Both Iowa and Northern Iowa head to Des Moines this evening to square off in a neutral site, in-state rivalry game between two programs seemingly going in opposite directions. Iowa is coming into this game with a rather impressive resume up to this point, with their only 2 losses coming to ranked conference opponents and a win over another ranked opponent in Oregon.
Northern Iowa, on the other hand, comes into this game as losers of 3 of their last 4. This includes losses of almost 20 and 30 points to Utah State and Old Dominion respectively. I think that the 2 biggest takeaways from this early season scheduling is that Iowa has seemingly beat everyone they should, competed with upper-level teams, and struggled in their only game vs. an elite team. UNI really hasn’t faced anyone of Iowa’s caliber this season and they are 4-5 with a few pretty bad losses.
Big Ten’s Hawkeyes Want to Play Big
Iowa is led in scoring by 6’9 junior Tyler Cook. Cook is averaging 16/8/2 this season on 57% shooting from the field. Cook is generally an interior scorer, with just 3 3-pointers made in his 3 year career. Luka Garza is the name that probably interests me the most from an impact standpoint in this game. Garza has been really productive this season as a 6’11 sophomore, but he has struggled to see minutes relative to most guys with his production. We haven’t started to see more minutes trend to Garza yet, but if he continues his efficient play, it should only be a matter of time. I would prefer to see more Garza in this game than we probably will, but 25 minutes is probably a solid minutes projection for the Hawkeyes second leading scorer.
Joe Wieskamp is a freshman who was a star player in his high school days in Iowa. Wieskamp has been rather productive to start the year shooting close to 40% from the 3-point line. Wieskamp will square off with UNI’s leading scorer AJ Green, who is his lifelong friend, in this game if you are looking to watch a little narrative throughout the game.
Panthers Looking for Upset
AJ Green is UNI’s most consistent producer to start the year off. Green is shooting over 92% from the free throw line and 33% from 3. I expect the free throw % to trend down a bit, but the 3-point production to swing up, which I think will even have an overall net positive on his production. Green is UNI’s only scorer to average over 10 points per game, which is somewhat concerning facing an Iowa team that has four players averaging 9.9 points a game or more.
UNI is desperately looking for more scoring options early in this season and it shows in their minutes distribution. No one is playing over 29 minutes a game and no one is really producing at a rate that catches my attention. The biggest problem this UNI team has has is getting the ball in the hoop. They are shooting just 30% from 3 and 40% from the field. Those are both really big problems. Sometimes early in the season, we can write this off due to variance. This doesn’t really seem like the case, as these stats are just slightly worse than last year.
Hawkeyes Top Panthers
The biggest concern I have when picking this game is the emotions behind it. A lot of kids from UNI have grown up Iowa fans and never got the opportunity to play at Iowa. This can really motivate kids to show out in a game like this. I would be rather shocked if this game was super close, but I could see UNI staying in this game due to the emotional aspect. When it comes down to basketball, Iowa is drastically better. I will take the Hawkeyes (-10.5). I really think that this game is probably over with about 10 minutes to go.