Iowa (3-1) vs. Notre Dame (3-1)
Date: November 27, 2015
Time: 6:00 p.m. CT
Location: HP Field House, Orlando
Line: Notre Dame -1
There's obviously another event on Friday that will suck up all the oxygen in the Iowa sports universe, but right about the time that the final gun sounds in Lincoln, the Hawkeye basketball team returns to the Disney-endorsed hardwood in Orlando. Iowa faces Notre Dame, just 20 hours after its first loss of the season. Television coverage is available through ESPN3. Welcome to the consolation bracket.
Losing Thursday makes this tournament extremely difficult for Iowa. Iowa's loss to Dayton is hardly the biggest result of the day. Notre Dame lost to something called Monmouth, and Wichita State has now lost twice, to USC and Alabama. That means a loss Friday would put the Hawkeyes in a Sunday morning last-place game with a team ranked No. 36 by Kenpom. That's hardly ideal.
If Iowa is going to win, it's going to have to stop one of the nation's most efficient offenses. Notre Dame shoots at a 55 percent effective rate, turns it over on just 15 percent of possessions, and has barely any shots blocked. The Irish are scoring 82 points per game playing at one of the lowest tempos in the country. You don't put up numbers like that if you're not cashing in on possessions.
Notre Dame has one of the weirdest defensive stat lines I've ever seen. Opponents are shooting at a 48 percent effective rate against them, which is thoroughly mediocre. However, Notre Dame's opposition is shooting at a horrendous 37 percent on two-point attempts and a mind-blowing 46 percent on three-point shots. The common interpretation of three-point percentage defense is that it's largely based on luck, and the unluck of the Irish is strong.
Center Zach Auguste and guard Demetrius Jackson are the keys to the whole Notre Dame operation. Auguste (6'10, 245) is posting a double-double per game, with 15.8 points and 10.8 assists per game. Jackson (6'1, 200) leads the team in points (20.5 ppg) and assists (4.5 apg), and shoots 42 percent from behind the arc. It's as formidable an inside-outside combination as Iowa might face all season. Shooting guard Steve Vasturia (6'5, 212) and forward VJ Beacham (6'8, 200) provide outside shooting and defense, but Auguste and Jackson run the show.
This game presents a clash of styles that Iowa usually handles well. Iowa's issues have not come against teams that resist the run-and-gun style that the Hawkeyes want. Rather, the problems arise when Iowa tries to run with a team that does it better than they do (see Thursday night). That won't be an issue Friday night, and if Iowa can up the tempo and pull Notre Dame out of its comfort zone, the Hawkeyes stand a decent chance.