Iowa (5-0) vs. Wichita State (5-0)
Date: November 21, 2012
Time: 8:30 pm CT
Location: Basically a Jimmy Buffet music video
Television: CBS Sports Network
Line: Wichita State -3.5
There are a lot of red flags flying over this game. Wichita is the first team Iowa's played this year with a better Kenpom rating than the Hawkeyes; the Shockers are #47, while Iowa has settled at #53. Wichita's also the first team on Iowa's schedule with enough size to match up with Iowa's front line. But, more than anything, the concern is that Wichita does a lot of the same things that Iowa does, with personnel that is equal in talent and experience.
Longtime followers of Iowa basketball are going to see some familiar names. For one, Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall was reportedly offered the Iowa job in 2010 and turned it down. He's not the only Shocker to shun the Hawkeyes: Senior point guard Malcolm Armstead (6.4 ppg, 3.6 apg) was a Lickliter target during the Summer of No Point Guards. He chose Oregon over Iowa, and eventually transferred to Wichita.
Wichita is led by a pair of 6'8" forwards. Carl Hall (13.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg) and Cleanthony Early (11.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg) account for 36% of the Shockers' scoring and 37% of their rebounding. Ron Baker (8.2 ppg), a 6'3" redshirt freshman shooting guard, is the team's best outside threat. Senior guard Demetric Williams is averaging 7.2 points per game, and is coming off a 16-point performance against DePaul. Seven-footer Ehimen Orukpe is a defensive threat off the bench, averaging more than a block per game despite averaging just 13 minutes played.
Wichita slashes and kicks better than anyone Iowa has faced so far, and maybe better than Iowa. They are efficient on defense: They block a lot of shots, they force a lot of turnovers, and they don't allow easy shots inside. They don't take a ton of three-point shots, and they don't get to the line more than most. What Wichita does is penetrate the lane with their point guards and forwards, collapse the defense, and find an open slashing forward in the interior. If it sounds familiar, it is.
Pomeroy's model predicts a one-point Wichita State win, which should say all you need to know about how close these two teams are. In a year where Iowa has precious few non-conference measuring sticks to raise its NCAA Tournament profile, this game becomes critical.