After losing by just three points in football, the Iowa Hawkeyes will look to establish bragging rights over the Iowa State Cyclones in basketball on Friday. The Hawkeyes will host the game in Iowa City, and having home-court advantage has the Hawkeyes favored by five. The Cyclones are streaking, entering this matchup on a three-game winning streak after losing to the Maryland Terrapins by nine points. Both teams are playing great basketball to start the 2014 season; however, one of these teams will lose this weekend, and no matter what each team’s season turns out to be, the in-state bragging rights are of the utmost importance to both programs.
When it comes to the Cyclones, the one thing that needs to be highlighted is their ability to stretch the floor. Fred Hoiberg is one of the nation’s brightest coaching minds. Over the course of his coaching career, Hoiberg has preached the importance of the three-point shot, and it shows as Iowa State ranks 13th in the country in points per game with an average of 83.6. The Cyclones are also one of the better passing teams in the nation, currently ranked 8th in the nation in assists with 18.6 per game. Georges Niang wasn’t healthy in the Big Dance last year and that was a big blow to ISU. In 2014, Niang picked up right where he left off, averaging 18 points and seven rebounds per game so far this season.
The other school in this game has surprised many to start the season. The combination of Aaron White and Jarrod Uthoff has been dominant through Iowa’s first ten games. When Mike Gesell starts draining his shots from deep, Iowa will have one of the better offenses in the stacked Big Ten Conference. The Hawkeyes have a slow-tempo game, and they play great defense. Their emphasis on defense and rebounding has shown so far this season, leading them to an 8-2 record, including a major upset of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
In a game that is so important to both schools, the No. 14 Cyclones will have their hands full in this game. With White and Uthoff getting the ball in the paint, Niang will need to have a huge game defending and rebounding. Although the Cyclones will be without Bryce Dejean-Jones, their second-leading scorer, I don’t see them losing this game considering how well they are playing. Niang will have a huge day and Hoiberg will find a way to get open looks for his players.
The Pick: Iowa State
*Section Photo credit to Andy Lyons, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Danny Medley, USA Today Sports.