While most of us will be at home eating turkey, the Iowa basketball team will be in the Las Vegas Invitational, a big early-season test for the Hawks.
Technically, the Iowa basketball team has already begun playing the Las Vegas Invitational with two opening games versus North Florida and Cal Poly, both easy wins for the Hawks. But the real competition begins tomorrow in Las Vegas when the Iowa basketball team gets their first shot at a ranked opponent this season, the last year’s national champion runner-up Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Win that, and the Hawks are in the invitational’s championship game against the winner of Creighton and San Diego State.
Lose that and they play the loser of the aforementioned game above.
No matter which way you slice it though, the battle in the desert will be a challenge for Fran McCaffery’s squad that will have to replace their starting forward while also dealing with the medical concerns of their star point guard Jordan Bohannon and Fran’s son and 2019 top-100 recruit Patrick McCaffery.
Here is a quick and dirty rundown of the three other teams joining them in Las Vegas over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders don’t quite have the look of last year’s squad that advanced to the NCAA Finals as just one of their top five scorers from last season returned this year, but they brought in two top-100 players in the class of 2019 plus graduate transfer TJ Holyfield. The media seems to have bought in as well as Tech is currently ranked 12th in the nation after a 5-0 start. According to KenPom, Tech boats a top-30 offense and defense.
Creighton: The Blue Jays have eerily produced similar results to the Iowa basketball team in a much different way. They’ve got one of the smaller lineups in college basketball with just one guy over 6’7” getting any playing time. Their offense is ranked 7th, and their defense is ranked 107th (see what I mean by being close to Iowa’s), and they are going to be entering the tournament at 4-1. My big area of concern here is how will the Iowa basketball team match up defensively against a smaller, quicker lineup that likes to shoot the 3 (16th highest percentage of points coming off 3 pt attempts in the country).
San Diego State: Although not the same Aztec team that went to six straight NCAA Tournaments from 2009 to 2015, this team is still a formidable opponent. Under Brian Dutcher’s guidance, this team is off to a 6-0 start, which includes a win over BYU. This team might be the best matchup for the Iowa basketball team as their offense isn’t going to light the world on fire, and their defense, while good, isn’t back-breaking.
If the Iowa basketball team is able to secure two wins and win the Las Vegas Invitational, it would go a long way in boosting the confidence of the team and the fans, and like last year’s early-season tournament, it would put the Hawks on the map nationally. The main games between these four teams tip-off at 5 PM on Thursday evening at Orleans Arena.