Hoops Preview: Iowa
Date: Thursday, November 20
Time: 6:00 Central
Location: New York, NY (Madison Square Garden)
After two 30+ point blowouts, Texas gets its first test of the season (and it’s a significant one at that) when they take on the Iowa Hawkeyes in Madison Square Garden as part of the semifinal round in the 2K Classic. Iowa, who sits just outside the top 25 in AP voting, returns 9 rotational players from a team that advanced to the NCAA tournament last year before bowing out to eventual Sweet 16 Tennessee.
The Hawkeyes are guided by fifth year head coach Fran McCaffrey and pose one of the most fascinating matchups for Texas this entire season. They have a combination of size and skill that, in some ways, mirrors the Longhorns. They also have a penchant for getting up and down the floor and attacking the defense with ball movement by their guards as well as their forwards.
Full disclosure, I live about 25 minutes from the University of Iowa campus and U of I is the team I follow second most (it’s a distant second, but I still pay pretty close attention). To that same end, one of their leading scorers (Jarrod Uthoff) is a former student at the high school I teach at, so it’s a team that I have some connection with knowing Jarrod from the time I’ve spent with him during his high school career.
This is going to be a good game.
The Hawkeyes look to be led by 6’8” senior forward Aaron White (14.5 pts, 7.5 rbs, 5.5 asts through Iowa’s first two games this season). White is a player with a similar skillset to Texas’ Connor Lammert, only White is quite more productive. Comfortable with the ball all the way out to the three point line, White is equally adept at shooting, facilitating or penetrating depending on what the defense is giving him at that time. If anything, White is almost too passive in his willingness to get the rest of his teammates involved, but that’s also the m.o. for the Hawkeyes as they will go a legit 10 deep and are without a true, break down point guard (more on that later), so they rely on even their best players to be unselfish, capable facilitators. A matchup of Lammert/Turner and White will be interesting because of White’s ability to put the ball on the deck. Texas’ forwards will need to be ready to move their feet in recovery or will get put into foul trouble.
Length and skill. There aren’t many teams in the country that can match Texas’ height and talent in in the frontcourt, but the Hawkeyes come about as close as anybody. Iowa can throw out crazy tall lineups just as the Longhorns can as their length is simultaneously athletic and skilled. The Hawkeyes start 7’0” Adam Woodbury, 6’8” Aaron White and 6’8” Jarrod Uthoff and all three are good movers with or without the ball. But then U of I can counter with 6’9” Gabe Olaseni (their best interior defender and rebounder) and 6’6” shooters Peter Jok and Josh Oglesby. There’s not a player in that mix who Texas could ignore on either side of the floor. The Hawkeyes are long on talent and skill.
Pace. Iowa wants to get up and down the floor as much as possible. As a bit of an anomaly in the Big 10, the Hawkeyes ranked 9th overall last year in scoring per game (no other Big 10 team was in the top 50) and they’ve begun this year with more of the same (scoring 90 points against Hampton and 87 against NDSU on Monday). Texas wants to run as well, but the Hawkeyes will be quite comfortable going at Texas’ speed, so the Longhorns will need to match Iowa’s efficiency.
Point guard play. The Hawkeyes will start tandem combo guards in Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemens, but neither are true point guards. This was one of the pieces that undid the Hawkeyes last year as Iowa’s offense was so dependent upon since departed Roy Devyn Marble. Thus far, through their two games, Iowa has gotten excellent team passing (including a combined 12 assists per game average from their forwards and wings), but will those numbers work against a team with the talent and athleticism of Texas? If the game comes down to Gesell or Clemens having to make a play off the dribble, the Longhorns should have the advantage.
Defense through athleticism. Iowa is not a bad defensive team, but they depend on their length and anticipation skills on defense more than the do their athleticism. That makes them susceptible to dribble penetration and ball movement, especially around the three point line. Case in point, while, overall, the Hawkeyes kept opposition to only 31% from three for the season last year, that percentage ballooned to 36% during conference play. Teams that can test Iowa, physically, can hurt a solid, but unspectacular, Hawkeye defense. If Texas can be even okay from deep, this game is very winnable.
Texas Keys: Offense
Isaiah Taylor. Iowa and Texas are remarkably even matched up and down the lineup…except at point guard. Taylor has the quickness and ball control to dictate action against the Hawkeyes and should be able to turn the corner against Clemens. Which, in turn, should force Iowa’s big men to rotate leaving open spacing for the Longhorns’ big men to find offensive rebounds or space for drop offs. If Taylor looks like a possible All-American against the Hawkeyes, Texas should win fairly easily. If he doesn’t, it’s going to be a dogfight.
Shotmaking near the basket. So far this season, Texas is shooting 52% overall, which is very good. But beyond that, they have also garnered offensive rebounds on 46% of their missed shots. Those are pretty crazy numbers – indicative of the talent differential between Texas and the teams they’ve played – but those types of percentages are exacerbated by the Longhorns ability to finish near the rim with all their bigs. The biggest difference between the Iowas of the worlds and the Alcorn States of the world is that finishing against Alcorn State from shot to shot isn’t a huge issue considering their lack of ability to hurt good teams on the offensive end. Finishing against the Hawkeyes? That will be essential.
Texas Keys: Defense
Guarding the three. Taylor, Holland, Yancy and Felix will do just fine, defensively, against Clemens and Gesell. Ridley, Ibeh, Turner and Lammert will do comparably fine against Woodbury and Olaseni. But what about Holmes or Barnett against Uthoff or White? That’s where Texas’ big lineup could cause issues as both Uthoff and White are skilled enough jump shooters to draw their defenders out to the perimeter, but also good enough penetrators that they can make us pay for late rotation. If Iowa wins this game, it will likely be because Texas struggled to shut down White, Uthoff, Jok and Oglesby.
Transition defense. Iowa will push on makes and misses alike and the Longhorns must limit the free shooting opportunities they afford the Hawkeyes. Once again, this will test Holmes as he’s forced to chase a wing player in transition instead of a power forward. It will be key for Texas to play the defensive release with awareness as the Longhorns will also want to crash the offensive glass.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if this Hawkeye team played its way into a top four or five seed come NCAA tournament time next March. They have the depth, the veteran leadership and the scoring ability to play with anybody in the country and could be a sleeper team come tourney time.
That being said. Their strengths (interior height/depth, wing playmaking, pace) work pretty directly into Texas’.
Plus Texas has Taylor and is arguably better at every position (with the possible exception being if White has a terrific game at the four).
I fully expect this game to be an up and down, close affair.
But, in the end, Taylor will prove himself to be the All-American contender he is as the Longhorns pull away over the last 15 minutes.
Prediction: Texas 89 – Alcorn State 80
Projected Starting Lineup
GAMEDAY QUICK FACTS
• RADIO: The Longhorn Sports Network and KVET (FM 98.1/1300AM Sportsradio the Zone) broadcast every UT game on the statewide network. Craig Way (pxp) and Eddie Oran (analyst) will call the action.
• SERIES: Tied, 2-2. Last meeting: Texas 85-60 (Nov. 23, 2009; Kansas City).
TEXAS VS. IOWA
• Thursday’s contest marks the fifth meeting between Texas and Iowa. The two teams have split the previous four contests.
• It does mark the fourth time since the start of the 2004-05 season that the two schools have met in a November neutral-site tournament.
• In the first meeting, Iowa recorded a 98-92 victory on March 19, 1992 during a NCAA First Round contest in Greensboro, N.C.
• The Hawkeyes then topped Texas 82-80 in the 2004 EA Sports Maui Invitational semifinals (Nov. 23, 2004).
• Then-No. 2 Texas registered a 68-59 win against No. 18 Iowa in the title game of the 2005 Guardians Classic in Kansas City (Nov. 23, 2005).
• Then-No. 3 Texas posted an 85-60 victory in the O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic semifinals in Kansas City (Nov. 23, 2009).
ALCORN STATE POSTGAME NOTES
• Texas registered win No. 1,700 in program history with the victory against Alcorn State. The Horns now sport an all-time record of 1,700-1,008 (.628) in 109 years of intercollegiate basketball. Texas became the 17th program in NCAA Division I history to reach the 1,700-win mark.
• UT held Alcorn State scoreless for more than six minutes to begin the contest. The Braves did not score their first point until the 13:34 mark on a free throw. Texas did not allow a made field goal until 9:28 remained in the half. Alcorn State went 0-of-14 from the floor to start the game.
• Texas limited Alcorn State to 53 points on 29.7% FG shooting (19-of-64). UT improved to 239-26 in the Barnes era when holding its opponent below 40% FG shooting.
• UT posted a +19 rebound margin (47-28). This marked the second straight game to open the season that the Horns have registered a +19 rebound margin (51-32 against North Dakota State on Friday).
• Texas recorded 24 assists on its 32 made field goals. For the game, the Horns had 24 assists against just 12 turnovers.
• Demarcus Holland reached double figures in scoring (10 points) for the 12th time in his career (71 games).
• Connor Lammert set a career high with seven assists without a turnover in 17 minutes played. His previous high was four against Iowa State (Feb. 13, 2013). Lammert had six of his seven assists in the first half.
• Isaiah Taylor reached double figures in scoring (12 points) for the 29th time in his career (37 games).
• Myles Turner reached double figures in scoring (10 points) for the second straight game to open his collegiate career. He added six blocks and seven rebounds in 20 minutes of action. His six blocks were one shy of the UT single-game freshman record (7 by Tristan Thompson in 2010-11, 7 by Chris Mihm
twice in 1997-98
Solid defense has been a trademark of the Texas program under Rick Barnes. Since Barnes arrived in Austin, the Horns have held 265 of their 550 opponents to under 40% FG shooting. Texas sports a 239-26 (.902) mark in the Barnes era when accomplishing the feat (2-0 mark in 2014-15).
• UT has held its first two opponents to an average of 51.5 ppg on a combined 28.6% FG shooting (36-of-126).
• Texas limited NDSU (Nov. 14) to 50 points on 27.4% FG shooting (17-of-62), including a 7-of-29 (.241) mark from three-point range. The Horns held the Bison to 18 points on 21.4% FG shooting (6-of-28) in the first half.
• Texas held Alcorn State (Nov. 16) to 53 points on 29.7% FG shooting (19-of-64).