I wish we could have hated on Iowa this entire week, but it just doesn't feel the same, especially with both teams struggling right now, though both are coming off wins where they didn't look absolutely terrible! Iowa State has shown flashes of brilliance, but yet overshadows the brilliance with the complete refusal to play defense. Iowa, on the other hand has shown an inability to score the basketball. And of course, let's note that both teams got absolutely smoked by UNI.
If I was notoriously senile former Iowa SID George Wine, I'd definitely give the win to Iowa State, since Iowa obviously has the worse loss in losing to Campbell, a team picked to finish 8th in their own conference. But I suppose basketball games are settled on the court, so let's take a look at the matchups:
Starting Guards - Roy Devyn Marble, Eric May, and Matt Gatens vs. Chris Allen, Chris Babb and Scott Christopherson
Marble has actually been Iowa's best player over the last 5 games or so, with a 11.2 ppg, 3 apg and 2.8 rpg over that time span. Bryce Cartwright (who I feel was Iowa's most important player last year) is injured and will not play tonight. Gatens is the old guard on the Iowa team. He has gone from fan favorite to most villified to "hustle guy" to disappointing in the span of his career. Gatens is still a dangerous threat from outside and leads the Hawkeyes with 13.8 points per game. Eric May has been the third wheel, and rumors are that Josh Oglesby might get the start instead.
Iowa State has recently flopped the starting backcourt. Chris Allen takes over for the struggling Scott Christopherson. Allen has had a 12:1 assist to turnover ratio the past two games, and contrary to logic, the ball being in his hands has actually cut down on his previously awful shot selection.
Had Cartwright been able to start, I would lean towards giving this to Iowa, but the experience of Allen, Christopherson and Babb make this a wash. Unfortunately, the Cyclone point guard situation is still very concerning, and keeps me from giving the edge to ISU.
Edge - Even
Starting Frontcourt - Melsahn Basabe and Zach McCabe vs. Royce White and Percy Gibson (Editor's note: It has been announced that Percy Gibson will start in place of Melvin Ejim)
Melsahn Basabe was named to the Big 10's All freshman team last year, but this year has been inconsistent at best and downright awful at times. In fact, Basabe's 14 points against Brown last Saturday was more points than he'd scored in Iowa's previous four games... COMBINED. Zach McCabe is a functional player that plays fundamentally sound basketball, but is not a player that can beat you.
On the Iowa State side, Royce White's size and athleticism will cause plenty of problems for Iowa, based on the lack of post defense the Hawkeyes have shown on other opponents this season. Freshman Percy Gibson had his coming out party on Tuesday, scoring 15 points. He and White looked extremely comfortable in the post with each other, combining on multiple scoring plays.
Edge - Big Edge for Iowa State
Iowa has either a deceivingly deep bench, or a lot of mediocre guys, depending on how you look at it. Josh Oglesby is the 6th man and has been pretty good lately, shooting at a 50% clip over the last 7 games, while Aaron White and Andrew Brommer provide decent minutes off the bench. The Hawks have about SEVEN other players who are play 6 minutes or less a game, and are basically good for 5 fouls. With the move of Marble to the starting lineup, Iowa's bench depth takes a hit.
Iowa State's bench is headlined by Tyrus McGee, who is 4th on the team in scoring. McGee leads the Cyclones with a 46.3% 3 point%. Recently demoted Melvin Ejim is essentially the Cyclone version of Basabe. He looks to have great potential (26 points in first game of the season), but mental errors have caused him to be fairly ineffective recently. Melvin has been plagued with horrible foul trouble, as well as the odd inability to make open layups and shots. Let's hope a stint on the bench will help him get back on his game. Bubu Paolo and Anthony Booker are the other Cyclones receiving double digit playing time, but both are essentially placeholders.
Edge - Even
Clearly, neither team has been able to win a
big halfway decent game yet, so the makeup for winning basketball is just not there yet. Iowa State does have the advantage of Hilton Coliseum, though lately, the place has been dead. I expect Hilton Magic to return tonight, given that it's Iowa.
Edge - Iowa State
As much as I want to give this to Coach Hoiberg, there just hasn't been enough this season for me to say that. Both coaches are struggling right now, but I will say that Hoiberg is big enough to admit he made a mistake with the Scott Christopherson PG situation, which shows he is willing to learn on the job. Fran's enthusiasm is both a good and bad thing, capable of sparking his players, or rendering him a walking technical.
Edge - Even
Iowa puts up more of a fight than Cyclone fans want to see, but Royce White on the inside is too much for Iowa, and Scott Christopherson hits another late 3 to bury the Hawks.
Iowa State 72 - Iowa 64