Preview: Iowa State @ Iowa

What: Iowa State (6-2) @ Iowa (7-2)
When: Friday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.
Where: Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City
TV: Big Ten Network 


That’s how I’d describe this Iowa State – Iowa basketball series over the last 10 years or so. To the diehards, the game still meant a lot during this blah period of time. To most of you reading this, you love the bragging rights of three straight Cyclone victories vs. the Hawkeyes. It means a lot to you. But to the casual Iowan, this series just hasn’t had that umph that it did in the past. 

Two years ago, with two new head coaches in Fred Hoiberg and Fran McCaffrey running the state’s two biggest programs, I think we (as Iowans) made some progress in returning this series to the status that it once held. With the new blood infused in both programs, two very average basketball teams put together a fun little basketball game. Scott Christopherson went off for 30 as the Cyclones beat the Hawkeyes 75-72. Carver-Hawkeye Arena wasn’t what I’d call hopping, but it wasn’t the morgue that it was during Todd Lickliter’s tenure either. 

Last year’s game, an 86-76 Cyclone victory, was lop-sided but still exciting. I’ll even go as far to call it emotional. Both teams wanted that game. It actually felt like a rivalry again. 

Hoiberg brings a lot to the table. Iowa State’s head coach, an Ames native, went 3-1 as a player vs. the Hawkeyes. Hoiberg, a life-long Clone, likely grew up having no such positive feelings towards the Black and Gold.  

And then there’s the other side. If you take a quick look at Iowa’s current roster, you’ll see seven native Iowan’s (combining walk-ons with scholarship student-athletes) listed. You think those guys aren’t amped to beat up on State?

What we have here are two up and coming basketball programs – each with a lot of momentum at this point in time. Both coaches teach an exciting style of basketball and the fan bases have bought into it. 

Iowa State is obviously a little farther along than Iowa right now. The Cyclones went dancing in year No. 2 under Hoiberg. McCaffrey’s plan is taking longer, but by all means appears to be working. 

For all of the reasons above, I think we’re in for an instant classic when this rivalry renews on Friday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. 

Breaking down the Hawkeyes

Iowa’s non-conference resume is similar to Iowa State’s thus far. The Hawkeyes have won the games that they were supposed to win. They’ve lost the games that they were supposed to lose. The Hawkeyes lost to Wichita State in Cancun in November. A 95-79 loss to Virginia Tech looked bad at the time, but the Hokies (now 7-0) just might be ranked in the Top 25 next week after posting a win over Oklahoma State last weekend. 

Over the course of Iowa’s last two games, McCaffrey has gone with three freshman in his starting lineup. Anthony Clemmons (6-foot-1 out of Lansing, Mich) and Mike Gesell (6-foot-1 South Sioux City, Neb.) have done the majority of the ball handling in those contests. Of course the highly-touted, 7-foot-1 center Adam Woodbury is the other. 

McCaffrey’s two most proven players, Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White make up the rest of Iowa’s starting five. Marble, a 6-foot-6 junior, currently leads the Hawkeyes in scoring at 14.4 points per game while White has been steady at 13.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per contest. Marble has scored in double figures in all nine of Iowa’s games so far this season. 

The Hawkeyes are 26-6 in the series in games played in Iowa City. 


*** A bit of a rare note…Korie Lucious and Chris Babb each played against Iowa in different uniforms in recent years. Lucious averaged 6.0 points and 2.5 assists vs. the Hawks while playing for Michigan State. 

*** A coaching connection…Iowa State’s Director of Player Development Micah Byars was the director of basketball operations at Central Florida before coming to Ames. His boss there was Kirk Speraw, who is now in his third season as an assistant to Fran McCaffrey. 

*** Iowa leads this all-time series 42-23. However, Iowa State is 16-14 since 1984. 

*** Iowa is 27-14 when playing it home under McCaffrey. 


If Iowa State follows these three simple keys to victory, the Cyclones should walk away from Iowa City victorious on Friday. 

1 – Rebound – This has been a strength of Iowa State’s all season long. The Cyclones are currently America’s third-ranked rebounding team at 45.6 per game. Iowa State is out-rebounding its opponents by a margin of +11.5 per game (although that number is skewed due to racking up the boards vs. some very bad competition early in the season). The point is though, this is where it all starts for Hoiberg’s team. Controlling the glass has allowed Iowa State multiple easy baskets this season, easy basketball that are even more critical away from home. 

Bottom line – Iowa is 6-28 under Fran McCaffrey when the Hawkeyes get out-rebounded. Whoever wins the battle of the glass is probably going to win the game. 

2 – Turnovers – Even in a comfortable win over Florida Gulf Coast on Tuesday, Iowa State turned the basketball over 19 times. The Cyclones have turned the basketball over 15 or more times in 6-of-8 games this season. Prediction: If Iowa State turns the ball over 15 or more times vs. Iowa, the Cyclones will leave Carver-Hawkeye 6-3. Gotta clean it up…

3 – The long ball – Iowa State has shot under 30 percent from 3-point range in two games this season. Any takers on which games those were? If you guessed Iowa State’s two losses, Cincinnati (.296) and UNLV (.286), you’re correct. 

It’s an interesting match-up to say the least. 

One can only assume that Iowa State’s ace defencer, Chris Babb, will be assigned to Marble. 

Veteran Korie Lucious will get to take on a couple of rookies. Aaron White vs. Melvin Ejim should be epic. 

It’s a game that both teams need when discussing non-conference resumes. Las Vegas has Iowa listed as a narrow favorite at home. However, I like a more experienced Iowa State team to come away with the W, in what should be a classic Cy-Hawk battle. 

The Pick

Iowa State 78, Iowa 75