Two top-25 teams clash at the Hilton Coliseum Friday night, as #23 Iowa (10-1) travel to #17 Iowa State (7-0) looking to snap the Cyclones blazing hot start to the season. It features two high-powered offenses as well as stalwart defenses, so something has to give. The Hawkeyes have averaged nearly 90 points through their first 11 games while giving up only 64, and Iowa State has scored nearly 92 points a game while allowing 68. Iowa's only blemish comes at the hands of a very talented Villanova team in overtime, but they already have wins against Xavier and Notre Dame to put on their resume. While the Cyclones have played four less games, they have already beaten Michigan and a very talented BYU team in Provo. They did struggle in their last game against Northern Iowa, but they will be more prepared and ready to go for Iowa. Let's break down the teams:
Iowa features Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White as their best two players, but they are legitimately ten deep. Ten guys play at least 15 minutes, and this is without Junior Josh Oglesby, a deep threat from the outside. Marble has become the guy and leader of this team, averaging 15.6 points per game on 41% shooting, while White is a guy that plays in spurts. He only averages 12.6 points per game in 24 minutes, good for 21 points per 40 minutes, but is shooting a blistering 65% from the floor and 85% from the line. Because of their incredible depth, Iowa can play 5 guys in 6 to 8 minute spurts and then substitute hockey-style, allowing for fresher bodies in late-game situations. The one player that Iowa fans have likely been disappointed with is Adam Woodbury, a highly touted 7-footer who has not produced as much as Hawkeye fans would probably like with averages of 5 points and 4 rebounds in 16 minutes per contest. Woodbury has shown flashes of brilliance both this season and last, but he will need to be a force tonight against a significantly smaller Iowa State front line. If he can stay out of foul trouble and give Iowa 20 good minutes of defense and rebounding, it could be the difference between the Hawkeyes leaving Ames with a W.
After beating my beloved Wolverines in November, I did what any knowledgeable College Basketball fan would and started rooting for the Cyclones to beat everyone so the loss wouldn't look as bad. So far they haven't disappointed, and they play an entertaining and frenetic style of basketball. Their one issue, however, is depth. With the new rules being much more strict about hand checks and overall foul calls, Iowa State could find themselves in a few games this year where Hoiberg has to juggle lineups and use players that would generally be seldom used. While their depth is a concern, their 7 main rotation players are really, really good. Their leader and blue-collar player is Melvin Ejim, a 6'8 forward from Canada who is an absolute nightmare match-up for opposing teams. Despite Ejim being only 6'6, he plays 3 or 4 inches taller and has averaged 18 points and 8 rebounds after missing the first two games due to injury. Against Michigan, both he and Mitch McGary were both returning from injury, but Ejim manhandled the Wolverine sophomore, using quick moves on the baseline and offensive rebounds to finish with 22 points and 9 rebounds. Ejim also has the ability to step outside and shoot the 3, causing slower forwards like Aaron White, who will likely be guarding him, to have to play him out to 22 feet. The other player that needs to play well tonight for the Cyclones is DeAndre Kane. Kane is a 5th-year senior that is actually playing without a redshirt, playing at Marshall University in West Virginia for the past four seasons before heading to "Transfer U" to play for Hoiberg. His quickness in conjunction with his size as a 6'4 point guard could be trouble for Iowa's smaller guards like Anthony Clemmons and Mike Gesell, so Peter Jok could get some added minutes to guard Kane. If the Hawkeyes can contain him and not let him get to 15 points and 8 rebounds, his season averages, it could be another huge factor in picking up a crucial away win.
After watching Michigan struggle in Ames and watching the Cyclones go on the road to beat BYU, I had a feeling this would be Fred Hoiberg's best team. They shoot the ball extremely well from all 5 positions, including center Georges Niang, and don't make many mistakes. Hilton Coliseum will be rocking tonight, and Iowa State would love nothing more than to beat their in-state rival at home. I'm predicting a 74-68 Cyclones victory with Melvin Ejim going for 20 and 8. Iowa is a great team, but I don't see them having enough firepower to stick with Iowa State in Ames.