IOWA (1-1) VS. ORAL ROBERTS (1-2)
DATE: November 15, 2019
TIME: 7:00 p.m. CT
LOCATION: Carver Hawkeye Arena
RADIO: Learfield Sports
STREAMING: BTN+ (subscription required)
LINE: Iowa -12.5
KENPOM: Iowa -15 (Iowa 91% win probability)
Iowa will attempt to recover from an embarrassing Monday loss to DePaul when the Hakweyes welcome the Golden Eagles of Oral Roberts University to Carver Hawkeye Friday night. The recovery will not be televised.
ORU is 1-2 so far on the season...
...but Friday will be their first game outside the state of Oklahoma. The Golden Eagles played Oklahoma State tough in their opener, and stayed within single digits of Tulsa on Tuesday. They're not to be trifled with.
But ORU is also a Summit League team that hasn't posted a winning season since 2014-15 and went 11-21 in both of the last two campaigns. Head coach Paul Mills had the Golden Eagles playing as one of the lowest-tempo teams in the country two seasons ago; they've pushed toward 90 possessions in two of their first three games this season, which is "just dribble it up and chuck it from half court" fast. Their Kenpom stats bear that out: The Golden Eagles are taking four out of every nine shots from behind the arc, but are shooting at a meager 43% effective percentage, and just 27% from three. One in six shot attempts have been blocked, which probably explains why they're taking so many perimeter jumpers.
All those blocked shots make some sense, too, because Oral Roberts is one of the smallest teams in the country. Of the teams on Iowa's schedule, only Kennesaw State has less height. ORU runs a three-guard lineup, with a rotation of four players in the backcourt. Senior guard/forward Deondre Burns (6'3", 190, 16.7 ppg) leads that group, splitting time between the would-be small forward spot and point guard as needed. Burns graduate-transferred to Oral Roberts from Arkansas-Little Rock, where he played three years off the bench; last year, he averaged 10 points per game.
Burns is not much of a three-point threat, though. To find that, you have to look to freshman shooting guard Max Abmas (6'1", 160, 15.3 ppg), who is taking damn near thirteen three-point attempts per game. Yes, he's only making 31% of them, but Iowa's perimeter defense will certainly help him boost that average. Abmas' backup, senior Sam Kearns (6'1", 180, 8.7 ppg) adds another five attempts per game, with sophomore point guard R.J. Fuqua (5'11", 160, 5.3 ppg) and sophomore power forward Kevin Obanor (6'8", 240, 7.3 ppg) taking a few more. Fuqua was one of the best assist-hander-outers in the Summit League last year and a harassing defender. Basically, he's a quintessential undersized point guard. Some combination of Burns, Abmas, Kearns and Fuqua is playing the first three spots for Oral Roberts at almost all times.
The frontcourt is anchored by a trio of 6'8" forwards: Obanor, senior Emmanuel Nzekwesi (6'8", 240, 14.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg), and sophomore Elijah Lufile (6'8", 275, 7.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg). Those three use up 77 percent of the available minutes at the power forward/center positions and provide half of ORU's rebounds and 40% of their steals. They're also the entirety of the Golden Eagles' roster over 6'6" tall. Senior Ty Lazenby (6'5", 205, 2.0 ppg) contributes some minutes off the bench when they want to go even smaller, but it's hard to imagine that being the strategy Friday night.
This game is not without danger. Iowa is so mind-bogglingly bad at perimeter defense that a team like Oral Roberts could catch fire. Frankly, we've seen teams with this profile suddenly turn into the 2016 Golden State Warriors when given the volume of open three-point looks Iowa offers its opponents. But we've also seen Iowa simply overpower small teams in the last couple of seasons. Expect a ton of Garza and Kreiner, with Wieskamp vamping off them for open looks, much like we saw against SIU-Edwardsville. Hopefully, that should be enough.