Iowa tips off tonight against Marquette, a typically strong basketball program that usually enters the NCAA Tournament at the end of the year. The Hawkeyes have built their program up to that standard as well, making the field each of the last two seasons.
Fran McCaffery's team travels to Milwaukee to take on the Golden Eagles who are 1-1. Marquette lost their opener to Belmont 83-80 but prevailed over IUPUI 75-71 in overtime.
In ways, this could be a tough matchup for Iowa. It's their first contest against a team with proven players in the frontcourt that possess a lot of size. It is intriguing to see how Fran McCaffery will try to mitigate that. Post players Luke Fischer (6-11/245) and Henry Ellenson (6-11/245) bring a lot to the table for Marquette. Fischer is a quality big man with very good interior moves. Ellenson is more versatile in that he can step outside and knock shots down as well.
Wally Ellenson plays the wing for the Golden Eagles but has a lot of length at 6-foot-6. He would seem to be an ideal pairing with Jarrod Uthoff of Iowa. The trick will be how Iowa handles their three-guard lineup of Peter Jok, Anthony Clemmons, and Mike Gesell if Marquette employs Henry Ellenson, Wally Ellenson, and Luke Fischer on the court at the same time. Wally Ellenson did only log 10 minutes of floor time against IUPUI as Sandy Cohen III has been utilized more on the wing.
On the outside, there's a lot to like in Marquette's Duane Wilson and freshman Haanif Cheatham. Wilson is someone that can attack the rim and hit with a lot of consistency from the perimeter. He's a legitimate scorer. Cheatham is young but super talented. His penetration and quickness out of the break gives the Golden Eagles a lot of instant offense.
For Iowa, Peter Jok is expected to return to the starting lineup after missing the Coppin State game with an ankle injury. The projected lineup would then be Jok, Mike Gesell, Anthony Clemmons, Adam Woodbury, and Jarrod Uthoff once again.
Jok was scoring at will before the injury through the first two exhibition games and then again before the injury caught up to him against Gardner-Webb. Uthoff has been on fire as well. Gesell has been dishing out assists with a lot of regularity as well, totaling 21 through the first two regular season games. The offense has gotten much more in sync than what we saw from the Hawkeyes during exhibition play.
The bench seemed to take a big step as well, with quality play coming from Ahmad Wagner, Dale Jones, Brady Ellingson, Dom Uhl, and Nicholas Baer. That just might be the five guys off the bench to form the 10-man rotation that head coach Fran McCaffery wants.
Marquette is a great road test at the beginning of the year but they're still figuring things out while the Hawkeyes are improving on defense and rebounding and their offense has been clicking.
I think the Hawkeyes prevail tonight, and I'll say a score of around 84-77. The challenge will be defending the post so Adam Woodbury is going to have to step up and be a wall against the size the Golden Eagles can employ. Uthoff will also have to defend the post more in this one. Foul trouble is expected and it will be crucial to get great defensive post minutes out of Ahmad Wagner, Dale Jones, and Dom Uhl as well. I think the Hawkeyes will be just fine on offense with the way they have shot and shared the ball lately.
HAWK TO ROCK
My top player in this one is going to be Ahmad Wagner, the true freshman for Iowa. I have a feeling that with the size of Marquette that there will be early foul trouble for Adam Woodbury. They'll mix and match to fill his void on the floor since they don't have a true center behind him but Wagner has earned the playing time and is one of the firsts off the bench. His rebounding and defensive tenacity could be just what the doctor ordered in this one to compete with the Golden Eagles' bigs.