s impact in man-to-man defense and live with the growing pains. I also suspect we see more four-guardy lineups to match the quickness which may give Luka Garza and Jack Nunge fits.
- Who does Fran lean on if times get tough? If last year is any indication, the three guys who are likely locks to be on the floor are Jordan Bohannon, Wieskamp, and Garza. Fran’s son Connor McCaffery also factored heavily down the stretch of Hawkeye games. Iowa has the ability to go small with either C.J. Fredrick and his shooting or Toussaint and his instinctual play. My guess for go-to offense would include Bohannon and Fredrick (Connor & Wieskamp) to space Luka Garza, who is playing more ‘5’ in Iowa’s offense than ever. Defense? I think JT gives Bohannon a breather in a crunch time scenario. One x-factor is Cordell Pemsl’s return off suspension, who could give Iowa the energy off the bench they regularly got from Nicholas Baer last season.