IOWA (2-1) VS. NORTH FLORIDA (4-1)
DATE: November 21, 2019
TIME: 6:00 p.m. CT
LOCATION: Carver Hawkeye Arena
RADIO: Learfield Sports
STREAMING: BTN+ (subscription required)
LINE: Iowa -15
KENPOM: Iowa -15 (Iowa 91% win probability)
Minshew Mania hits Carver Hawkeye Arena Thursday night, as the Hawkeyes face the mighty Fightin' Ospreys of North Florida. Tip is set for 6:00 on BTN.
The Ospreys are a somewhat-flukey 4-1, with wins over Trinity Baptist, which is Division III, and Florida National, which is a golf course. They played Florida tough in Gainesville in their only loss, though, losing by 15 and playing the Gators even in the second half. The 4-1 record is the program's best start since moving to Division I.
First, a quick note: KenPom doesn't track stats for games against non-Division I opponents, so everything from this point forward except for the parenthetical per-game averages is going to look exclusively at UNF's three Division I games.
UNF does one thing, and they do it well: Shoot threes. The Ospreys are north of 40 percent from behind the three-point arc on the season. They're actually shooting a higher percentage from three than they are from two (a nearly-national-worst 38.8 percent on two-point attempts). More than half of their shot attempts are from three. Four of UNF's five starters are averaging more than five three-point attempts per game, and all four of them are shooting north of 35 percent from behind the arc. Senior point guard Ivan Gandia-Rosa (6'1", 195, 12.2 ppg, 6.4 apg) and shooting guard J.T. Escobar (6'2", 185, 15.0 ppg) are the main culprits, combining for 15 three-point attempts per game between them. Forward Garrett Sams (6'7", 210, 14.7 ppg, 5.3 apg) and center Carter Hendricksen (6'7", 215, 14.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg) also aren't afraid of chucking it from deep (Sams hasn't played in the last two games, and I can't find any reason why; he might be injured?) The upshot: There is not another team in the country getting more of its points from three than UNF.
If you look at those player heights, you can see why UNF stays on the perimeter. But all of that perimeter play has caused another issue: Debilitating turnover rates, leading to easy layups at the other end. The Ospreys turn it over on every fourth possession, and have it stolen on one of every nine possessions; that's something like 18 turnovers with eight steals in a standard-tempo game. While UNF is taking half of its shots from three, its opponents are taking just one of four from deep, and the lack of size has left those shots largely uncontested (just 3.4 percent of shot attempts against UNF are blocked, 340th in the nation). All of that adds up to UNF opposition getting two-thirds of its points from two, which is the third-highest percentage in the country.
The math gets pretty simple: Can UNF make enough threes to counteract all the easy two-point baskets it gives up on turnovers and in the paint? They're good enough from the perimeter that simply sitting back and waiting for misses doesn't look to be a good strategy. Iowa needs to crank up the pressure -- non-stop pressing seems to be an obvious move here -- and force some turnovers, and pound UNF inside through Luka Garza. They showed earlier this week that they can do the latter. Whether they do the former could decide this game.