The Iowa Hawkeyes (7-3, 0-2) are now on a three game slide and looking to keep it there with a win over the Utah State Aggies (8-3). The Aggies have bounced back from an opening loss to UC Davis with wins over Richmond and Oklahoma, the latter which sealed the Myrtle Beach Championship for them. Since then they’ve lost to St. Mary’s & BYU. According to KenPom, Iowa (#30) is Utah State’s second highest opponent (behind BYU) while Utah State (#48) is Iowa’s third, after Purdue & Illinois. Please take up complaints about Iowa State being 50th elsewhere.
Former UMBC head coach, Ryan Odom, is in his first season in Logan, UT, after 5 seasons leading the Retrievers. The shine hasn’t worn off Odom since he led them in the only 16-1 in NCAA Tournament history, but that was three and a half years ago. Since then, UMBC hadn’t made another tourney but did tie for the American East regular season championship in 2021. He compiled a 97-60 record (.618) there.
Back to Utah State, the team at hand. They have a similar profile to Iowa in leaning towards offense, with the #46 offense at 79.8 PPG while yielding 68.1 PPG, good for 182nd. KenPom’s efficiency metrics balances that a little more at 43 & 72. They’re really good at getting the ball in the hoop, with an eFG of 56.1% with a 3P% of 38.4%.
G: Rylan Jones (Jr, 6’0”, 178 lbs) - 8.7 PPG, 5.9 APG, 34% 3P%, 30.4 MPG
G: RJ Eytle-Rock (Sr, 6’4”, 225 lbs) - 7.3 PPG, 37% 3P%, 22.4 MPG
G: Brock Miller (Sr, 6’5”, 200 lbs) - 9.7 PPG, 38% 3P%, 27.2 MPG
F: Justin Bean (Sr, 6’7”, 210 lbs) - 19.4 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 3.6 ORPG, 64% FG%, 50% 3P%, 34.0 MPG
F: Brandon Horvath (Sr, 6’10”, 210 lbs) - 13.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 51% FG%, 46%3P%, 29.5 MPG
First things first: even though this is the lineup they’ve rolled out in every game so far, two guys - Bean & Jones - suffered injuries in their most recent game (Wednesday against Weber State) and are considered game time decisions.
Utah State's Justin Bean (ankle) will "most likely" be a game-time decision for Saturday's game against Iowa, per Ryan Odom. Averages 19.4 PPG and 11.1 RPG.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) December 17, 2021
If they can go, they’ll be without their leading scorer & assister which would leave quite the hole for the Aggies. Bean is more of a slasher/cutter type and has posted games of 9/10, 8/12, 11/16 from two. His ability to shoot will helps open up those driving lanes, as does USU’s ability to roll out lineups with 5 capable three point shooters.
While Horvath is the Aggies’ #2 scorer, he’s more perimeter oriented than many 6’10” players which is both good and bad for Filip Rebraca. He won’t be at the decided weight advantage he’s been the last few games but will need to capably defend outside and in.
Rust or rest?
The Hawkeyes haven’t played for about 10 days, which brings up the dreaded question as to whether that was good or bad for the team. Considering Keegan Murray was finally able to go extended time without pressing his ankle, the time away had to help in that respect and after their loss to ISU when the Hawks couldn’t buy a bucket for long stretches, what more rust could be added to their offense?
Defensively, though, the rust could factor into Iowa if their rotations are especially poor and rebounding remains lackadaisical. While Utah State’s offensive rebounding rate is middle of the pack, Iowa’s defensive rebounding is officially a problem (sub-300) so any opponent will have an opportunity to take advantage. This is where Justin Bean is important, with an offensive rebounding rate of 12.7%, a top-100 figure.
Can Iowa find the right backcourt combination?
After moving Jordan Bohannon off ball in the Hawks’ starting lineup, Fran McCaffery got a little loose with the rotations and moved him back against ISU to play him alongside Tony Perkins. To be fair, they are probably Iowa’s best scorers at the guard spot, but the results have not been kind to that pair. Pivot Analysis has the two as -12 in 12 minutes against Iowa State and -19 in 22 on the season. They’ve allowed opponents to score 45 points on 37 possessions (1.21 PPP). Only Virginia (1.31 PPP) has been more efficient against the Hawkeyes in a full game this season.
A full debrief is probably in store, but if Joe Toussaint has found himself on the bench, it’s important to make sure Ahron Ulis is the guy backfilling him. Iowa is +35 in 120 minutes with Ulis and Perkins but, even more impressive is +42 in 39 minutes alongside Jordan Bohannon (with or without Perkins).
In other words: play the point guards at point!
Can a #2 scorer begin to emerge behind Keegan?
Keegan is Iowa’s leading scorer at 22 points a game but the Hawks are a little more “by committee” than last year when Joe Wieskamp was Iowa’s #2 behind Luka Garza at nearly 15 points/game. Right now, Iowa has four guys right around 10 points/game:
- Patrick McCaffery - 11.4 PPG, 41% FG
- Jordan Bohannon - 10.5 PPG, 42% FG, 41% 3P%
- Kris Murray - 10.4 PPG, 52% FG, 46% 3P%
- Tony Perkins - 9.7 PPG, 49% FG, 44% 3P%
With two of Iowa’s top four scorers coming off the bench, it gives them a little more favorable matchups as “starting quality” players going against backups and forces opponents’ hands in terms of having quality scorers at all points of the game. Yet the inconsistency behind Keegan makes it difficult for when he has the occasional off night.
With the way the last 3 games went, the neutral site matchup against Utah State has become a bit of a must win with just two tuna cans (though Western Illinois is looking relatively formidable) after this before Big Ten play resumes. Beating USU would be a nice feather in the cap alongside Virginia as non-conference victories. Let’s get it.