The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team hosts the Iowa Hawkeyes in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge so we reached out to Iowa’s SB Nation home Black Heart Gold Pants to help us preview the game. Iowa enters the game after finishing second in the Las Vegas Invitational Championship losing to the San Diego State Aztecs.
Iowa enters the game with the 9th-best Adjusted Offense in KenPom’s ratings. What has made them so successful to start the season and how do you think they’ll look to attack the Syracuse zone?
So far this season, Iowa’s done a better job of being clean with the ball and, as a main component of Fran’s offense, getting to the line. They’ve also been doing a good job of hitting the offensive glass.
I think Iowa will attack the zone in two ways with varied success. Luka Garza, who I’ll go into more detail below, can be a force down low, but might struggle with the length and size of Syracuse. Ideally, they would hit him in the high post all day, where he has a capable 15-foot jumpshot, but I’m not sure that will be the case.
Instead, I expect Iowa to lean on their three point shooting, which is what Syracuse wants out of most opponents. They have 3 really, really, good shooters in Jordan Bohannon, C.J. Fredrick, and Joe Wieskamp. Wieskamp has started slow and Bohannon is still rehabbing a hip injury he sustained last season but Fredrick has proven to be the real deal so far, making over 50% of his threes and being a willing driver as well. The question if Iowa leans on the three too much is: can they get enough offensive boards? Reserve big Ryan Kriener could be a factor here.
Luka Garza’s averaging 19.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game while playing less than 30 minutes. What’s enabled the junior center to take such a big step forward?
When Tyler Cook left Iowa early, many fans figured Wieskamp would be the player who would step up. However, Cook freed up the middle of the floor for Iowa, where Garza has been cooking all season. He’s got an array of post moves and has used them well as the main cog of Iowa’s offense. Not only has he shown an ability to score down low but his ability to stretch his shot to the arc has bounced back nicely in his junior season. His best games have come against undersized competition, which the Orange are decidedly not.
Syracuse is going to be a step up for him, as they’ll swarm him in the post similarly to DePaul, a team he had a season-high 3 turnovers against. Additionally, Garza has been great at drawing fouls but has seen his shooting percentage at the line drop over 20% from last year to under 60%. If he’s able to force Boeheim’s hand with depth down low, it could give Iowa an advantage they’ll need in their first true road test of the season.
After Jack Nunge’s season-ending injury Iowa was able to upset Texas Tech before losing to San Diego St. How does Fran McCaffrey adjust the rotation as a result and what are the concerns moving forward?
Fran adjusted the rotation by shifting Wieskamp (6’6”) to the four (though much of their motion offense is positionless), and point guard Jordan Bohannon into the starting lineup in Iowa’s Vegas tournament. This is enabled by Iowa’s newfound depth in the backcourt with Fredrick, freshman Joe Toussaint, and grad transfer Bakari Evelyn. Syracuse is pretty long, though, which may force Fran to start one of Iowa’s two remaining bigs: Kriener or Cordell Pemsl. If Bohannon is able to go the full season, I think Iowa will lean towards the smaller look going forward, though he is limited defensively.
However, Iowa looked like a different team defensively with Nunge out, as he shown limited quickness when defending ball screens. They’re much more capable at swarming, especially with Toussaint and Evelyn’s quickness. When Iowa ran out a reserve unit against SDSU, it jumpstarted an otherwise stagnant offense by forcing turnovers, though Malachi Flynn proved to be too much in the end.
Syracuse’s shooting struggled in Brooklyn but who on the Orange could pose trouble for Iowa’s defense?
I’ll start by pleading the fifth and saying I haven’t seen much Syracuse this year but Iowa has struggled defending quicker guards who can get into the lane. Joseph Girard looks like he has that capability as does Elijah Hughes.
I’m also always afraid of the random guy who’s struggled in a season catching fire against Iowa from behind the arc so somehow Brycen Goodine is gonna go like 4/5 from 3.
5) What’s your prediction for the game?
Iowa has shown a little more resilience this season than the last two when falling behind early but I fear they’ll just keep chucking threes without running any semblance of an offense despite the weird sightlines of the Carrier Dome. I’m not totally convinced Syracuse has anyone tailor-made to cut Iowa up like DePaul or SDSU so it will probably come down to if their shooting has returned to form. I think the Orange bounce back in a bit of a rockfight, 69-60.