IOWA CITY, Iowa — The Big Ten’s new 20-game league schedule has moved up the timeline on everything. Conference games come sooner, which means teams are tested earlier. You can’t hide in a weak non-conference schedule when you’ve got a pair of B1G opponents the first week in December.
For a moment, it looked like No. 18 Iowa’s schedule of events had changed because of it as well. Rather than waiting until February to see a promising season hit the skids, as it repeatedly has under coach Fran McCaffery, the Hawkeyes looked in danger of dashing hopes before Christmas this season after a so-so performance against Pitt, a home loss to Wisconsin and an absolute dismantling by No. 10 Michigan State at the Breslin Center.
It’s just the first week in December, but the Hawkeyes looked rattled. As much as a season can split in two directions before the calendar flips to the new year, Iowa looked in peril of finding itself in a slide that would be difficult to reverse with rival Iowa State, a burgeoning national darling thanks to a 7-1 start without a number of its best players, coming to Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
As Iowa walked off the floor Thursday a 98-84 winner over the Cyclones that featured all the nastiness that makes rivalries so contentious and entertaining, it looked as though Hawkeyes weren’t about to surrender to such a fate just yet.
It was the type of response that was sorely needed for an Iowa team that fell behind by as many as 33 to the Spartans just days earlier.
“Exactly,” McCaffery said Thursday. “You know, we really deviated from the game plan on Monday night.”
There didn’t seem to be any deviations Thursday, other than from the course Iowa looked like it may have been charting after back-to-back disappointing showings.
Iowa’s offense was humming. The Hawkeyes shot 57.4 percent from the floor and were 9 of 18 from 3-point range. They nabbed 17 offensive rebounds and scored 23 second-chance points. Tyler Cook looked like the All-American Iowa believes he can be in scoring 26 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. The Hawks got production off the bench, a necessity McCaffery teams that often lean on a large rotation, and while they gave up 1.2 points per possession, played good enough defense in stretches to keep the Cyclones off-kilter.
Perhaps most notably, Iowa was a team determined to exert its will on the game. Against the Spartans, the Hawkeyes limped to the final buzzer without much objection. They brought the fight – literally – to Iowa State.
There were two scuffles Thursday, the first coming before halftime when Iowa State’s Michael Jacobson and Iowa’s Connor McCaffery getting into it some and then Iowa’s Cordell Pemsl rushing in to start a shoving match. Then as the game wound down the Cyclones’ Marial Shayok and Jacobson poked at the ball in McCaffery’s hands as the game’s final seconds ticked off, drew McCaffery’s offense and then started yet another fracas.
In a state where apologizing when someone bumps into you is the norm, two shoving matches counts for high drama.
While it’s debatable how much toughness it takes to get into a couple of relatively petty squabbles on the basketball court, Iowa at least showed it wasn’t ready to go quietly into that good NIT.
Pemsl wasn’t even supposed to be playing. He’d been ruled out for the season with a knee injury. Pemsl often seems to find himself in the center of tensions on the court, so it’s probably no surprise his return coincided with Iowa showing some edge.
His decision to get back on the court might also underscore the stakes Iowa was looking at. This is a program that has played its way into big expectations only to disappoint before. In 2014, the Hawkeyes were 19-6 and 8-4 in the B1G before they lost five of six to end the regular season, dropped its first conference tournament game and then bowed out in the First Four. In 2016, they were ranked as high as third in the AP poll before losing five of their last seven to finish the regular season, dropped their first B1G tournament game and got destroyed by eventual national champ Villanova in the second round of the NCAA tournament. A three-game skid in February and another one-and-done conference tournament in 2017 spelled NIT.
Then there was last season when Iowa went 14-19 and it was revealed that Iowa signed McCaffery to a new contract with a massive new buyout number. They also didn’t tell anyone about it, and it took an open records request by media to bring it public that the cost of firing him ballooned from $4.6 million to $10.2 million last year and $9 million this year. It’s hard to imagine Iowa was doing anything other than negotiating against itself there for a coach who ended last year with a 68-76 B1G record.
Instead, it’s easy to see the Hawkeyes reignited after last night. Not only did they beat Iowa State, they played well in doing so and showed an attitude that will prove useful in a Big Ten that looks formidable. Cook being a monster would go a long way, too. The defense needs to improve, but if the offense can operate the level it did against the Cyclones, it doesn’t have to be great for Iowa to rack up wins this winter.
Thursday’s win against a rival didn’t solve all Iowa’s issues, but, at minimum, it showed that they’re willing to fight to fix them.
Thursday’s Things To Know: Purdue survives, Iowa wins, Arizona comes back
It wasn’t a busy Thursday night on the college hoops calendar, but there was enough action to keep you occupied once Derrick Henry made it clear that football wasn’t going to be interesting.
1. CARSEN EDWARDS STRUGGLED AGAIN, BUT MADE WINNING PLAYS
Edwards entered this season as a favorite to win the National Player of the Year award, and while his raw numbers have been pretty impressive — he did enter Thursday night averaging 24.4 points, 4.0 assists and 3.0 boards — his efficiency has been down and he’s struggled to find a rhythm in games.
That’s not necessarily a surprise, mind you. Purdue is shuffling a number of pieces into new and bigger roles this season, and that takes some time. But we are approaching a point where we should start asking just how much of a concern this is. The Big Ten is loaded this year, and the Boilermakers are struggling to find out where, exactly, their supporting cast resides.
Here’s the good news: Purdue beat No. 23 Maryland, 62-60, an important home win in a league race where 9-11 could be good enough to get into the tournament. The better news: They won while Edwards went 4-for-15 from the floor, as their star had a pair of assists and forced a critical turnover down the stretch. Performances matter, but at the end of the day, a win is a win is a win, and Edwards got them over the line.
2. NO. 18 IOWA LANDS ANOTHER IMPRESSIVE WIN
As if the Big Ten hadn’t already proven enough.
Iowa shook off a 22-point loss to Michigan State on Thursday night to lay the smack down on in-state rival Iowa State. The final score was 98-84, but the game never really felt in doubt in the second half. Tyler Cook led the way with 26 points and 11 boards, while Isaiah Moss chipped in with 20 of his own.
Worth noting for Iowa State: Lindell Wigginton did not play. He’s been out since the second game of the season with a strained foot.
3. ARIZONA AVOIDS EMBARRASSMENT
The Wildcats trailed by 12 points at halftime against Utah Valley State, but Brandon Randolph scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half — including hitting four threes in the opening four minutes of the half — to erase the deficit and help ensure that the Wildcat would extend their non-conference home-winning streak to 52 games.
Brandon Williams added 15 points, 10 boards and five assists for Sean Miller’s club, who improved to 7-2 on the season. Arizona replaced all five starters off of last year’s team and not much was expected out of the Wildcats this year, but we’re now more than a month into the season, and the only losses to their name are against top ten teams Auburn and Gonzaga.
No. 18 Iowa cruises past Iowa State in chippy Cy-Hawk rivalry game
IOWA CITY, Iowa — A 22-point loss at Michigan State left many wondering if the 18th-ranked Hawkeyes were for real.
Iowa answered its critics on Thursday night by stomping archrival Iowa State — almost literally — to snap a two-game losing streak.
Tyler Cook had 26 points and 11 rebounds, Isaiah Moss added 20 points and the Hawkeyes cruised to a 98-84 victory in a game marked by skirmishes in the first half and after the whistle.
Nicholas Baer had 11 of his 14 points in the second half for the Hawkeyes (7-2), who shot 57.4 percent from the floor and outrebounded the Cyclones 44-24.
“We wanted to establish our running game. We wanted to establish our ability to move the ball, and get a lot of people involved — and then we had to rebound,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said.
Iowa took control with a 16-2 run late in the first half, and the Hawkeyes pushed their lead to 63-47 on Baer’s 3-pointer early in the second half. Baer, who finished 4 of 5 from beyond the arc, then buried another 3 to make it 68-49.
Freshman Talen Horton-Tucker briefly pulled the Cyclones (7-2) within eight with 6:05 left, but Iowa responded with eight quick points to put the game out of reach.
Horton-Tucker scored 21 points and Marial Shayok had 19 for Iowa State, which had won its previous four games.
“We missed some bunnies. We could have scored 90. But you can’t give up 98 and win on the road anywhere,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said.
Iowa junior Cordell Pemsl, who had planned to redshirt this season, made a surprise return to the lineup and had eight points and six boards off the bench. Freshman Joe Wieskamp also played after spraining his ankle in Monday’s 90-68 loss at Michigan State and had seven points.
THE BIG PICTURE
Iowa: Pemsl had been bothered in the offseason by a knee injury he sustained in high school, and the Hawkeyes announced late last month that he would have to have surgery to remove hardware around that knee before he could play again. But Pemsl decided to practice on Tuesday, and felt good enough to go. “There’s nothing structurally wrong with my leg,” Pemsl said. “I’m allowed to play (if the pain) is tolerable.”
Iowa State: Iowa State sophomore star Lindell Wigginton has been out since the second game of the season with a strained foot. The Cyclones really could have used his ability to break down a defense for easy buckets, especially during Iowa’s big run in the first half.
Late in the first half, Connor McCaffery — the son of coach Fran McCaffery — and Iowa State’s Michael Jacobson started yelling at each other. Pemsl ran over and shoved Jacobson, who then shoved Pemsl back. Iowa State got two shots and the ball once the officials sorted it all out, but all the Cyclones could do with it was a free throw and a shot clock violation. The teams got into another mini-skirmish after the final whistle, forcing Fran McCaffery to drag Cook off the court. “It was a spirited game from the beginning, and that’s what you expect,” Fran McCaffery said. “Wish it didn’t happen.”
Iowa looked as if it might be headed out of the poll after that decisive defeat against the Spartans. But what the Hawkeyes did to Iowa State, which could have been ranked come Monday with a win, might be enough for them to stay in the Top 25.
HE SAID IT
“I apologize to Iowa and the staff. I didn’t represent those moments the right way. I apologize. Right is right, and I was wrong and I apologize for that,” Prohm said. “It got chippy at the end. But we should have played better. We should have played harder.”
Monday’s Things To Know: Duke-Auburn headlines Maui, Mississippi State loses and Justin Coleman shines for Arizona
The first of two top ten matchups in the Maui Invitational will be played in the semifinals on Tuesday, as the top-seeded Duke Blue Devils will face off with No. 8 Auburn in a game that could end up turning into college basketball’s version of what happened between the Rams and the Chiefs on Monday night.
Duke, as we know, is insanely talented and is built to run up and down the floor unlike any team that we’ve ever seen. Auburn, though, has plenty of weapons offensively and also is effective enough defensively that it could cause some disruption for the young Blue Devils.
It’s the first must-see game of a Maui Invitational that is strong even by its own lofty standards. If Gonzaga can get past Arizona on the other side of the bracket, there will be a monster championship game Wednesday.
2. ARIZONA STATE HANDED MISSISSIPPI STATE THEIR FIRST LOSS OF THE SEASON
It looked as though the Bulldogs might stave off their first loss the season when Nick Weatherspoon tied things up with under a minute to play, but Arizona State got a 3-pointer from Kimani Lawrence in response to give the Sun Devils a 72-67 vicotry at the MGM Main Event in Las Vegas.
Lawrence scored 22 points to lead Arizona State to its upset of the 15th-ranked Bulldogs.
Arizona State has another undefeated start to the season at 4-0 after beginning last year with 12-straight wins. Sure, they lost six of their last seven to end the year, but that start was still something. They’ve got a date with Utah State on Wednesday for the championship.
For Mississippi State, the 3-point shooting continues to be an early-season issue. The Bulldogs were 8 of 30 (26.7 percent) against Arizona State and are now shooting 27.5 percent from distance for the season, which ranks outside the top-300 natioanlly.
3. IS JUSTIN COLEMAN THE CLOSER THAT ARIZONA NEEDS?
The big question with Arizona heading into this season was whether or not they still had enough talent on their roster to compete at the level Wildcat fans have become accustomed to. That’s what happens when you lose five starters and your recruiting class goes up in smoke.
But there may be an answer to Sean Miller’s prayers, and his name, on Monday night, was Justin Coleman. The 5-foot-10 transfer from Samford by way of Alabama entered the game having scored a grand total of 18 points through the first three games of the season. Against Iowa State in the Maui Invitational opener, Coleman finished with 18 points, scoring 15 in the second half and just about single-handedly leading the Wildcats back from a double-digit deficit in the final seven minutes.
I’m not saying that Coleman is the answer, but in Arizona’s toughest game of the season to date, he is the one that stepped up and made essentially every single big play.
It was a terrific performance. Let’s see where Arizona can build from here.
The off-guard position in college basketball has a lot of intriguing questions heading into the 2018-19 season.
While the group is headlined by some strong returning players and some five-star freshmen, it seems as though many of the players on this list still have something to prove. Whether that is perimeter shooting, becoming a more complete player or bringing more consistency, the off-guard spot in college hoops could be in a great place this season if many of these guys make standard improvements.
Here’s a look at 20 of the key off-guards to watch this season.
1. CALEB MARTIN, Nevada, Sr.
The reigning Mountain West Player of the Year nearly left for the NBA before deciding to return with his twin brother, Cody, at the 11th hour. With the Martin twins back in the fold, many are projecting Nevada as a top-ten preseason team. Caleb had a huge junior season as he put up 18.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game as he was the clear go-to player on a deep Wolf Pack team.
Also a 40 percent three-point shooter, Martin’s ability to score from all over the floor is what separates him from many of his peers and it helps make Nevada’s offense one of the best in the country. This season, Martin won’t have to do as much since he’s playing on a veteran team that should be significantly deeper. But don’t discount Martin having a huge year and potentially vaulting into All-American status.
2. QUENTIN GRIMES, Kansas, Fr.
The prized pledge of another solid Kansas recruiting class, the 6-foot-5 Grimes should have a huge impact on the Jayhawks this season. The former McDonald’s All-American really came into his own as a more complete guard during his senior season as some believed he was the best guard prospect in the Class of 2018.
Capable of playing the one, but more likely to play the two given the Kansas backcourt situation, Grimes is a tough-minded two-way player who can score or distribute. The key for the reigning MVP of the 2018 FIBA Americas will be perimeter shooting. If Grimes can consistently knock down three-pointers then the Jayhawks should have an incredibly dangerous offense.
3. ROMEO LANGFORD, Indiana, Fr.
Huge expectations will be lingering over Langford’s head all season, as the Hoosier faithful are hoping this in-state product can return Indiana basketball to glory. The former Mr. Basketball in Indiana is one of the most celebrated high school players to ever come out of the basketball-crazy state after putting up monster numbers.
At 6-foot-6, Langford is capable of 40-point outbursts where he’s scoring from all over the floor. Also a capable wing defender thanks to his length and athleticism, Langford is a likely one-and-done prospect if he lives up to his five-star billing. Consistency will be one of the keys to watch for with Langford. For as good as he can be, Langford had a tendency to disappear for minutes at a time for portions of his grassroots career. As long as Langford is engaged, he should be a force in the Big Ten.
4. LINDELL WIGGINTON, Iowa State, So.
After an impressive freshman season in which he was fifth in the Big 12 in scoring, Wigginton gets his chance to shine on a much deeper and more talented Iowa State team this season. Averaging 16.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game while shooting 40 percent from three-point range, the 6-foot-2 Wigginton showed natural ability as a scorer last season, as he’ll look to become more of a complete guard in his second season.
Testing the NBA waters this offseason, Wigginton can enhance his national reputation, and pro stock, by helping the Cyclones win games after the team finished only 13-18 last season. With another year to grow, and more help around him, Wigginton should be among the Big 12’s leading scorers once again.
5. JALEN HUDSON, Florida, Sr.
The leading scorer for the Gators last season, the 6-foot-6 Hudson will be counted on for points once again this season. It’s going to be the other things Hudson can give Florida that ultimately helps dictate how they might finish.
If Hudson can show more leadership, while also helping to set up teammates, then he’ll help offset the huge loss of point guard Chris Chiozza. The Gators don’t have an obvious replacement at lead guard for Chiozza, so Hudson’s impact in the backcourt beyond scoring will be something to keep an eye on. Even if Hudson is only trying to get buckets, he’s a 40 percent three-point shooter who put up 15.5 points and 3.9 rebounds per game last season. The Gators just ideally need him to contribute a bit of everything.
6. KELLAN GRADY, Davidson, So.
Putting together the best freshman season at Davidson since Steph Curry, the 6-foot-5 Grady made his own mark for the Wildcats last season. Although not quite as gifted a perimeter shooter as Curry (but really, who is?) Grady is no slouch in that department after shooting 50 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three-point range while averaging 18.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
With Davidson leading scorer Peyton Aldridge moving on from the program, the reigning A-10 Rookie of the Year is going to be the go-to guy for a Wildcats team with NCAA tournament aspirations. Since Davidson doesn’t have a lot of experienced pieces returning from last season’s tournament squad, then we could be seeing a lot of 20-point games from Grady.
7. KY BOWMAN, Boston College, Jr.
Although backcourt running mate and NBA first-round pick Jerome Robinson received much of the attention for Boston College last season, Bowman also had a monster campaign. As a sophomore, the 6-foot-1 Bowman averaged 17.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game while shooting 36 percent from three-point range and 80 percent from the free-throw line.
A North Carolina native who seems to play at his best when facing the in-state teams that passed him over in the ACC, Bowman just missed a triple-double in a win over Duke last year. Now that Robinson is gone, Bowman will be asked to do even more this season, as the Eagles are going to be counting on Bowman for a potential All-American season. If Bowman can lift his three-point percentage closer to the 44 percent he shot as a freshman, then he could very well reach that status.
8. MUSTAPHA HERON, St. John’s, Jr.
Immediately eligible after the NCAA gave him a hardship waiver, the 6-foot-5 Heron is a monster addition for the Red Storm. Coupled with a potential All-American at point in Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s now has one of the best backcourt tandems in all of college basketball.
Spending his first two seasons at Auburn, Heron averaged 16.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for the Tigers as a sophomore. The 220-pound Heron and his power and athleticism should pair well with Ponds’ slippery ability to get to the basket as the duo should be immensely fun to watch this season.
If Heron can find his three-point consistency like he showed during freshman season (42 percent from three-point range) then his perimeter shooting would also greatly open things up for Ponds as he attacks off the dribble.
9. KRIS WILKES, UCLA, So.
Quietly putting up good numbers as a freshman last season, the 6-foot-8 Wilkes was second on the Bruins in scoring and rebounding at 13.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Now the versatile perimeter threat will be asked to become a team leader on a young, but talented, Bruins team.
Wilkes flirted with staying in the NBA Draft, but by coming back for another year in the Pac-12, he has a chance to improve his average 35 percent three-point shooting while displaying more overall leadership for an intriguing team. Potentially an All-Pac-12 player with a big season, Wilkes will get asked to take a lot of big shots at UCLA this season.
10. MATISSE THYBULLE, Washington, Sr.
The offensive numbers won’t jump out at you. That doesn’t mean this 6-foot-5 senior doesn’t make a giant impact on all of Washington’s games. The Pac-12’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Thybulle can make game-changing defensive plays on one end while contributing quite a bit to other facets of the game.
Thybulle scored 11.2 points per game while getting 2.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game last season. But getting 3.0 steals per game and 1.4 blocks per game had an immense impact on a Washington team that finally showed signs of life on the defensive end. Also a 36 percent three-point shooter, Thybulle is the perfect three-and-d wing for a Washington team with a sneaky amount of talent this season.
11. ZACH NORVELL, Gonzaga, So.
Gonzaga’s most consistent and versatile scorer has a chance to be a better all-around player as a sophomore. The 6-foot-5 Norvell put up 12.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game while shooting 37 percent from three-point range. If Norvell improves defensively, then he’ll be one of college basketball’s best two-way guards.
12. NICKEIL ALEXANDER-WALKER, Virginia Tech, So.
Consistency will be the key for this ultra-talented 6-foot-5 guard. There were times last season when Alexander-Walker looked like Virginia Tech’s best players and other games where he was barely contributing. If Alexander-Walker finds a better balance, he could be a force in the ACC this season.
13. KYLE GUY, Virginia, Jr.
A veteran scorer who acts as Virginia’s top perimeter shooter, the 6-foot-2 Guy would put up even bigger scoring numbers in a more uptempo offense. Guy averaged 14.1 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game while shooting 39 percent from three-point range.
14. T.J. GIBBS, Notre Dame, Jr.
Coming on strong during his sophomore season, the 6-foot-3 Gibbs is going to be asked to do even more for a young Fighting Irish team. The good news is that Gibbs is already used to being the main scorer. Gibbs scored double-figures in 19 of 21 ACC games last season while averaging 15.3 points, 3.0 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game.
15. D’MARCUS SIMONDS, Georgia State, Jr.
The reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year made a huge impression by putting up 21.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game last season. If Simonds can improve his woeful 29 percent three-point shooting then he’ll become one of the most complete scorers in the country.
The 6-foot-4 Weatherspoon saw his scoring numbers and three-point percentage dip from sophomore to junior season. But Weatherspoon also became a more well-rounded guard as he nearly doubled his assist total. If Weatherspoon lifts his perimeter shooting, then he could make this ranking look silly.
17. FLETCHER MAGEE, Wofford, Sr.
The SoCon Player of the Year is arguably the best pure shooter in college hoops. Just missing a 50/40/90 season as a junior, MaGee averaged 22.1 points per game while making 4.4 three-pointers per game at a 43 percent clip. Magee is perhaps most well-known for his 27 points in the Dean Dome last season when Wofford upset North Carolina.
18. PHIL BOOTH, Villanova, Sr.
It seems like Booth’s been with the Wildcats forever. This season the 6-foot-3 guard has more of a chance to shine. Already dropping 41 points, and nine three-pointers, on North Carolina in a preseason scrimmage, Booth appears to be ready to take a high number of shots in Villanova’s high-octane offense.
19. BRYCE BROWN, Auburn, Sr.
As dangerous as it gets from the perimeter, the 6-foot-3 Brown led the SEC with 107 made three-pointers last season. Auburn’s uptempo attack gives Brown a lot of makeable shots, as he averaged 15.9 points per game on 38 percent three-point shooting last season.
20. HERB JONES, Alabama, So.
Expectations are very high for the 6-foot-7 Jones to make a major leap this season. A potentially elite two-way guard who shows very strong defensive traits, Jones has the upside to make a leap to the pros. Jones has to expand on the modest minutes and numbers he put up last season, but he has major upside.
Injury bug biting Iowa State as Solomon Young the latest Cyclone to get hurt
Iowa State has dealt with a lot of injuries and illnesses this preseason as the Cyclones are trying to get healthy with the regular season only weeks away.
The latest Iowa State player to go down is starting center Solomon Young, as the junior is out indefinitely with a groin strain. The 6-foot-8 Young has been a key cog on the interior for the Cyclones the past two seasons as he put up 7.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game as a sophomore last season.
Young is also far from the only key Iowa State player currently dealing with an issue. Veteran forward Zoran Talley just had surgery to repair a broken nose as he’s hoping to return faster than a 4-to-6 week window that doctors gave him. Talley will be required to wear a protective face mask once he’s cleared to return.
Iowa State’s highly-touted freshman class is also trying to overcome illness and injury. Big man George Conditt and guard Tyrese Haliburton are both recovering from mono. Forward Zion Griffin just returned from a knee sprain while wing Talen Horton-Tucker has been in a boot at times during the preseason.
While none of these injuries seem to be for an excessive amount of time, it’s clear that Iowa State just needs to get healthy before they start their season on Nov. 6. With all four freshmen missing some time, it will be vital to make sure they catch up and understand everything before they are thrust into the spotlight.