Preview & Prediction: By Raphielle Johnson
Mens’ basketball adds its chapter to this season’s Hy-Vee Cy-Hawk Series (Iowa has an 11-4 lead in seven events thus far) when Iowa State (6-2) travels to Iowa City to take on rival Iowa (8-2). The Cyclones won’t wow you on offense, but they have found a way this season to do just enough to win six games. Their offensive numbers for the most part are pedestrian, ranking eleventh in the Big 12 in both scoring offense (67.5 ppg) and field goal percentage (44.3%). The latter number is surprising because of this fact: Greg McDermott’s team ranks fourth in the conference in three-point shooting (38.9%). And in big man Craig Brackins the Cyclones have one of the better interior players in the Big 12. Brackins is among the league leaders in points (17.0), rebounds (6.9) and field goal percentage (48.4%).
But Iowa State is more than just Brackins, something that they couldn’t claim last season. Guard Diante Garrett leads the Big 12 in assists per game (6.1), and they’ve got a pair of solid outside shooters in Lucca Staiger and Wes Eikmeier. Down low in the rotation with Brackins are Jamie Vanderbecken and Alex Thompson, both of whom rank in the top twelve in the conference in blocked shots per game. Coach McDermott has a solid defensive team at his fingertips this year so getting stops shouldn’t be too much of an issue for this team; it’s about whether or not they’ll get enough on the other end of the floor to pick up a big road win in Iowa City.
As for Todd Lickliter’s Hawkeyes, they’re the best shooting team in the Big Ten when you look at the percentages. Iowa is atop the league in field goal percentage (49.0%) and second behind Penn State from downtown (42.0%). And that latter number isn’t a product of only taking the bonus shot when it’s wide open; the Hawks (226 three point attempts) have attempted forty-one more shots from three than the next team in that category (Purdue with 185). However, even though they shoot good percentages they’re just eighth in the league in scoring with an average of 66.6 points per game.
As for individuals, it’s the youngsters getting things done for Coach Lickliter. The top three scorers for the Hawkeyes are all either freshmen or sophomores. Freshmen Anthony Tucker (13.1) and Matt Gatens (11.1) lead the way with sophomore Jake Kelly (10.1) right behind them. Tucker, however, was suspended earlier in the week for "public intoxication" and most likely will not be eligible for tonight's game. The Hawkeyes managed fine without him against UNI, but Iowa State is a better opponent. Veteran Cyrus Tate may be averaging just over seven points per game, but his 7.5 rebounds per game lead the team and rank fifth in the Big Ten.
How will this one play out? Neither team wants to get into an all-out track meet, which will put a premium on stats such as turnover margin and rebound margin. Neither team has been too impressive in either category, just about breaking even for the season. The Cyclones have a slightly better assist-to-turnover ratio, but truth be told this one’s too close to call. In that case go with the home team, so look for the Hawkeyes to make a big play late to seal this one.
Winner: Iowa Margin: 1-4 pts.
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About Raphielle Johnson
College sports has always been a source of excitement for Raphielle Johnson, be it through watching, writing, or taking a shot in the dark and walking onto a college football team just to live the life (Arizona Football, 2001). Raphielle is the assistant editor, providing his own work in addition to helping out with the site operations. When not writing for CHN, you can usually find him in front of a television set watching one of many pay-per-view sports packages that he owns. He can be followed at twitter.com/raphiellej.
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