We sat down with Boiler Hawk from the Team Out East SBNation site Black Heart Gold Pants to talk CyHawk basketball. You can find him on Twitter at @HD_starr
1. First thing's first. What in the heck is going on with this Iowa offense?
Fran McCaffery's motion offense has lacked just that this year: motion. Part of it is due to the strengths of this team aligning to the frontline and not the perimeter like many other teams throughout Fran's tenure so it's led to stagnation. Specifically, when Tyler Cook or Cordell Pemsl, among others, post up their defender the rest of the team simply stays in their spot and becomes very easy to defend. Iowa has also telegraphed their post entries which has made it difficult to even make those passes as teams often front down low and provide weakside help to steal the floating entry passes.
Unfortunately, their is no easy fix. People talk about Iowa lacking "guard depth" and that may be a fair assessment, as Christian Williams transferred before the season began (he's since had hip surgery) and Connor McCaffery has been out with mononucleosis. Brady Ellingson and Maishe Dailey, Iowa's backup guards, looked good in a stretch against Indiana, but the team could not sustain that momentum.
Continuing the frustration on offense is the high volume of turnovers Iowa's experienced. Not only are they turning it over at the highest rate since Fran's first year, but they're often of the "live ball" variety. The 11.2% steal percentage is in the 300s and unsustainable if Iowa wants to make any noise throughout the rest of the season. Opposing guards have done a great job of getting into Jordan Bohannon's space and cutting off any offensive flow from there.
2. Iowa lost a great senior leader in Peter Jok after last season. Who has so far stepped up to be this team's leader?
Keeping up the leadership Jok put in place last year has been difficult. I certainly didn't expect this much of a dropoff and was wholly wrong that his graduation might mean an improvement in Iowa stylistically. The guy I figured to be the leader was Nicholas Baer, who was out the first 6 games with a broken finger. He hasn't acclimated well in the last three games he's been back and often comes off the bench, which isn't necessarily conducive to being the "leader." Ultimately, this is part of Iowa's problem.
3. Who do you see as being the key player for the Hawks in this matchup?
Isaiah Moss has absolutely struggled the last three games against elevated competition and is the guy who needs to get it going offensively. It'd be unfair to attribute Iowa's poor performances to him alone and discounts what opponents did to take him out of the game.
Other than him, Iowa just needs to play with a passion which has been lacking in their three recent losses. The aforementioned Baer plays a pivotal role in this regard.
4. Cameron Lard has quickly made his way into significant playing time (and probably a starting spot sooner, rather than later) with his energy, athleticism, and surprising touch around the rim. At 6'9", he runs the court equally as well as, if not better than, former Cyclone standout Jameel McKay. Who do you expect Fran to put on his defensive assignment?
With Lard coming off the bench, it is probably incumbent on Cordell Pemsl and/or Ryan Kriener to match his energy down low. Defending rim runs, especially in transition is a team effort, so it's incumbent on Iowa to be smart with the basketball to limit turnovers and hustle back in transition on missed shots.
Another way to neutralize him is to attack him on offense. Lard's averaging nearly 7 fouls per 40 minutes so if a Hawkeye has him down low, particularly Pemsl or Tyler Cook, I'd expect them to post him up and force him to defend without fouling.
5. Same question for Lindell Wigginton. He's been almost better than advertised so far this season, and is Iowa State's best scorer off the dribble. Who's going to get his matchup?
Since Christian Williams transferred, the role of "wing defender" has been wide open for a Hawkeye to fill. Early on, I would expect Ahmad Wagner to get the early assignment, as he has started at the small forward position and might be the only Hawkeye who can match Wigginton's athleticism. I'd also expect Isaiah Moss and perhaps Maishe Dailey to get 1x1 assignments against him.
6. The Cyclones have performed well in spurts this season, even averaging 1.5 points per possession in the second half vs. Northern Illinois, but do still make some early season/freshman mistakes due to the young talent and inexperience. Is this something Iowa can take advantage of, or will the Hawks' own turnover issues negate a lot of those opportunities?
The Hawkeyes will likely throw a variety of defenses (to various effects) at the Cyclones. I would not be surprised to see them throw their 1-2-2 press at them throughout the game. Wagner, Baer, and seven foot freshman, Jack Nunge, have all played at the point of it and shown some ability to force teams into mistakes on the press. The downside of the press is, too often, Iowa will allow wide open threes in the corner or on the wing so it could get quickly shelved.
Additionally, the Hawkeyes will need to get open shots on offense if they're going to win this game. Young teams typically trail defensively so I'd love to see Iowa pass each other open and hit those shots. They're shooting quite well (40%) from behind the arc so it's incumbent to get those shots without turning it over.
7. Prediction time. Who ya got?
There's just too much Iowa would need to change for me to think they have a chance in this game. First and foremost, the defense has been really ugly at times, and ISU's ability to penetrate and kick is likely to put the Hawks in a blender. But, if they limit turnovers and make shots, they'll give themselves a chance.
Entering Hilton is never easy for the Hawkeyes. 80 - 70, Cyclones.