Marty: Random Thoughts Prior to Showdown with Tech

The Hawkeyes and Red Raiders come into Monday night's showdown from very different angles. Iowa is 6-1, with its lone loss suffered in its last game against UNI…so the Hawks have had a bad taste in their mouths for almost two weeks. On the other hand, Texas Tech is 9-2 and riding a five-game winning streak. This game should give Iowa fans a good indication of how far along their favorite team has progressed. Here are some of Marty's thoughts about this game (8PM/CST ESPN)

* As an ESPN game, I wonder if half of the nation is expecting to see Brian Dennehy coaching against the Karate Kid in this one. No movie—TV or otherwise—was ever promoted more than that one.

* How will Iowa bounce back after its defeat at the hands of the Panthers in Cedar Falls? What lessons have been learned? My feeling during the loss to UNI was that the Hawks should have definitely exploited their size advantage in the post more frequently…and that a zone defense would have been effective, considering how poorly UNI shot the ball from the perimeter for the first 38 minutes. In some ways, this game will be similar in that Texas Tech doesn't have a ton of size…nor do the Red Raiders shoot the ball particularly well from three-point land (29.5%).

* I don't know if Dick Vitale is calling the game on Monday night, but if he is, I'll expect to hear a lot of comments like… "I gotta tell ya, bay-beeee…it's the student against the mass-tah tonight! Ya gotta love it the way they're gettin' after it out here! When you talk about guys who wanna compete…you gotta talk about the Red Raiders and Hawkeyes!" Of course, this type of rambling will have absolutely nothing to do with the action at hand…nor will it include any commentary about the Iowa players, at least not by name. Just a lot of "Robert Montgomery Knight" blather and "Coach Steve Alford is a rising star" stuff. Yawn. It's not that I don't find some of the personal stories and so forth interesting, at times, but you know what? When the shot clock is running down in a two-point game, I don't want to see a team photo of the 1987 Hoosiers. I really don't.

* Texas Tech's first loss was an 85-65 pasting at the hands of Georgia Tech. The Red Raiders shot 39% from the field and just 16 of 26 (62%) at the free-throw line. Andre Emmett was 13 of 19 at the line by himself, so the rest of the team was 3 of 7. Ouch. Texas Tech was out-rebounded 38 to 34. The Red Raiders finished that game with only 6 assists and made 16 turnovers. Meanwhile, Georgia Tech had six guys in double figures, shot 56% from the floor and made 7 of 17 three-pointers (41%).

* Texas Tech's second loss was a 62-59 upset at SMU on December 1. The Red Raiders shot 43% from the floor, but were only 3 of 6 at the line. Tech was out-rebounded 36 to 35. The Red Raiders had a poor assist to turnover ratio again…14 assists and 18 turnovers. Plus, they only made 2 of 17 three-pointers (12%). Yikes!

* Since then, Texas Tech has won five games in a row. The Red Raiders drilled Sam Houston State, 97-63, last Wednesday.

* Emmett is obviously Bob Knight's best player. The 6-5 senior guard leads the Big 12 in scoring at 21.3 points per game. He also averages 7.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 2.0 steals and 34.8 minutes, while shooting 56% from the field and 73% from the line. However, Emmett is NOT a big-time three-point threat, making only four three-pointers in the first 11 games. I think Iowa should DENY, DENY, DENY him the ball and then sit down off him from the arc—in order to create better angles to stop his penetration—until he makes a couple from downtown. In addition, the Hawks will really have to work to keep Emmett off the glass, especially at the offensive end where he has over half of his rebounds.

* Knight's second-best player may well be a freshman. Jarrius Jackson is a 6-1 rookie guard who averages 10.1 points, 2.6 boards, 2.3 assists, 2.5 steals and 29.3 minutes. However, he's only shooting 35% from the floor and 24% (10 of 41) from three-point land. I find it interesting that no other Red Raider has attempted more than 18 three-pointers through 11 games. Not much balance—or effectiveness, for that matter—from behind the arc. This is a definite weakness that can be exploited in the half-court game. Iowa should be able to double down on post players more aggressively and DEFINITELY limit penetration because Tech simply doesn't have the shooters to make you pay for sagging into the paint.

* Did I just jinx the Hawks like crazy or what? Will this be the ONE game all season that the Red Raiders make some three-pointers? Will Gerald Paddio and Freddie Banks all of a sudden suit up for Coach Knight? Let's hope not. We've seen that sort of thing before…it's not a fun experience.

* I would like to receive $5 for every time that an ESPN announcer uses the phrase "motion offense" on Monday night. That's all I'm asking for. Two dollars…each time. Then, I will retire on Tuesday.

* The over/under on how much time into the ESPN broadcast before we see a highlight of Alford playing for Indiana and Coach Knight: 14 seconds. Place your bets.

* I'm still not sure why Jared Reiner only played 20 minutes against UNI. Iowa's senior center will need to be on the floor for at least 25 minutes against Texas Tech for the Hawkeyes to win. The scary thing is that Reiner has only played more than 24 minutes in a game ONCE this season so far…when he played 35 minutes against Louisville.

* It would be great to see Jeff Horner break out of his three-point shooting slump—23% this season—with two or three bombs against Texas Tech. Horner has done everything else so well this year, but it seems that the one thing he's struggled at is the main thing people want to talk about. The sophomore point guard has a tendency to shoot a flat shot from long distance, especially when he's shooting off the dribble going to his left. I think if he exaggerated the arch on his shot a bit for a while and really concentrated on shooting it "up" and not "out"…Horner might be able to add a terrific dimension to the Hawkeye offense.

* I hope the Hawks really look to get the ball to Reiner and Greg Brunner in the low- and mid-post areas against the Red Raiders. I think these two guys can get high-percentage shots and/or draw fouls with consistency. But, they have to get the ball consistently in those positions to be most effective.

* In 36 minutes of playing time this season, Glen Worley has 10 personal fouls. This might well be another good reason to incorporate a little more zone defense into the game plan. Hopefully, Worley will start to hit his stride as we enter the new year. The Hawks could really use a solid senior season from the Iowa City native.

* Sean Sonderleiter had 11 games last season scoring in double-figures. He has not accomplished that feat yet during his senior season. One of these nights, he's going to come off the bench with a 12-point, 8-rebound effort. Wouldn't it be nice to see that against Texas Tech?

* If the Hawkeyes beat the Red Raiders on Monday night, how long before Bob Knight speaks to Steve Alford again? Hmmm.

(Marty Gallagher founded the popular web site IowaSportsOpinions.com. You can e-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)


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