For tonight's men's basketball game, we'll be doing our first Q & A of the season with Ross Binder of SB Nation's Iowa Hawkeyes' blog, Black Heart Gold Pants. In this Q & A session, we discuss the the two teams' history in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge, the Hawkeye's size and which players to look out for. Ross also made his prediction for tonight's game. So read ahead Hokie basketball fan, there's plenty for you here. You can also read my answers to his questions here.
During the Q & A I refer to myself as GC (GobblerCountry) and Ross as BHGP (Black Heart Gold Pants). You can also find my answers to his questions here. Enjoy, and GO HOKIES!
Iowa obviously has a considerable size advantage over the Hokies, with three players 6'10" or taller and eight players at least 6'7", but among those really true "bigs" only Aaron White, Melsahn Basabe
and Adam Woodbury
play big minutes. Do you think Coach McCaffery will attempt to extend the bench to play some of those taller players against the Hokies, who have proven vulnerable to any size (particularly on the defensive glass early on) to stop the Hokies fast break?
BHGP: Those three will get the majority of the minutes, along with 6'7" Zach McCabe. 6'10" Gabe Olaseni was getting some minutes earlier in the season, but he hasn't seen much time lately (4 minutes or less in four of the last five games) and I don't think that will change tomorrow. I do think Iowa will try to get Adam Woodbury involved early and often, though, and this looks like a game where Melsahn Basabe might see a lot of action. McCaffery likes to exploit mismatches where he can, so if the Hokies are vulnerable in the post, that's certainly an area Iowa will target. Woodbury and Basabe are probably Iowa's most effective players in the post, although White and McCabe are also very capable rebounders (offensively, they do a bit more damage from the perimeter).
GC: Speaking of the fast break, having watched Iowa in the past and looking at this year's team, is it fair to say they play at a deliberate pace? Have they shown the ability to get out and run, or would they truly prefer to keep this game in the 60's-70's as opposed to the upper 80's-90's?
BHGP: Per KenPom, this year's Iowa team has played at a tempo almost identical to a year ago (68.3 this year versus 68.6 last year) and that's good for 107th in the nation. (They were 60th last year.) Iowa's scored in the 60s or low 70s in each of their last five games, but that has more to do with some poor shooting on the part of the offense (Iowa shot 26% from the field in their last game) than on a more deliberate pace. McCaffery has emphasized a more fast-paced style since he arrived at Iowa, so yeah -- I think they would be quite happy to get out and run if possible. Iowa would likely be quite happy with a game in the 70s-80s. Of course, they'll need to actually hit more shots to reach that point.
GC: For Tech fans (many of which have been disenfranchised with the basketball program as of late and consequently have not watched a lot of basketball), who are some of the players the Hokies should be looking out for in this game? Maybe an X-factor or an under-the-radar guy?
BHGP: Iowa's two biggest offensive stars are probably G Roy Devyn Marble and F Aaron White. Marble is Iowa's leading scorer (13.8 ppg) and go-to option in tight games; White is Iowa's second-leading scorer (12.5 ppg) and leading rebounder (6.5 rpg), as well as a high-energy guy that tends to get the entire team fired up when he's playing well. A more under-the-radar guy to note is G Eric May, the team's only senior. He's one of the first guys off the bench for Iowa and while he's a bit inconsistent, he has tremendous athleticism and when his shot is falling he can really provide a strong offensive boost for Iowa's second unit. He's also one of Iowa's best defenders.
GC: By the same token, which Virginia Tech players worry you?
BHGP: I'm not overly familiar with the Hokies, but Erick Green's stats are certainly eyebrow-raising. 24.4 ppg in college is pretty damn impressive, and 50% from field goals and 38% from three-point range is alarming. Iowa's had some troubles shutting down high-powered guards this year, so the possibility of him going off definitely makes me nervous. I would guess Iowa will look at a rotation of Marble, May, and PG Mike Gesell to slow him down. The other name that concerns me is Jarell Eddie, particularly the fact that he's a 50% three-point shooter so far this year. Iowa's had some issues defending the arc, so the idea of him getting hot and torching Iowa from deep is alarming.
GC: This meeting already marks the third time the Hokies and Hawkeyes will be matching up in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge in the Hokies' nine-year ACC history. Not like we really care to play you guys and all, but do you think the challenge is in need of a change in format? Or it it just that during that time period, the Hokies and Hawkeyes have been on par with one another so much that the conferences have been forced to create that matchup?
BHGP: I like the format in general because the idea of the best ACC teams playing the best B1G teams is great and there's even some interest in mid-tier ACC teams playing mid-tier B1G teams and so on. And, hell, even bad ACC teams versus bad B1G teams is a bit more interesting than another game with a mid-major with five words and two hyphens in its name. That said, I agree that a little more variety would be nice -- there's no good reason for Iowa and Virginia Tech have played each other so often when there are so many teams in play for this event. I think it would make sense to goose the matchups to avoid getting rematches of matchups we've seen in the last 2-3 years, unless there's a really good reason to do it again (i.e., if North Carolina and Ohio State are 1-2, we should probably just let them go at it even if they played each other in the Challenge two years ago). Why not match up Iowa with (future conference mate!) Maryland and Virginia Tech with Minnesota or Illinois?
GC: So who wins, what kind of game (pace) is it and why?
BHGP: I think it's a pretty fast-paced game and I think both offenses have good nights shooting the ball, which leads to a pretty high-scoring game -- in the high 70s. As for who wins... my head says Virginia Tech, given Iowa's historical struggles in the Challenge (2-9 record all-time, 6 straight losses), the fact that the game is on the road, and the fact that Tech has been off to a good start this season. But my heart says Iowa is going to reverse their Challenge curse, shoot the ball much better than they did in their last game (versus Wichita State), and that Woodbury and Basabe are going to have breakout games for Iowa and dominate the interior. I think it's a very close game, but I think Iowa edges it out.
Thanks again to Ross for joining us for the Q & A. For all the news and coverage from a Hawkeye perspective, make sure to check out Black Heart Gold Pants. You can also find my answers to his questions here. For all the Hokie stuff, don't move a muscle. YOU'RE ON IT here at Gobbler Country.