Fresh off of two straight losses in the Big Ten, the men’s Iowa basketball team is looking to rebound against in-state rival Iowa State Thursday night.
If you were to ask Twitter about the Iowa basketball team, you would likely get a dramatic response bordering on “the sky is falling” after they lost back to back games in the Big Ten. The first game was a close loss to Wisconsin, but the second game was a blowout against Michigan State. The Michigan State game really set fans over the edge, but it’s important to remember that expectations were not that high for the men’s Iowa basketball team heading into the season.
Sure, Fran thought they would do well, and the Hawkeyes were listed as a bubble contender for a NCAA tournament spot, but nobody foresaw their meteoric rise to #14 in the AP Rankings fueled by wins over previously ranked Oregon and unranked UConn. That being said, let’s take a step back and appreciate that this team is talented, but certainly has flaws, and while I don’t think the sky is falling, tomorrow night’s matchup against Iowa State is a very important one for the Hawkeyes for two reasons.
First, Iowa is kicking Iowa State’s butt in their rivalry series so far this season and adding to that is already a grand old-time. Second, and more importantly though, this is Iowa’s last tough game of the year. After this they have four games against small-school teams that they should have no problem dealing with.
Despite not being ranked, the Cyclones are no slouch this season. They are 7-1 with their one loss coming to the Arizona Wildcats. The Wildcats, meanwhile are 6-2 with both losses coming to top-ten teams. The Cyclones are also getting quite a bit of traction from the AP Poll and will likely be in the top-25 with a win over the Iowa basketball team tomorrow night.
The Iowa State Cyclones will provide an interesting matchup for the Iowa basketball team. In the absence of last year’s star guard Lindell Wigginton (who has been sidelined with an injury for all but one game), transfer students Marial Shayok (senior transfer from Virginia) and Michael Jacobson (junior transfer from Nebraska) have stepped up to lead this team. Additionally, last year’s 5th leading scorer Solomon Young has been sidelined with an injury and Cameron Lard and Zoran Talley have been suspended for most of the season.
This has forced head coach Steve Prohm into quite a different lineup than what he initially anticipated heading into the season, but it’s working so far.
Shayok, a 6’6” guard, is averaging 19.4 points on 51% shooting in 30.1 minutes per game of action while Jacobson, a 6’9” 231 pound forward, is averaging 16.8 points on 64% shooting in 29.8 minutes per game of action.
Like most games this season, the Iowa basketball team holds a size advantage down low with the 6’8” Tyler Cook, 6’11” Luke Garza, and 6’9” Ryan Kriener. In the back court though, Iowa may struggle with the height and length of Shayok, 6’4” Talen Horton-Tucker, and 6’5” Nick Babb. All guards who are averaging over 30 minutes per game.
The Hawkeyes, meanwhile, will roll out a lineup featuring a 6’1” shoot-first point guard (Jordan Bohannon) and 6’5” Isaiah Moss at shooting guard with 6’5” Connor McCaffrey spelling those two in relief. It’s not necessarily a height disadvantage for the Iowa basketball team, but a situation they haven’t faced yet this season, and based on how Michigan State attacked them, it may be difficult to get the offense going amongst that size.
Defensively, Isaiah Moss has proven to be effective, if not good at guarding opposing team’s guards, but against Michigan State it didn’t matter as the Spartans battered the Hawks down low. Against a high-scoring team like Iowa State (80 ppg), it will be important for Fran McCaffrey’s much improved Hawkeye defense to show these improvements tomorrow night while also taking a much more effective approach to shooting the ball instead of chucking it from whatever random spot they happen to be in.
Tip off for the game is set for 7 PM CST at Carver Hawkeye Arena, and it will be shown on FS1.