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Franimal Planet: Iowa vs. Gardner-Webb Preview

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I'm walking in the Gardner-Webbs, so leave a message and I'll call you back.

Iowa (3-0) vs. Gardner-Webb (2-2)

Date: November 17, 2012
Time: 7:00 pm CT
Location: Carver-Hawkeye Arena
Television: BTN2Go, Mediacom Connections
Line: No line as of Thursday night

Basketball Prospectus picks the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs fifth in the Big South Conference for 2012-13, a big increase over last year's 12-20 (6-12) record. The Bulldogs return the vast majority of last year's team, including 6'2" sophomore guard Max Landis (12.7 ppg this season) and 6'6" swingman Donta Harper (10.3 ppg). Tashan Newsome is a fantastic rebounder for a 6'3" guard, hauling in 4.3 rebounds per game in his team's first four contests after averaging 7.0 per game in 2011-12.

This game is part of the Cancun Challenge, which apparently runs in a double round robin format and may utilize the Modified Stableford Scoring System. Gardner-Webb defeated DePaul by twelve points Thursday night in their opening game, and while DePaul is probably awful again (the Blue Demons have won five total Big East games in four seasons), that game should act as a cautionary tale for Iowa. Throw in a closer-than-it-looks 17-point loss to North Carolina in the opener, and the Bulldogs are unquestionably Iowa's top threat so far. Fall asleep on Saturday evening, dreaming of warm beaches and Mexican beers and senoritas, and Garner-Webb has the ability to stay in the fight.

That win pushed the Bulldogs' Kenpom rating up to 213, the best Iowa's faced so far this season. There's not much to take from their numbers so far this year, except for one thing: Their opponents have scored 72.6% of their points on two-point shots, the fifth-highest percentage in the country (the average is just over 50%). Gardner-Webb doesn't foul much -- their defensive free throw attempts/field goal attempts ratio is better than average -- and they play man-to-man defense, which means they're simply vulnerable in the interior. That's good for Iowa, because the Hawkeyes' three-point shooting through three games has truly stunk.