THANK THE GOOD LORD THAT THE 2016 FOOTBALL SEASON IS OVER FOR NOTRE DAME!
That’s gotta be the overwhelming sentiment coming from Fighting Irish fans, as now they can all turn to (if they hadn’t already) their beloved basketball team that has started the year 6-0 and looks to continue that winning streak against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
The Hawkeyes enter the game on Tuesday night with a 3-3 record, having lost fairly close ones to Seton Hall and Memphis and also having been blown out by #7 Virginia. Iowa is a young team looking to replace a ton of senior talent from last year’s 7th-seeded squad, so to learn more about the Hawkeyes, I talked to Ben Ross, managing editor at Black Heart Gold Pants.
Learn a little something about Iowa basketball below, and you may even be rewarded with a fantastic Fran McCaffery GIF!!!!!
1. Looking at last year's stats and this year's roster, it looks like the Hawkeyes lost 4 of their top 5 players in terms of minutes played, 56% of their scoring, and 54% of their rebounding from the 2015-2016 team that was a 7 seed and fell to eventual champion Villanova in the Round of 32. Who is stepping into those open roles and will Iowa be able to match all of that experienced production it lost?
Right now, who's filling in those roles is a huge question mark, if that's what you can even call it. Rebounding-wise, no one is stepping it up really. The lone returning upperclassman besides Peter Jok, Dom Uhl, leads the team in boards at around 5 rpg, but that's not great considering he's not a scoring or defensive threat, so he's averaging just under 20 minutes a game.
Former walk-on and sophomore Nicholas Baer is probably Iowa's best defender, but he has a tendency to get in foul trouble and is wildly inconsistent.
People criticized Adam Woodbury all throughout his tenure at Iowa (myself included) but his defense is certainly missed this year.
2. Iowa has dropped a few games early this season, but all three losses have been to good teams/programs (Seton Hall, #7 Virginia, Memphis). What did those games show about what the Hawkeyes need to improve as this season moves forward?
Those games really showed this team is young and exposed how weak Iowa is defensively. We had a chance to take down Seton Hall and Memphis, but this team hasn't really learned how to close out games or run Fran's system to the way he pleases. They also showed Jok is more or less the end-all-be-all scorer for this team.
3. Peter Jok is really the lone holdover from last year's core group. He's averaging a ridiculous 25 points per game right now and is clearly this team's go-to-guy. Will this team need him to carry them, and if so, how far do you think he can take them? What does he do best?
This team can only go as far as Jok can take them. And even then, it will need some help. Jok scored 42 against Memphis and I would still say that was about as decisive as an 8-point loss there is. Iowa allowed 100 points, so even if Jok puts up 50 a game this team is going to need to learn how to protect its own rim.
4. There are a lot of underclassmen seeing a lot of time so far this season. Who are you most excited about in terms of their potential over the next few years?
That answer has to be Tyler Cook. That guy can JAM.
He's Iowa's best scoring threat after Jok, and there are already rumors that he could be heading to the draft after his sophomore year.
5. Notre Dame definitely lacks a lot of quality size down low, as star forward Bonzie Colson is really only about 6'6" and starting center Martin Geben is still developing his game. How do you see the Hawkeyes big men matching up in the paint?
What Hawkeye big men? Seriously though, it sounds like these two teams match up well, since even though Iowa has a size advantage, we're still sort of learning how to use it most effectively.
Cook will likely be the go-to guy to match up in the paint, with Dom Uhl appearing there sporadically there as well. Also look for freshman Cordell Pemsl, who's seeing more PT as the season goes on.
6. ND is a very perimeter-oriented team with great passing abilities and some guards that are great at taking the ball to the hoop. Do you think Iowa will have an answer for Matt Farrell, Steve Vasturia, VJ Beachem, etc. as they penetrate into the lane and rain threes from the outside?
That sounds a lot like how Seton Hall took down Iowa, which isn't great!
If those guys are comparable to the quartet that handled Iowa, then no, I don't see Iowa having any sort of answer.
7. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery is now 121-89 in his time at Iowa and the team has never gotten past the round of 32. What are your thoughts on him and whether or not he is the right guy for the job?
I'm a huge fan of Fran. I think about 90 percent of fans would echo that sentiment. If you look at the state of the program when he inherited it, it is unquestionably in better shape. He's not without his criticisms, and these next two or three years are huge for him, but overall I'm #AllIn on Fran.
8. Dance-off between McCaffery and Mike Brey - who wins and what songs do each of them dance to?
9. If you're assembling your group to roam around with in the zombie apocalypse, who would you choose (from either team) to be in your group to ensure you survive and thrive in that kind of world?
Give me Tyler Cook or give me death.
10. Give me your game prediction including a score and your reasoning behind the prediction, along with anything else Irish fans should know heading into this game
My final prediction is ND 90, Iowa 80.
I think this game is close for about 30 minutes or so, but the Domers pull away since Iowa just can't compete defensively for a full game.
I think Mike Brey cooks up a plan to stop Jok that mostly works, and Tyler Cook and Nicholas Baer can only do so much themselves. Iowa has no answers for your experienced lineup, and fumbles away the ball multiple times.
I want to extend a big thank you to Ben for answering all of my questions about the Hawkeyes, and encourage you all to head to Black Heart Gold Pants for any and all Iowa basketball news as the two teams prepare to square off at Purcell Pavilion!