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It’s Christmastime which means Iowa will gift themselves two more wins before the Big Ten season starts in earnest

NCAA Basketball: Utah State at Iowa Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

After a rollicking victory in Sioux Falls, SD, the Iowa Hawkeyes (8-3) return to the Carver-Hawkeye Arena to face off the first of two remaining teams before Big Ten season begins in earnest. Southeastern Louisiana (4-8) is the first of those two teams and coming off a big loss to Iowa State on Sunday. Solid job in scheduling these two games back-to-back to save on travel expenses.

Outside that bit of nifty scheduling, the Lions have struggled for much of the season. Three of their four victories have come against non-D1 schools and they have a fourth coming up. Such is life, in the NCAA ecosystem of buy games, as I’m sure Paul Quinn & Ecclesia have found even smaller fish to pay to play, but I digress.

KenPom has them 314th & the NET , which is right in Iowa’s wheelhouse for opponent scheduling. Don’t like it? Festivus is in two days. They average 76.7 points/game while yielding 74.4.

History lesson: Billy Kennedy led them to their only NCAA Tournament appearance in 2005. He’s long gone and David Kiefer is now in charge. They’re 20-49 under him the last two-plus seasons.

Projected Starters

G: Keon Clergent (Sr, 6’1”, 190 lbs) - 12.1 PPG, 40% FG, 30% 3P, 3.7 APG, 1.5 SPG, 28.3 MPG
G: Joe Kasperzyk (Jr, 6’3”, 190 lbs) - 8.1 PPG, 37% FG, 1.9 SPG, 20.8 MPG
G: Ryan Burkhardt (Sr. 6’5”, 185 lbs) - 7.5 PPG, 35% FG, 36% 3P, 22.5 MPG
G/F: Gus Okafor (Jr. 6’6”, 230 lbs) - 12.8 PPG, 45% FG, 37% 3P, 5.5 RPG, 26.4 MPG
F: Jalyn Hinton (SR, 6’6”, 200 lbs) - 11.5 PPG, 58% FG, 7.5 RPG, 2.5 ORPG, 2.0 BPG, 29.5 MPG

(all stats via sports-ref)

First, check out the mane on Kasperzyk:

Secondly, the lack of size really sticks out with this team. The only guy they have over 6’7” is Max Brackmann, a 7’2” redshirt freshman from Germany. He plays sparingly. So Iowa’s run of playing 5-outish teams (44% of their shots come from 3, 55th in the country) continues.

Where SELA does struggle is taking advantage of the 5-out style. Not only are they dismal from 3 (28% from 3) but they turn the ball over a ton (20.6% turnover rate in D1 games) and don’t really chase their own rebounds (28% offensive rebounding rate) so Iowa should be able to lock them down.

Defensively, they’re among the worst at defending the rim despite decent inside presence for their size. They allow 57% from 2 & opponents to rebound 33% of their misses. They do force turnovers, at a 21.5% clip.

One question

Can Iowa maintain their intensity?

Against Utah State, the Hawkeyes really struggled defensively and let Jared Bean and Brandon Horvath get pretty much whatever they wanted during the first half. Yet they ratcheted up the intensity in the second frame on defense, went after them on offense, and turned it into an unexpected laugher.

Southeastern Louisiana is not the team Utah State is but Iowa must leverage their final game ahead of the Christmas break to continue playing like they did on Saturday.

First and foremost is the defensive rebounding, which certainly has stylistic components as the Aggies never really chased any of their missed shots. Chicken/egging it a bit: Iowa’s early focus on that area enabled Utah State to yield those rebounds to defend in transition. The Hawks need to continue that focus as they head into conference play.

Defensively was a tale of two halves, with Iowa finding the right combination on the floor in Kris Murray & Ahron Ulis as subs to contest every pass & shot alongside a change in how the pick & roll was being defended (a lot less switching). If Iowa’s first unit shows signs of cracking on that end of the court, how quickly will Fran go to his better defenders?

Tonight’s a game Iowa should win going away, but it doesn’t mean the Lions should be taken too lightly. A team who shoots as many threes as them could find themselves riding a hot streak as they have games of 18 & 19 made threes on the season. And while those outings were against non-D1 competition, it shows they could keep up with Iowa if the Hawks let them.

Broadcast Information

Opponent: Southeastern Louisiana Lions (Hammond, LA // Southland Conference)

Betting Lines: Iowa -28.5 // O/U 157.5 (DraftKings)

Game time: 6:01 PM CST // Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Location: Carver-Hawkeye Arena // Iowa City, IA (Tickets: $15 Adult, $5 Students/Kids)

TV: Big Ten Network // Jay Wilson & Matt Menzl

Online/Mobile: BTN+

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 16-2 over since the beginning of last year so...let’s keep riding that train!