Happy hate week everyone! Tonight is the night that we’ve been looking forward to since the start of the season. People have been camped out for a few days, Hilton has been prepared for a full house, and social media has torn the state into two factions. You’ll find very few people who haven’t picked a side in this rivalry. Tonight, the Iowa Hawkeyes come to town.
Many of us students have been hard at work since we came back for Thanksgiving break in an effort prepare for finals week, leaving little time to watch basketball or keep up with each team. My goal is to provide a scouting report to prepare all of us for tonight.
Let’s start with the frontcourt:
Iowa: The centerpiece for the Hawkeyes is their 6’9” forward Tyler Cook. The 255lb Sophomore from St. Louis is a load in the paint. He leads the Hawkeyes in both points and rebounds. He’s a very skilled player and will probably demand a double team in tonight’s game. Another focal point for the Hawkeyes and their offense is Luka Garza. Garza was the jewel of Iowa’s latest recruiting class. He stands at 6’11” and will have a height advantage on anyone that the Cyclones try to cover him with. Garza is most comfortable down low fighting for offensive rebounds and posting up smaller defenders. Jack Nunge rounds out the starting forwards. The freshman plays as a stretch 4 at 6’11”. Nunge will step out and shoot the 3, and he’s making 47% of his shots behind the arc.
Iowa State: After securing a starting spot towards the end of previous season, Solomon Young anchors the paint for the Cyclones at 6’8”. Young excels in making plays that don’t show up on the stat sheet. He alters shots, he sets good screens, and he plays great help defense. His point totals at the end of the game won’t wow anyone, but he’s a crucial aspect to the Cyclone’s success. Jeff Beverly has been the other starter for the Cyclones. The 6’6” senior grad transfer is a new face from UTSA. Beverly is out there to do whatever is asked of him. Similar to Young, he’s undersized for his position, but provides leadership and hustle when he’s out on the court.
The injury to Zoran Talley means that there are only 4 available big men for Iowa State. Look for Hans Brase and Cameron Lard to be the x-factor in the game tonight. Lard has been explosive on both ends of the court, but he’s a freshman and prone to mistakes. If he can keep his emotions in check, then he could easily have a big game with his quickness. Brase is another senior leader who provides floor spacing and a big body. It’s only a matter of time before Brase earns a starting spot as he knocks the rust off from not playing for two years. He’s a sharpshooter who will draw the Hawkeye bigs away from the basket. The Hawkeyes have multiple bodies at their disposal. They easily have the size advantage, and they will try to use that in their half court sets. In a contrast of styles, Iowa State has the edge in athleticism. If the Cyclones can speed Iowa up and turn this into an up-and-down game, Young, Beverly, and Lard should be able to beat their man down the floor resulting in some easy buckets. The advantage will go to whichever team can control the pace. If the Hawkeyes are able to slow the game down, they can try and attack the Cyclones with their height and draw fouls. It’s critical for Iowa State to stay out of foul trouble and keep Iowa off of the offensive glass.
Now let’s shift to the other side of the floor:
Iowa: The starting duo in the backcourt for the Hawkeyes is Jordan Bohannon and Isaiah Moss. Bohannon acts as the catalyst and primary ball handler for the offense. Known mostly as a shooter, he’s struggled this year after shifting to the PG roll, but will still put up points. Moss plays off the ball most of the time, but is also a very capable scorer. Both Bohannon and Moss are at least 40% on the year in terms of 3-point percentage. They are also excellent free throw shooters. Moss in particular is shooting 94% from the line so far this year.
Iowa State: The Iowa State offense starts with Nick Weiler-Babb. After graduating All-American point guard Monte Morris, there were questions as to who was going to attempt to fill his shoes. Weiler-Babb has excelled this year position after being handed the reigns to the offense. The leading scorer for the Cyclones is Donovan Jackson. Back for his senior year, Jackson can and will shoot from anywhere on the floor. He’s proven that no matter how defenses try to slow him down, he will score. Lindell Wigginton is a name that everyone should and will know very soon. Wigginton was the highest rated recruit to come to Iowa State since Craig Brackins. Primarily a point guard in high school, he’s adjusted well to playing more off the ball in coach Prohm’s offense.
It’s no secret that Iowa State should have the advantage tonight in guard play. Neither team has great depth at this spot and, so far, Bohannon has been a square peg trying to fit in a round hole while playing the point guard role. He’s a lethal shooter when he’s comfortable, so it is imperative for Iowa State to knock him off of his rhythm and pressure him all over the floor. Weiler-Babb is a steady presence as a point guard and will stuff the stat sheet. Jackson and Wigginton will both have an edge on the offensive side of the floor against any defender that Fran McCaffery wants to use. Defensively, Iowa State needs to run Iowa’s guards off the three-point line and force them to finish in the paint. Neither Bohannon nor Moss are great finishers, so it will be up to ISU’s bigs to contest without fouling.
Iowa State is coming into this game red-hot with a 5 game win streak. On the flip side, Iowa has lost their last 3 games. However, numbers don’t mean anything when it comes to rivalry games. These games are essentially played in a vacuum where anything goes. Iowa has the capability to be a much better team than their performance this season indicates. They’ve got great length and size to complement their sharpshooters on the outside. Do I think Iowa State has the advantage going into the game? Absolutely. The problem is that I thought the same thing last year when the Hawkeyes knocked off Monte Morris’s Big 12 Tournament Championship team. That’s the beautiful thing about this sport, nobody knows what’s actually going to happen. We can speculate and predict all we want, but the only thing we know for sure is that the winner of this game gets bragging rights for the next year. There are no re-dos and we will not play them again (barring a matchup in a postseason tournament). Iowa hasn’t won in Hilton Coliseum since 2003. Iowa leads the overall series 44-26, but Iowa State has won 7 of the past 10 meetings between the two teams. You won’t want to miss this.