Inside The Matchup
Your Iowa Hawkeyes carry an insane amount of youth and athleticism as they attack the 2016-17 season. They lost the four senior starters from last years club and will be a mystery for the first couple of games or so as they look for an identity. They got a nice tune up against Regis in their exhibition contest a week ago and should be in store for another one this Friday night,
Iowa welcomes in a Kennesaw State team that struggled last season. They finished sixth in the Atlantic Sun out of eight teams with a 7-7 conference record. However, they finished 11-20 overall. They are still adjusting to their new head coach, Al Skinner who will be entering his second season as the head man.
They lost a top scorer in Yonel Brown from a season ago, but do retain Kendrick Ray, who averaged nearly 19 points a game. They lack size much like the Hawkeyes do and rely a lot on their athleticism. A big thing to watch for will be the turnovers this Friday. Iowa turned Regis over 20 times in the exhibition game and the Owls turned it over 18 times against Georgia Southern. Expect Iowa to force a lot of turnovers, which will turn into easy buckets.
Skinner will be forced with the difficult task of coming up with a game plan to slow down Peter Jok. Jok looked like his dominant self a week ago against Regis and he sure was letting everyone know he was absolutely on fire. He's got to be a nightmare to try to defend and with these other athletes Iowa possesses, it's a daunting task for the opposition.
Iowa is coming off a 22-11 season and 12-6 in conference play. That was good enough for a fifth place finish and a seven seed in the NCAA Tournament. Although they had chances to be seeded much higher. The Hawkeyes are looking to make it four straight NCAA appearances and it starts Friday night.
Hawk to Rock
I'll side with Peter Jok as the easy answer. Against a team like Kennesaw State who probably lacks an elite defender to keep him in check, and with the way he came out of the gates in exhibition play shooting from the field, he should have a ton of opportunities. He's never shy in terms of searching for his shot and if he's open, he's got a free trigger. It was only exhibition play against Regis but he let it fly and decided to take over. With the amount of youth on the team and it being their first regular season game, Jok probably looks to take the reins early and often.
I'll switch it up and have a look at the talented freshman forward, Tyler Cook. Cook proved to be a menace last Friday in Iowa's exhibition win. He was everything I had anticipated he would be. He's going to be tough to guard for Al Skinner's group in the post as he is so strong, physical, and athletic. His back to the basket game was better than I thought it was and if he can connect on a few three pointers, he'll be awfully tough to guard. Look for Iowa to establish Cook early on the block, which makes room for shooters on the outside.
I like two guys with this one in point guard Christian Williams and freshman post Tyler Cook. I think Williams just knows exactly what Fran McCaffery wants from him this season, plays great defense, pushes the right buttons on offense, distributes the ball, but takes the lane and the mid-range shot when it is there. He's a steady leader, showed he can be a solid floor general, and has good grit, instincts, and intangibles.
I'll say Jordan Bohannon here. He played a healthy amount against Regis and will likely play the same amount of minutes as the year progresses. He's going to be backing up Christian Williams and his ability to shoot from long range helps as he could find himself playing off the ball. I thought they looked good with Bohannon, Williams, and Jok at guard spots last week and I believe it adds another nice wrinkle to this Iowa offense. I'll say Bohannon gets hot and buries a three of four three point baskets in his first regular season game as a Hawkeye.
IOWA 85 KENNESAW STATE 68
IOWA 87 KENNESAW STATE 71