This Friday in Iowa City the Hawkeyes will be taking on their arch-rival the Iowa State Cyclones in a heated basketball feud. Iowa has tallied victories over their nemesis this year in football, wrestling, women’s basketball, and now look to finish the sweep with a victory at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa (8-2) comes into the contest with a two game winning streak and a 19 point win over Northern Iowa. The Cyclones (6-2) stumble into the matchup suffering from a major home upset to fellow in-state school Drake University. Cyclone head coach Greg McDermott has really felt the consequences of star guard Wesley Johnson’s transfer to Syracuse and the basketball coach is starting to face harsh scrutiny in regards to his job productivity in Ames. Iowa second year head coach Todd Lickliter on the other hand just brought his career record at Iowa back to .500 (21-21) and seems to be taking the Hawkeye program in a more positive direction. Below is a breakdown of the two teams to better determine which side has the upper hand in this rivalry bout.
Iowa State brings solid guard play to the contest with stellar passer Diante Garrett (6.1 apg) and supersophmore German product Lucca Staiger. Staiger, who has failed to live up to the immense hype he brought to the program by only averaging eight points and one assist per game. Garrett has made up for this lack of production with eleven points a game. Coach McDermott has also placed a solid rotation of four guards in Bryan Peterson (6.1 ppg), Hawkeye transfer Alex Thompson, Adam Haluska’s little brother Sean, and Wes Eikmeier (7.3 ppg). Together the rotation is averaging 22 points a game, 7 assists. The foursome has provided much needed targets for Garrett’s excellent passing abilities. With Staiger hopefully solidifying his starting position as the season moves along and becoming comfortable with playing in the United States, the team’s offense should become quite a formidable weapon. The drop off from the Wesley Johnson transfer has not been felt to the degree that most critics thought would occur.
Leading Iowa scorer Anthony Tucker (13.1 ppg) finds himself on the bench for this huge game while serving a suspension for being arrested last weekend in Iowa City on charges of public intoxication. The length of the suspension has not yet been determined and has placed a serious blow to Iowa’s scoring ability. One pleasant surprise for Iowa so far this season, has been the emergence of shooting guard Jake Kelly (10.1 ppg, 3.1 apg), who initially began the season coming off the bench. The benching seems to have energized the Carmel, Indiana product. Sophomore Jeff Peterson mans the point position, but has struggled by only averaging 3.9 assists per game. The Minnesota prep has had trouble creating offense and feeding the Hawkeye’s stud forwards in the post for high percentage shots.
Iowa has been blessed with the recruitment and immediate impact of local Iowa City product Matt Gatens. The true freshman has started the season averaging eleven points a game and an amazing 3.5 assists. His rebounding has hovered around a disappointing three a game, but the player’s natural positioning belongs on the wings and the top of the key. Senior power forward Cyrus Tate represents the best overall player for Iowa. His leadership, clutch shooting (buzzer beater against Kansas State), and 7.5 rebounds a game are unmatched on the Hawkeye bench. Aaron Fuller (3.0 rpg) and Andrew Brommer (1.7 rpg) provide the role of token scrub on the floor.
Craig Brackins has come into the 2008-2009 season on fire by averaging 17 points per contest. He has added 7 rebounds a game to lay claim as the top player on the Iowa State team. Unfortunately, he finds himself alone down low with very little size to accompany him in the lane. This adds more pressure for Brackins to create second chances for his team.
With Iowa State’s four man guard rotation, their bench has become a seasoned attribute for the team. With so many guys seeing action, more passion will most likely be expressed on the hard-court as the players feel more involved in the team’s outcome. Again, the Cyclones lack much size beyond Brackins, leaving themselves vulnerable to teams with a decent physical inside presence.
Iowa has a surplus of big men in J.R. Angle (1.5 ppg), David Palmer (2.4 ppg), and Jarryd Cole(working his way back from ACL surgery). Junior college transfers Devan Bawinkel (3.3 ppg) and Jermain Davis (4.3 ppg) round out the backup guards. Davis, who was a starter at the beginning of the season, has quickly found himself coming off the bench with the emergence of Jake Kelly. Neither team is ashamed of their bench this season with Iowa’s starters logging just five more minutes per game than its Iowa State foes. Still, the lack of any size to spell Brackins gives the edge to Iowa.
Todd Lickliter and Greg McDermott each originate from mid-major backgrounds and are well versed in building programs with lesser talented squads. Both coaches preach tough defense and an offense that utilizes patience with the shot clock until an open look occurs. Fast break points seem taboo for both team philosophies. As discussed earlier, Lickliter seems to be turning the corner in Iowa City, while McDermott struggles to deal with the loss of a key cog in his offense (Wesley Johnson) and the threat of termination. Lickliter has his team holding the opposition to 55 points a game, while the Cyclones are hovering around 60. Iowa State losing to Missouri Valley Conference dregs Drake University three years in a row is also inexcusable for a once proud Big 12 program. Though, Iowa has lost twice in a row to the Bulldogs also. This speaks volumes of the sad state of basketball currently within Iowa’s two major conference schools.
Iowa State’s desperation to win will show up on the court Friday night but the Cyclones haven’t seized victory in Iowa City since 2002. Though, Iowa is currently sporting an undefeated record (6-0) at Carver so far this young season. Iowa has also faced superior opposition (Kansas State & West Virginia) than the Cyclones and have faced a tough road environment (at Boston College). Iowa State’s most difficult matchup so far this season has been at Hawaii and Northern Iowa. I don’t know what to make of the Iowa State home loss to Drake other than it’s pathetic. The Tucker suspension will hurt but not enough to severely hamper Iowa’s scoring ability. Jermain Davis and Jeff Peterson will have to step up. This game will be a sluggish contest with poor shooting all over the court. The team that can get the ball to its forwards and get to the line will pull away in the second half. I feel Iowa’s size advantage and bigger guards will allow the Hawkeyes to achieve victory.
Final Score: Iowa wins 63-54