I have to say, when I first saw the 2019-20 Iowa basketball schedule, this game was the first on my list in terms of intrigue. After knocking out the Cincinnati Bearcats (7-4) in last year’s tournament, I figured Iowa would get their best shot at redemption in this December showdown. Both the Iowa Hawkeyes (8-3) and Bearcats have seen their share of turnover (three starters for Iowa, a couple starters and a coach for Cincy) since then but key cogs exist to make this an exciting neutral site game on Saturday.
Joining us to help preview the matchup is Phil Neuffer from Down the Drive!
1) Jarron Cumberland is the main name from last year’s squad that Hawk fans will remember. How has his game changed amidst the Bearcats’ turnover and early season injuries?
Cumberland has not been able to play to the level he’s capable of so far this season. The primary and perhaps only reason is that he has not always been playing at 100 percent. However, there are signs there that he can recapture his former glory. He’s second on the team in scoring (12.8 PPG) and is still carrying a ton of responsibility, with team-highs in usage rate (29.7 percent) and assist rate (21.3 percent). The real problem has been his efficiency, as he has a true shooting rate of just 47.5 percent. Even in Wednesday’s impressive win against Tennessee, Cumberland wasn’t at his best, especially from three (1-for-5), but if he can get back to normal, and I firmly believe he can, then the Bearcats can make such wins more commonplace.
2) Cincinnati has gotten off to a slow start (ed. note: question asked before their win over Tennessee) after Mick Cronin left for UCLA and John Brannen took over from Northern Kentucky. Is there anything different he’s tried to do which hasn’t taken with the squad?
I think a lot of people, including myself, thought that with the talent that came back to this team and some of the potential the new guys presented, that Brannen might avoid any growing pains. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case. The most notable change in terms of Xs and Os that I’ve seen is an uptick in pace. According to KenPom, the Bearcats are 116th in the country in adjusted tempo after ranking 338th a year ago, but it still seems like figuring out the right rotations is taking some time.
3) Chris Vogt came over from Northern Kentucky with Brannen. What has he added to this team which might have been missing in the past?
The Bearcats lost a lot of frontcourt depth to the transfer portal so Vogt has been able to help there but it goes further than that. He’s shown a level of offensive polish in the post that the Bearcats haven’t always had. He’s netting 12.7 points per game and has a true shooting rate of 67.6 percent. The Bearcats offense still goes through the backcourt more than the frontcourt, but Vogt’s scoring ability has been a nice and needed development.
4) Who’s the most likely guy who could catch Iowa off guard with a hot shooting night?
Jaevin Cumberland. That’s right, you have to deal with two Cumberlands now. Obviously Jarron is capable of taking games over and Keith Williams is having a tremendous year, but Jaevin can absolutely light it up from three. He’s shooting 38.9 percent from there and has a three-point attempt rate of 77.4 percent. He’s already scored at least 20 points in two games this season even though he has primarily been used as a sixth man. If Iowa’s second unit isn’t ready, he might throw up 20 points again.
5) Who ya got and why?
Before they played on Wednesday, it was tough to feel too confident in the Bearcats. The first 11 games of the season have been a challenging run to be sure, but losses to Colgate and Bowling Green were frustrating and it’s not like every win has been convincing either. I still think there is enough talent on this team to turn it around and the win against Tennessee proved that. It will be tough to replicate that result, especially since the Bearcats shot 56.4 percent from the field in the victory. They’ll have to be close to that against Iowa. That seems like too tall a task to me, even if I do think this will be a close one.
Iowa 74 Cincinnati 70
Blatantly stealing your Bonus question: What was your favorite movie of 2019?
Avengers: Endgame. The final battle sequence is the most electrifying piece of entertainment I’ve experienced this year and perhaps ever.