Both squads think they have what it takes to be competitors in their respective conferences, and this game would be a great resume builder. But this one means so much more than that; in-state bragging rights are on the line Friday night, and for the first time since 1987, both teams will tip-off ranked inside the top 25.
Head coach Fred Hoiberg has led the Cyclones to an impressive 7-0 start. Iowa State is averaging 91.7 points per game in this young season, which is the most in the nation. Forward Melvin Ejim (6-foot-6) leads the way for the Cyclones averaging 18 points per game. Ejim can attack from the inside and outside and is a matchup nightmare. Do-everything guard DeAndre Kane is second on the team in scoring, averaging 15.4 per game. Kane is also second on the team in rebounding, with eight per game and his 5.3 assists per game lead the team. Forward Georges Niang (6-foot-7) has stepped up nicely for the Cyclones thus far, averaging 13.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Niang is also kicking in four APG. This is no fluke, Niang has great passing skills from the post. Iowa State is, without a doubt, a very explosive team that can attack you in many different ways.
The 10-1 Hawkeyes (only loss was in overtime to 10th ranked Villanova) are not too far behind the Cyclones in scoring, as their 89.5 points per game ranks them sixth in the nation. The Hawkeyes are one of the deepest teams in college basketball, as they are able to go 10 deep comfortably. With so many options, it is not always easy to find the right lineup, but head coach Fran McCaffery does an incredible job of managing his roster.
Guard Roy Devyn Marble leads the Hawkeyes in scoring (15.6), assists (3.5) and steals (2.3). Aaron White is second in scoring for Iowa with 12.6 PPG; he is also averaging 5.6 RPG and 2.5 APG. White is a very versatile and athletic player that is always going 100 percent. He runs the floor incredibly well and does a fantastic job of finishing around the rim. Jarrod Uthoff has been a plesant surprise for the Hawkeyes this season. The Sophomore transfer from Wisconsin is playing his first college basketball this year. The long 6-foot-9 versatile forward is averaging 20.7 minutes per game for Iowa off of the bench. He leads the team in rebounding with seven RPG, is third on the team with 10.3 PPG, and is shooting .538 from 3-point range.
Seniors Zach McCabe and Melsahn Basabe have been impressive for Iowa thus far, both on the court and with their leadership abilities. Iowa’s point guard duo of Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons has also been a productive part of the team, and the growth of center Gabriel Olaseni has been huge for the Hawkeyes inside. With the depth that Iowa has, I could seemingly go on forever.
Being deep is great, but if the Hawkeys expect to knock off the Cyclones on the road, they will need a huge effort out of Marble. As a senior, Marble has grown in to a great player. He has incredible balance when taking the ball to the hole, and does an fantastic job of finishing at the rack. He is a good spot-up shooter, and also does a great job of setting up his teammates with crisp passes. Defensively, Marble has grown into a very good perimeter defender, and this season, he has continually used his length to get in the passing lanes and start the fast break.
Make no mistake about it, this one will be a barn burner. These two teams love to push the tempo. Because of the Hawkeyes’ depth, I wonder if they can tire out Iowa State and get an advantage that way. Regardless, if Iowa is going to escape with a victory, they are going to need their senior leader to be at his best. Will he be up to the challenge?