Ed. note - Football is over, so what the heck are you gonna watch? Basketball, that's what. Each week, our resident national hoops expert Ryan Stevens will break down the best matchups involving Big Ten squads. Take it away, Ryan.
A year ago, everyone was on top of the Hawkeyes as the sleeper team in the Big Ten and a potential Cinderella in the NCAA tournament. On the Ames side of things, Iowa State welcomed themselves as a staple in the Big XII ushered in with the sensational antics of Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane. If it weren't for a late collapse in the second half, Iowa would have walked out of one of the toughest buildings in the country to play in (Hilton Collesium) with a big time win early in the season. An uncharacteristic turnover from Aaron White doomed the Hawkeyes allowing ISU to come away with an 85-82 thriller. Don't expect anything different this year from the two teams on Friday night.
Tale of the Tape
Iowa State Cyclones (6-1)
The Cyclones are coming off a 73-56 over UMKC on Tuesday night. UNLV transfer Bryce Dejean-Jones led Iowa State with 22 points followed by sophomore guard Monte Morris with 11. Dejean-Jones, along with one of the most hated match ups in the country, junior forward Georges Niang, lead the ninth best scoring offense in the country averaging 19.5 and 16.3 points per game respectively. Niang's efforts have increased on the glass this year averaging 6.5 rebounds per game, almost two more than last season's average, with the departures of Ejim and Kane from last year's team.
Morris has responded well stepping into the starting point guard role this year averaging a team-high 6.0 assists per game good for a tie at 20th in the nation. Fred Hoiberg's offense is a dream for any point guard who is developing their shot and willing to distribute the ball in a hurry. That's what is even more impressive about this team. There really isn't a true point guard that has to orient the offense. The freedom for the four guards to float around the perimeter and allow Niang to create mismatches are why Iowa State will be another tough top-20 team this year in the Big XII.
Player to keep an eye on: Senior forward Dustin Hogue (12.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.2 apg)
There aren't a lot of players that rebound with the intensity Hogue brings every night for the Cyclones. The offense is predicated around a lot of transition opportunities and someone has to be the catalyst inside to help out Niang as much as possible. Hogue isn't a tremendous outside shooter but he can play a good amount of pick-and-pop action with these versatile Iowa State guards. For the majority of the non-conference schedule last year, Iowa State was top 10 nationally in points, assists and rebounds per game. This year, they find themselves ninth in assists per game, 10th in points per game, but 225th in rebounds per game. Hogue needs to be a presence on Friday if the Clones stand a chance against the taller Iowa low post presence.
Iowa Hawkeyes (8-2)
Iowa is coming off a win as well, beating Alcorn State 67-44 on Tuesday. It must be some rule that if you have the word 'corn' in your name, then you're morally obliged to play some school in Iowa once a year. It was not a game that Jimmy Chitwood would be proud of. The teams combined to shoot 3 for 27 from outside, with all three made shots coming from the Hawkeyes. Senior forward Aaron White, senior center Gabriel Olaseni, junior forward Jarrod Uthoff and freshman forward (and former PSU target) Dom Uhl each scored in double digits. White leads the team in scoring this year averaging 15.7 so far while trying to fill the void left by Roy Devyn Marble.
White was the guy with the hot hand last year missing four shots on 15 attempts to keep Iowa close in the second half. If Iowa State chooses to go with their typical four guard lineup, expect junior guard Naz Long to try to run White off a lot of screen action and make him shoot from the outside. If ISU goes big with Northern Illinois-transfer Abdel Nader to complement the bigger Hawkeye lineup, it's conceivable that Hogue will draw White defensively. Junior guard Mike Gesell has played masterfully in taking on much more of a leadership role and was a key component in the Hawkeyes' win in Chapel Hill just a couple weeks ago.
Player to keep an eye on: Junior center Adam Woodbury (8.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg)
One of the most decorated recruits in Iowa basketball history needs to show up as the best big man in this game on Friday night - Woodbury averages only 7.0 ppg and 8.0 ppg in his two career Iowa/Iowa State match ups. Defensively, Woodbury has to stay out of foul trouble, unlike last year, and recognize he's going to have to come away from the basket to guard Niang. He's shown he has the footwork to keep up with non-traditional low post players, but he has to stay available to be a big enough force as well.
Prediction: Iowa 68, Iowa State 62
Bryce Dejean-Jones still remains suspended for tonight't game despite charges being dropped. BDJ was arrested Wednesday evening after a noise complaint was called in and police found marijuana in the house. If he doesn't play, this puts a serious damper in the Cyclones' offensive strategy against an already stingy Iowa defense.
Even though I think Iowa State has more potential to play a grind-it-out style of a game compared to Iowa's run-and-gun tendencies, the Hawkeyes have done a better job of playing at their pace early in the season. Aaron White played masterfully with 25 points and 17 rebounds in the losing effort last year in Ames. Expect the senior to show everything he has from inside and outside running the Cyclones' defense around ragged in one of the B1G's best non-conference rivalry games this year.