After a dispiriting loss against DePaul, the Iowa Hawkeyes (1-1) look to bounce back against Oral Roberts (1-2).
The Golden Eagles KenPom history, dating back to 1997, is a bit of a wasteland, with only three tournament appearances coming in the late aughts during a run under Scott Sutton. Since then - 2008 - they’ve finished as a top 100 team just twice, although those teams were very good by Summit League standards (17-1 & 14-4). Such is the life of one-bid leagues.
Since Sutton’s last season, they’ve had two substandard seasons at 11-21 under Paul Mills. Do things look to have turned around since then? Maybe! They had two single-digit loses against real basketball teams - Oklahoma State & Tulsa - on the road. In the upcoming weeks, they’ll play four (4!!!) non-Division 1 basketball programs, in what I can only decipher as a way to goose the win total.
A 30,000-foot level stats which should entice Hawkeye fans: they had the 319th best defense (raw point total) which was actually worse when accounting for competition via KenPom at 336. They’ve allowed 78 PPG in their three games this season.
- Emmanuel Nzekwesi: The ORU big man has been like a bull in a china shop in this short season as he has not only drawn 8.4 fouls/40 minutes but he has committed no less than 4 in each of their games. Thankfully, he’s a career sub-70% shooter from the foul line if he gets there. But if there’s one thing Iowa’s defense is good at, it’s not fouling, so it might just be a question of how many contested shots Nzekwesi is able to make. He’s a willing shooter, too, though he’s made two 3s in only nine of his 83 career games.
- Deondre Burns: The Little Rock grad transfer is the Golden Eagles’ leading scorer through 3 games at 16.7 total. He can make shots all over the court (shot 40% his sophomore year from deep) and into the lane for himself or others with a 29% assist rate for this season. KenPom’s algorithm has slotted him as a small forward but at just 6’3”, he may be quick enough to give Hawkeye wings fits.
- Kevin Obanor: Obanor is only Oral Roberts’ses 5th highest scorer but Paul Reed who gave Iowa fits earlier this week as a stretch 4. The sophomore averaged 14.4 points his freshman year on 58% shooting but has had a slow start this season with just 7 points per game. Iowa will need to guard him deep as he shot 41% from 3 last season.
- Can Iowa defend the 3-point line? In Iowa’s sideways seasons, their biggest defensive deficiency (of many) is guarding the 3-point line. ORU has plenty of guys who will chuck it - Max Abmas is the most prolific at an eye-popping 12.7 attempts/game - so whether Iowa has been able to make any tweaks since Monday will be top of mind.
- Are the Hawks able to get some transition baskets? Perhaps going hand-in-hand with their penchant for shooting threes (44% of their field goal attempts are from deep) is the Golden Hawks’ pace. They’re playing at the 12th highest pace in the country, according to KenPom, with possessions on each side of the court taking less than half the shot clock. If Iowa can’t get a steady stream of transition baskets against these guys, it’ll pose problems for future opponents.
- Will Iowa be clean with the basketball? Iowa had no less than two turnovers after securing a rebound. It would be the football equivalent of a muffed punt and it made me sick to see it happen. Please no more of those. PLEASE. Further frustrating the matter are Ryan Kriener and Luka Garza having the most giveaways on the team at 6 & 5 through two games. It’s more okay for Garza since his TO% is in the mid-teens. Jack Nunge’s is 36.3%. Everyone else’s is probably a smidge too high for comfort...except Joe Toussaint at 13.1%.
Great, now I’ve jinxed him.
Opponent: Oral Roberts Golden Eagles (Tulsa, OK // Summit League)
Game time: 7:00 PM CST // Friday, November 15, 2019
Location: Carver-Hawkeye Arena // Iowa City, IA
Radio: Hawkeye Radio Network
Online Listening: HRN
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
Go Hawks, and play nice in the comments!