Inside the Matchup
The Iowa Basketball team will face without a doubt their toughest test this Friday when they take on the seventh ranked Virginia in the Emerald Coast Classic.
They lost quite a bit from last years team in guys like Mike Tobey, Anthony Gill, and we can't forget about the ACC Player of the Year in Malcolm Brogdon. That trio averaged 39 points and 14 rebounds a game last season for Tony Bennett's crew. Seems like a lot to replace, right?
Well, early on it doesn't look like it. They look like the same old Cavaliers we've seen in past seasons. They trap you on defense and are just down right suffocating on that end of the floor. They have proved that this season by leading the nation in scoring defense at 39 points per game.
The still have their leader, London Perrantes, who is one of the most experienced players in the nation. He's played significant minutes in all four seasons he's been in Charlottesville.
Surrounding Perrantes are other experienced players like juniors Isaiah Wilkins, Devon Hall, and Darius Thompson. These four and big man Jack Salt make up Bennett's starting five.
However, the strongest part of Bennett's team might be his bench. Players like true freshman Kyle Guy and redshirt freshman Mamadi Diakite have been phenomenal early on in the year for the Hoos. Marial Shayiok is the teams leading scorer and he also comes of the bench. The Cavaliers have the perfect mix of experience and youth this season.
The Hawkeyes and Cavaliers have met twice in their history with the Hawkeyes claiming both contests. The latest coming back in 2013 when the Hawkeyes knocked Virginia out of the NIT.
The Hawkeyes will need their A game against a talented and disciplined Virginia team on Friday.
Hawk to Rock
Virginia is too elite of a team and defense to let Peter Jok explode on them. This is a defensive-minded bunch and the best defensive team in college basketball. They're going to make anyone but Peter Jok beat them. You'll see a lot of that throughout this year. They're also a smart enough and savvy enough team that I can see them force freshman Tyler Cook into foul trouble. I can see that popping up more than fans want to see this year and I think it happens for the first time Friday evening. Virginia is just too sound and too technical of a team. They are a terrible matchup for Iowa in my honest opinion.
So who steps up and emerges with some of their top options being eliminated? They'll turn Christian Williams into a long-range jump shooter and that's not his game so I can see him having struggles from the field. The couple players that can give Virginia problems are the perimeter players that can go off the dribble and shoot. Virginia is wise enough to lock up one-dimensional players. The guys from the perimeter that aren't, and are experienced enough, are Dom Uhl and Nicholas Baer. They'll especially get looks with Jok receiving all the attention. Baer is shooting better right now so he'd be my pick in this one but it likely won't be enough.
Derek hit the nail on the head describing Bennett's bunch. They are just unbelievably disciplined. They don't make mistakes, they take smart shots, and they force you into things that you don't necessarily enjoy doing on the court. Peter Jok will get his, mostly because he'll take a majority of the shots for Iowa. But I do think he struggles a bit. Cook might have his way with big man, Jack Salt, but he'll see double teams for a majority of the night. If Cook does find success against Salt, look for Bennett to turn to a smaller more athletic defender to challenge Cook.
They are going to pressure the ball too much for Christian Williams or Jordan Bohannon to get anything going. So, I look for a dark horse in this game. Baer is a good pick, but I'll take Dom Uhl. I think Virginia is going to force someone else to beat them and Uhl likely gets some open looks. If he's active on the glass at both ends, I can see him scoring 10-15 points and grabbing 7 or 8 rebounds. Look for Uhl to step up on Friday evening.
The way Iowa can compete heavily in this one and give themselves an opportunity is if they defend, of course, which will be the trend this season but also if Tyler Cook can capitalize close to the rim with Jok being limited to an extent. If he can stay out of foul trouble on the defensive end, and stay on the floor regularly and be efficient from the field, that levels this one out much more. I don't think that happens but if this one remains close throughout, that's likely the reason why. He's not a sleeper, but him emerging and carrying the team against a Final Four caliber squad would be a surprise.
This is a tricky one because the usual sleepers are our Hawks to Rock for this one. We know Jok and Cook are going to be game planned for by Bennett, but they are still talented enough players that they are going to score. No disrespect to Grambling State, but they don't have the players that Iowa does. So Virginia faces their toughest test this year as well. As a true freshman, you can struggle with a great defensive team like Virginia, which is likely from Tyler Cook. However, I think he does have a nice game. Cook totals 12 points and five boards quietly for the Hawkeyes.
I think Virginia plays too smart, too good of defense, and will take advantage of a team that plays a lot of younger players. The Cavaliers are known for being efficient from the floor, taking care of the basketball, and locking up the best offensive players and teams in the country. This is just one of those matchups that is never going to be a good one for Iowa. I see Virginia pulling away in the opener of the Emerald Coast Classic in Destin, Florida.
VIRGINIA 83 IOWA 68
Obviously this is Iowa's toughest test of the young season. I think they're going to learn a lot about themselves, but they likely come up short against a very good Virginia team. They're more experienced than the Hawkeyes are and more disciplined. Iowa keeps it close for a portion of the game, but Virginia pulls away towards the end.
VIRGINIA 78 IOWA 67