Scouting Iowa

Purdue Boilermakers guard Ethan Morton (25) guards Iowa Hawkeyes guard Brock Harding (2) during the NCAA men’s basketball game, Monday, Dec. 4, 2023, at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. © Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Iowa State (6-2) returns home to Hilton Coliseum Thursday night to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes (5-3) as part of the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series (6:30 p.m. ESPNU).

The Cyclones are coming off an outstanding offensive output with a 99-80 win over the DePaul Blue Demons.

Fran McCaffery is entering his 13th season as head coach of the Hawkeyes. He is 10 wins shy of becoming the all-time winningest coach in Hawkeye history and has taken the Hawkeyes to seven NCAA Tournaments in his tenure, including trips in three-straight years.

Iowa is led by Valparaiso transfer, Ben Krikke. The 6-foot-9 post has been lights out for the Hawkeyes, averaging 18.4 points per game and five rebounds on a 60.4 percent clip this season.

McCaffery brings back a trio of guards from his team a year ago in Payton Sandfort, Tony Perkins, and Patrick McCaffery. Sandfort is Iowa’s best 3-point shooter with a 34 percent mark from distance. He is the Hawkeyes’ second leading scorer 13.6 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. Perkins (12.8) and McCaffery (11.5) are both averaging double figures in the scoring column, as well.

Fran McCaffery has developed a number of players that have made it into the NBA such as Luka Garza and Kris and Keegan Murray. Freshman forward Owen Freeman has could be the next. The 6-foot-10 freshman has displayed an exceptional presence around the paint and looks like one of Iowa’s most talented players already. He’s averaged 9.8 points per game on a 60 percent shooting clip with 3.6 rebounds thus far.

Sophomore guard Josh Dix has quietly had a great season, as well. Dix was invited to play on the 2023 Men’s U19 National Team Training Camp Roster alongside Iowa State forwards Omaha Biliew and Milan Momchilovic and Cyclone guard Jackson Paveletzke. Dix is the first guy off the bench for McCaffery’s squad.

On the offense

The Iowa program is known for being an elite offensive team during Fran McCaffery’s tenure. Even with Kris Murray off to the NBA, the Hawkeyes are finding ways to get the ball in the hoop. The Hawkeyes are ranked 12th in adjusted offense per KenPom so far this season.

The Hawkeyes want to get the ball out in transition, and when they can do that is precisely where they’re the most dangerous. The team takes advantage of its opponents taking their time getting back after makes, and gets back on defense itself. Iowa State will need to get back and set up their no-middle defense or pressure the basketball early down the court. The Hawkeyes rank 36th in adjusted tempo while the Cyclones rank 90th. Iowa State needs to slow the game down and play at its own pace.

So far this season, the 3-point shot hasn’t been Iowa’s main weapon. In the halfcourt, the team wants to get downhill and use the pick-and-roll to get to the basket. Iowa ranks in the top 50 for free throws attempted per game and shoots 76.4 percent as a team. Iowa State will need to play defense without fouling and make Iowa hit tough shots around the rim.

On Defense

McCaffery’s teams play an abundance of defenses, giving their opponents many different types of zones to face in the half-court. The Hawkeyes like to play 3-2 zone if they are not in a man-to-man look. They want to use their length on the wings and force teams to turn the ball over and start their fastbreak. Iowa State is going to need to hit some shots from the perimeter or get the ball to the middle of the paint, and into the hands of their facilitators to get Iowa out of the zone.

At times, Iowa will move to a 1-1-2 zone press defense. McCaffery wants to play this type of press defense to keep his team’s opponents off balance and simplify their defense on the other end of the floor. Iowa plays four freshman in major minutes and having this type of defense allows them to slow the game down and get in position.

The team will often drop back into a 3-2 zone or man-to-man defense in the half- court after the ball crosses the midline.