Iowa and Iowa State will play their annual Cy-Hawk game at Hilton Coliseum in Ames on Thursday night. The home team has won this matchup in each of the past three seasons and the Cyclones will be looking for revenge after Iowa won in a 19-point blowout last season.
This matchup is a classic battle of strength vs. strength as the perennially elite Iowa offense that loves to run the floor and get to the rim faces an elite Cyclones defense that applies a ton of ball pressure, slows teams down in the half court and forces opponents to shoot from the perimeter.
However, Iowa State’s offense has some clear matchup advantages against Iowa’s defense, which is why the Cyclones are favored at home. So, let’s get to my Iowa vs. Iowa State pick.
The Hawkeyes will always have an elite offense as long as Fran McCaffery is running the program in Iowa City. Year after year, Iowa has the same offensive profile. The Hawkeyes rank high in tempo, grade out as one of the best transition offenses in the country and rarely turn the ball over. This group is no different, ranking 12th in turnover rate offensively, 14th in fastest possession length and 39th in assist rate.
There’s one key difference thus far between this Iowa team and the usual McCaffery squads: lack of perimeter shooting. Usually, Iowa is above average in 3-point attempt rate and can shoot it well above average. This version of the Hawkeyes is barely shooting from the perimeter. They’ve made 35.3% of 3s, but rank 329th in 3-point attempt rate.
ShotQuality rates the offense 321st in rim and 3 rate. There’s a heavy reliance on getting to the rim and having plus shot making in the mid-range. Both of those are difficult to do against this swarming Iowa State defense. It’s also really hard to control the pace and dictate tempo against the Cyclones, who will do everything to force this game into the half court.
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Elite defense has been a staple at Iowa State throughout the T.J. Otzelberger era as his Cyclones have been in the top 15 in adjusted defensive efficiency in the country in each season. The offense has consistently improved year over year and this is the best offense Otzelberger has had in Ames. The development of sophomore point guard Tamin Lipsey is a huge reason for the offensive improvement.
There’s still a lack of perimeter shooting, but the Cyclones have cut down considerably on the turnovers and can efficiently make shots from inside the arc. The question for the Cyclones is what to make of their early season schedule. Iowa State juiced its metrics by beating four opponents outside the top 275 in KenPom by 30 or more points.
The Cyclones have played three opponents inside the top 105 in KenPom — a four-point win against VCU, a nine-point loss to Virginia Tech and a four-point loss to Texas A&M. The offense was below 1.00 PPP in the two losses and barely cleared 1.00 in the win. There are real questions about whether this offense will hold up against better competition, or if the offense is built upon beating up on some of the worst teams in the country.
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Iowa vs. Iowa State
Betting Pick & Prediction
KenPom’s scoring projection is expecting north of 70 possessions in this game. However, neither meeting between these teams had more than 68 since Otzelberger took over in Ames. Additionally, there are still questions about whether Iowa State’s offense has truly improved.
The matchup is an excellent opportunity for the Cyclones to take away the rim and force Iowa to shoot more from the perimeter. With the Cyclones controlling the glass and thus controlling the pace and forcing this game into the half court, the total is a few points too high.
The total opened as high as 158 at some shops, and is a consensus 157.5 as of writing. I’d bet the under at 154 or better
Pick: Under 157.5 (Play to 154)
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