As most of the State of Iowa knows by now, Iowa and Iowa State men’s basketball teams will face off December 13th on ESPNU. An interesting tidbit is that the dorms in Iowa City don’t actually get ESPNU, so I’d make plans accordingly to see this can’t miss game. Below is a break down of the teams and looking forward.
Iowa has coasted through their non-conference schedule so far outside of the Nebraska-Omaha game. They have put up at least 80 points in every game. They are just outside the rankings of the AP top 25 poll. Iowa is coached by Fran McCaffery who has had multiple coaching stops at Lehigh, UNCG, and Siena before coming to Iowa. He has taken Iowa to the NIT 2 years in a row, getting runner-up last year in a losing effort to Baylor in the NIT final at Madison Square Garden. Walking around Campus you see may different shirts, but nothing rhymes or sticks out like Fran The Man. I definitely have to get one of those. Fran has brought back excitement in Iowa basketball which has been lacking since the Tom Davis and Steve Alford eras. Fran has had the great opportunity to take a great group of players and teach them for multiple years like Aaron White, Roy Devyn Marble, Zach McCabe and Melson Basabe, allowing them to gel and build a program for multiple runs at the NCAA tournament.
He has found more versatile players to help keep players fresh while still having an aggressive team on the court. A wonderful problem for a coach is having a very deep bench and finding minutes for everyone. Sometimes people that see limited action try to do too much when they’re in, but Fran has done an excellent job of getting his players to use his system even if their playing time varies from game to game. Some key contributors of the bench are Peter Jok, Jarrod Uthoff, Anthony Clemmons, Gabriel Olanseni, and McCabe. Mike Gesell did an outstanding job at point guard last year but him and Marble have been sharing the role this year.
Looking forward, Iowa’s strength of schedule increases dramatically starting Thursday with Xavier in the battle 4 Atlantis tourney, and then Notre Dame in the ACC challenge on December 3rd. Iowa first real road test won’t come till the Iowa State game. It’s very realistic they could go into the Iowa State game undefeated or with one loss.
Iowa State is coming off a huge week of beating Michigan and BYU partly in thanks to Melvin Ejim, who returned early from the hyper extended knee and been great for State over the years. They totally earned their 21st in the nation status. Iowa State’s coach Fred Hoiberg was a legend as a player and continues to build on his legacy as a coach. A fun fact is his received write in votes for the mayor of Ames, thus giving him his nickname “The Mayor”. He has jump started the program under his coaching ERA by getting recruits that are misfit transfers that get kicked out or quit at their former college. He may only coach them for a year or two but that doesn’t bother the fans in Hilton Coliseum.
Some of his key transfers are/were Royce White, Will Clyburn, Tyrus McGee, Korie Lucious, and Deandre Kane. Most people think that getting transfers is a sign of recruiting weakness, but I disagree with that because you have to recruit them the same as any other potential signee. Some recent big time high school recruits have been Georges Niang a post play maker from Massachusetts, Monte Morris, Michigan player of the year, and Matt Thomas, a sharpshooter from Wisconsin. The Mayor has lead Iowa State to 2 straight NCAA tourneys. They are known for playing fast tempo offense while shooting 3 at a very high rate. They also set a school record last year and led the nation in 3 pointers made.
Looking forward, Iowa State’s schedule gets a little easier after having to play BYU and Michigan back to back. They have only 3 games before Iowa. The ‘Clones play Auburn on December 2nd in the SEC challenge, then UNI at the big four classic in Des Moines, before finally welcoming Iowa to Hilton to face the fans and Hilton Magic. It’s also very realistic they could be undefeated heading into the Iowa game.