Two struggling basketball rivals will meet up this evening in Hilton Coliseum. Greg McDermott’s Cyclones of Iowa State (6-3) will play host to the Iowa Hawkeyes (3-6) of the Big Ten. The Cyclones have lost three straight contests heading into this one.
Will Iowa State get back to their winning ways?
Let’s break it down.
Breaking down the Hawkeyes…
The Hawkeye men’s basketball team has kind of been the butt of all local sports related jokes of late. I know this because I’ve ruthlessly taken part in them. After Iowa’s season opening losses to Texas San Antonio and Duquesne, many Hawkeye fans were just about ready to throw in the towel on this season.
After watching three or four of Iowa’s games, I stand corrected from my initial thoughts on this team. I’m now of the opinion though that this team isn’t that bad. They won’t win the Big Ten but they’re also capable of pulling off an upset or two this season. Just ask second-ranked Texas. On Nov. 23 in Kansas City, the Hawkeyes were tied with the Longhorns at halftime. Of course, that was probably the worst half of basketball that Texas has played all season long. But still, it’s proof that Iowa can hang with anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Iowa hasn’t beaten anybody worth bragging about so far this season. The Hawkeyes three wins have come against Bowling Green, N.C. Central and Prairie View A&M.
But still, this seems to be a basketball team that plays better against higher competition. When combining their first half against Texas and really their entire game in a 70-64 loss to Virginia Tech, this Iowa team is just pesky enough to give Iowa State fans a legitimate reason to sweat tonight.
Sophomore Matt Gatens is the guy who makes the Hawkeyes tick. The Iowa City native is averaging 11.4 points per game with 5.1 rebounds in the Hawkeyes nine games this year. A word to the wise? Don’t foul the guy. Gatens is 23-of-26 from the free throw line this season.
Sophomore Anthony Tucker is Iowa’s biggest threat from long range. Tucker is averaging 11.8 points per game while knocking down 23 treys thus far.
Iowa’s biggest strength could very well be their biggest weakness. Their scoring is incredibly spread out. Tucker and Gatens average just over 11 points per game. The other three starters: Eric May, Jarryd Cole and Cully Payne all average over eight points per game.
While Gatens attempts to be the man, the Hawkeyes simply do not have a “go to” guy in their lineup. They’ll miss that on the road in a hostile Hilton this evening.
Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter isn’t expected to be in attendance tonight due to health concerns. Expect assistant Chad Walthall to take over those duties.
Iowa’s probable starting lineup
Eric May: 6-5 Fr. forward – 8.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG Jarryd Cole: 6-7 Jr. forward – 8.4 PPG, 6.0 RPG Anthony Tucker: 6-4 So. guard – 11.8 PPG Cully Payne: 6-1 Fr. guard – 8.4 PPG, 4.0 APG Matt Gatens: 6-5 So. guard – 11.4 PPG, 5.1 RPG
Breaking down the Cyclones
During Monday’s press conference, I appreciate the fact that Greg McDermott came out and said that there was no way to “spin” the last week in Iowa State basketball. It was rough. There’s really no other way to break it down.
Iowa State’s focus this week has been getting better as a basketball team. The Cyclones played a lot of games in not many days early in the season. McDermott explained that the next few weeks are Iowa State’s equivalent to “me” time in the world of college basketball. That’s how I took it at least.
My key for Iowa State tonight is pretty simple. The Cyclones need to play their style of basketball again. They can’t get sucked into Iowa’s boring half-court game. Iowa State needs to control the glass and get some transition buckets.
Hitting some 3-pointers wouldn’t hurt either. The Cyclones were 3-of-17 from behind the arc against Cal last Saturday. Iowa State currently ranks fifth nationally in 3-point field goal percentage at 44.8 percent.
I think that the only way Iowa can pull off this upset is if the Hawkeyes come out and shoot better than 50 percent from 3-point range. The Hawks are only shooting 32.4 percent from long range this year, but they are capable of shooting much better than that. Even if that goes down, it’d take that with the combination of a horrible night from Iowa State for the Hawkeyes to hang around. I’m not saying it can’t happen. I just don’t think that it will.
This Cyclone basketball team has had significant time to regroup this week. That’s valuable with a team that is struggling to find its identity. I say that things will get turned around tonight.
Iowa State 77, Iowa 61