The Hoos are in Destin, FL for the Emerald Coast Classic. Their first matchup is tonight against the Iowa Hawkeyes. This poses the first real test for the Hoos this season, as the Hawkeyes boast one of the top offenses in the nation.
Last year, the Hawkeyes ranked 25th in the nation in offensive efficiency. They finished 22-11, losing in the round of 32 to eventual champion Villanova. They swept Michigan State, but also lost to Penn State and lost in the Big Ten tournament to Illinois. This year, they are 3-1, with a loss to Seton Hall and 3 wins over bad teams. They've put up over 96 points per game, ranking eighth in the country in points. They're 44th, though, in offensive efficiency, aided by playing at the 11th fastest tempo in the country.
Last year's team was a senior laden team, led by PF Jarrod Uthoff who averaged 18 points and eight rebounds per game. PG Mike Gisell was one of the top PGs in the nation, averaging over 6 assists per game. Only one starter returns: Peter Jok, who averaged over 16 points per game and shot over 40% from beyond the arc. So far this year, he's tenth in the nation in scoring, averaging over 24 points per game. He's shooting over 50% from the field and over 38% from three. He's a 6'6" 205 pound wing, so he'll figure to see a lot of Devon Hall and Marial Shayok.
The Hawkeye's second leading scorer is 6'9" freshman Tyler Cook. He was the #8 PF in the nation coming out of HS and he's living up to it, averaging about 15 points per game. For such a big man though, his average of under five rebounds per game is surprising. He's a beast inside, and he can also step out and hit a jumper, he's a terrible FT shooter, so the Hoos will not hesitate to put him on the line if he has a chance inside. Jack Salt will have his hands full, but Cook hasn't seen anybody with Salt's physicality yet in his career.
Those are the only two Hawkeyes averaging double figures. They have a lot of guys averaging between 5 and 10 points per game. But large amounts of that production have come in garbage time against overmatched opponents. Against Seton Hall, Jok and Cook combined for 54 out of the team's 83 points. Junior wing Dom Uhl had eight points (and 10 rebounds) and sophomore point guard Christian Williams had six points and four assists.
The Hawkeyes have shot the ball well from outside so far this year, but again much of that came from guys who aren't going to get a ton of minutes against the Hoos. For example, sophomore Brady Ellingson is 7/11 from 3 this year, but he only played five minutes against the Pirates. He lit it up for 23 points in 19 minutes against Savannah State. He may get more than 5 minutes against the Hoos, simply because the Hawkeyes need somebody to spread out the Pack Line and take the pressure off Jok.
The Hawkeyes can score, but their defense is struggling with so many new faces. Last year's team finished 30th in the country in defense. This year, without last year’s senior veterans, that has fallen to 74th. Yes, it is early, but teams are lighting it up from outside against their wings, and also winning the rebounding battle.
Iowa is going to try to speed up the game. This year, that is their MO. Jok wants to run and gun. Cook is a beast in transition. And their shooters love to spot up in transition. But, as we all know, speeding up the Hoos isn't easy. And Tony Bennett knows what Iowa wants to do, and he'll have his guys ready. London Perrantes isn't going to get sped up.
And even if the game does get sped up, the Hoos simply have too much firepower, too much depth and too much talent for Iowa.