We are back!
The Iowa Hawkeyes (3-0) take on the Alabama State Hornets (0-4) on each team’s quickest turnaround. While the Hawks were playing NC Central, the Hornets were taking on Iowa State. They lost in Ames, 68-60.
Mo Williams is in his second year leading ASU, going 4-14 in their first season under him. Their leading returning scorer is Kenny Strawbridge. He averaged 10.5 points last season on 36% shooting but has dipped by a bucket at 8.3 points on 41% with 2.3 assists. Currently leading the Hornets in scoring is junior forward Trace young at 11 points. At 6’8”, he has a smidge of stretch forward in him. His freshman season (2018-19 at Wyoming), he shot 37% from deep and is 6/20 so far this season.
Other guys to know are guard Isaiah Range and forward Gerald Liddell. Range averages 10.8 PPG and is the leading rebounder at 5.8 per game. Liddell is a transfer from Texas after struggling to find his way and now averages 7.5 points. He’s made 4 of 8 threes so far this season. Their next best shooter is freshman Juan Reyna at 42% and 9.5 PPG.
The Hornets’ KenPom profile is more in line with NC Central than either of Iowa’s first two opponents. But they played ISU and Western Kentucky close for the first 30 minutes or so of each game before petering out at the end. Their offensive efficiency is the worst of 354 Division 1 programs, though, and are much more in-the-middle with their defense.
Can Iowa show some semblance of rim protection? The Hawks are in a bit of a weird spot, as they’re blocking shots at a pretty high rate (59th in the country) despite being worse defensively around the rim. That is chalked up almost exclusively to Keegan Murray, as he has 10 of Iowa’s 17 blocks. On the season, Iowa’s allowing 0.98 points/shot around the rim, per Pivot Analysis but saw it jump to 1.10 PPS against NC Central. The number was much better - 0.50 - during Iowa’s game-sealing run with Murray and Filip Rebraca protecting the interior.
Tonight should offer some insight into whether NCCU’s success in the area can be chalked up to their 5-out scheme and ability to get Filip Rebraca into foul trouble or if it is a true weakness for the Hawkeyes. Iowa has held opponents to under 40% shooting from 2 when he’s on the court so the case exists that despite being much less prolific as a rim protector, he is positionally sound down low and contests shots around the rim.
Speaking of Rebraca, can he get it going? Iowa’s three forward starting lineup is a bit of a throwback to some early Fran groups, particularly the Aaron White/Jarrod Uthoff/Adam Woodbury troika. White and Uthoff had excellent length and ability to score while Woodbury was more defensive centerpiece during the 2014-15 season. Rebraca’s NCAA resume certainly fancies him a scorer, with two seasons over 14 PPG for a much slower paced North Dakota outfit.
For someone of his caliber, it does seem more a matter of when, not if, especially considering one of his best games came against Power 5 competition: 23 points at Minnesota. He is not required to score on this team, considering the abilities of his players around him, and the fact he is not forcing it and making the makeables (just 7/10 on the season) speaks to his feel for the game. But it would certainly be nice to see if the Hawks can generate some easy looks for the big man.
Which guards show up? The starting backcourt of Joe Toussaint and Jordan Bohannon provided plenty of offensive inertia in the first two games, with J-Bo connecting on 9/14 threes and Toussaint accumulating 10 assists to just 2 turnovers. Yet both struggled against NC Central as the Eagles challenged every screen and make life difficult for the more diminutive pair at Fran McCaffery’s disposal.
Ahron Ulis and Tony Perkins played great, though, and both had career highs in points while locking NCCU down defensively as they forced turnovers on 19% of opponent possessions and limited them to 33% eFG in their time on the court.
With Bohannon needing just 1 three pointer to become the solo leader in the conference for 3 point makes, perhaps he’s got a little less looming over his head and can play freer. Otherwise, it’s good to know increasingly capable backups can pick the team up when necessary.
Opponent: Alabama State Hornets (Montgomery, AL // Southwestern Athletic Conference - SWAC)
Betting Lines: Iowa -28 // O/U 152 (DraftKings)
Game time: 6:01 PM CST // Thursday, November 18, 2021
Location: Carver-Hawkeye Arena // Iowa City, IA (Tickets: $15 Adult, $5 Students/Kids)
Online/Mobile: Fox Sports Live
Radio: Hawkeye Radio Network
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
Go Hawks, and play nice in the comments!
Bonus ponk: (note, not sure if it will continue in basketball season since it comes so fast and furious but this one is worth mentioning...)
Iowa non-conference games are 12-0 over since the beginning of last year so...let’s keep riding that train!