IOWA HAWKEYES vs.
NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL EAGLES
|TIME||3:00 pm CT|
|WHERE||Carver Hawkeye Arena|
|TV||Big Ten Network|
|STREAM||Fox Sports Live|
TALE OF THE TAPE
Basketball season is here, at least for the moment. Iowa opens its season on Wednesday afternoon against North Carolina Central. Coverage on BTN.
NC-Central is a vaguely interesting cupcake, at least. They actually went over .500 last season, and won the MEAC regular season title. Now, before you panic, the MEAC was the nation's worst conference, according to Kenpom. NC-Central managed to go 13-3 in the conference despite posting an overall offensive efficiency of just 94 (meaning NC-Central scored 0.94 points per possession; by comparison, Nebraska posted a Big Ten-worst 102 last year). Outside of the MEAC, NC-Central won just a single game over a non-Division II opponent, a nine-point win over South Carolina-Upstate. They lost to the likes of Coastal Carolina, Charleston Southern, Youngstown State and Southern Illinois. They lost their two games against power-conference opponents by a total of 65 points, and one of those was Georgia.
They only lost one player from last season, but he was essentially the Garza of the MEAC: Senior center Jibiri Blount was in the top 20 nationally in percentage of total minutes played, logging 92% of the total minutes over last season. The 6'7" Blount led the team in virtually every statistical category but assists. And now he's gone.
Junior forward Justin Whatley (6'8", 240) and JUCO transfer Nehemie Kabeya (6'9", 235) presumably draw the assignment on Garza, as there isn't anyone else on the roster over 6'6" tall. Whatley played about 13 minutes a game last year, with not much to show for it. Kabeya played last year at the College of Southern Idaho, and put up 5 points and 7 rebounds per game there. This is not a good scenario for NC-Central.
With that said, NC-Central does return four starters on the perimeter, including senior guard C.J. Keyser (6'3", 190) and senior point guard Jordan Perkins (6'1", 190). Keyser shot 41 percent from three last year, on an albeit fairly limited sample (about two attempts per game). Perkins, on the other hand, had no consistent outside shot last year, but took plenty of interior shots and posted a fairly absurd 32.1 assist rate (in other words, when he was playing, about one in three shots made by NC-Central came off an assist by him). They're legitimate guards, even if slightly undersized, and if NC-Central can get some more consistent outside shooting, that slash-and-kick plan could work.
However, aside from Keyser, NC-Central didn't have much consistency from three. Ty Graves, a 5'10" senior shooting guard, led the team with more than 4 three-point attempts per game and shot just 31 percent. Small forward Deven Palmer was even worse, shooting 27 percent on four three-point attempts per contest. Blount also took plenty of threes at a 31 percent clip. Throw on top of that one of the worst turnover rates in the country, and you've got yourself a bad offense.
And that's all said before we address the elephant in the room: At least one person on NC-Central's team stayed home after testing positive for Covid. NC-Central flew to Iowa Monday and indicates it's ready for Wednesday's game, but this season is just going to play out this way, I'm afraid. We might not know this game is going forward until the ball is tipped.
There's a reason why Iowa is a 25-point favorite Wednesday. This game shouldn't be close, and if it is, it won't be due to just ring rust. Iowa should take care of this one with little trouble and move on to Southern in two nights, and Western Illinois six nights after that. Iowa gets three tune-ups before the proper season begins. This will pass that time well enough.