IOWA (1-0) VS. DEPAUL (3-0)
Just one game into the 2019 season, Iowa jumps into something like the fire Monday night when it faces DePaul in the Gavitt Tipoff Games. The Hawkeyes and Blue Demons are scheduled to tip at 7:00 at Carver Hawkeye.
DePaul actually played three games last week, so we have a bit of data to work with. But let's start with the weird, wild journey of DePaul head coach Dave Leitao. Leitao was first hired as DePaul's head coach way back in 2002, and took the program to its last NCAA Tournament in the following season. And then Leitao got offered the Virginia job after the 2004-05 season, and everything went bad for everyone involved. Leitao was drummed out after four seasons at Virginia, would up coaching the Maine Red Claws in the D League for a while, then assisted Frank Haith at Missouri and Tulsa. In the meantime, DePaul imploded: The program went 114-200 over the next ten years, fired two coaches and made a single NIT appearance.
And so, with the program in flames, DePaul went back to Leitao. Things haven't been great: The Blue Demons went just 29-65 in his first three seasons back. But DePaul was 15-15 in 2018-19, good enough to make the CBI, and made a run to the finals. That momentum has carried over to wins over three cupcakes early in this season, and this might well be the best DePaul team in more than a decade.
DePaul's offense is built entirely around Charlie Moore, a 5'11" junior point guard who was the No. 55 player in the country coming out of high school; if that name sounds familiar, it's probably because Iowa recruited him. Moore signed with Cal, transferred to Kansas after his freshman year, then transferred to DePaul last season. So far this year, Moore is shooting an absurd 67% from three, with an equally-absurd 79.2% effective rate from the field. He put up 27 points on Fairleigh Dickinson Friday with 5/9 from three. He takes more than 27% of DePaul's shots when he is on the court, and his offensive efficiency rating so far this year is in the national top 100. He's the best player on the team, and the best player DePaul has put on the court in ages.
Moore is flanked by shooting guard Jalen Coleman-Lands, and if THAT name sounds familiar, it's because he was at Illinois until 2017. Coleman-Lands transferred to DePaul after two seasons in Champaign, sat out the second half of last year with a broken hand, and hasn't done much upon his return this year, scoring only eight points in DePaul's three games. Freshman Markese Jacobs has been effective off the bench, though his usage rate is far higher than a guy shooting 35% from the field should be.
The front line is essentially a four-man rotation. Four-star freshman Romeo Weems (another guy Iowa was recruiting hard) stepped immediately into a starting spot, and has been capable near the rim (9.3 ppg, 75% shooting on two-point attempts). Power forward Jaylen Butz (6'9", 225) and center Paul Reed (6'9", 220), the only upperclassmen getting significant minutes who didn't transfer into the program, have both been effective, with Reed in particular shining so far (72% eFG, 30% defensive rebound rate, 10 ppg). Sophomore forward Darious Hall (6'7", 215) subs into either forward spot, with Butz shifting to the center when Reed need a breather. One thing to keep in mind Monday night: All four DePaul forwards turn the ball over at a high rate, which could play to Iowa's typical defensive philosophy in the paint.
On paper, Iowa should be fine. DePaul's performances this season have been against grossly outmatched competition, and at home; they will have neither in their favor Monday. But Moore is a problem that Iowa will have to address, and if the perimeter and penetration defense is as horrendous as it has been in the last couple of years, Moore might be able to win this one on his own. This will be a good test of whether Iowa learned anything from its shortcomings in 2018-19. If it hasn't, DePaul is more than capable of handing the Hawkeyes their first loss of the season.