By RossWB on November 16, 2021 at 3:00 pm
go hawks go
© Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

WHO: North Carolina Central Eagles (0-2)
WHEN: 8:00 PM CT (Tuesday, November 16)
WHERE: Carver-Hawkeye Arena (Iowa City, IA)
TV: BTN (Jeff Levering, Jess Settles)
RADIO: Hawkeye Radio Network (TuneIn, or local listings) | SiriusXM Ch. 195
MOBILE: Fox Sports app 
TWITTER: @IowaHoops | @IowaAwesome | @IowaOnBTN
LINE: Iowa -29 (TOTAL: 152.0) 
KENPOM: Iowa -31 (Iowa 99.8% win probability)

NOTE: Don't forget to follow all the action during the game and chat with your fellow Iowa fans in the Go Iowa Awesome discord! (More info here.)

Iowa basketball's preseason cupcake tour rolls on with a visit from North Carolina Central, who's making their second trip to Iowa City in as many years. The Eagles were Iowa's season-opening opponent in the deeply weird 2020-21 season and they got pasted by 30 points by the Hawkeyes, though they did keep things even with Iowa for the first ten minutes of the game. What about this year's Eagles team? 

KenPom doesn't think too highly of them, given their ranking of 343 (out of 357) there. Those rankings are still heavily based on returning production and preseason projects and on the court NC Central has been a bit... erratic this season. They led a decent-looking Richmond team at halftime (36-31) in their season opener, but a terrible start to the second half (they were outscored 20-8 in the first ten minutes) doomed their upset bid, though they only ended up losing by 10 points (70-60). They got absolutely flattened by Memphis in their second game of the season, though, 90-51. Slow starts in both halves (22-9 in the first half, 31-8 in the second half) doomed them to defeat. 

NC Central has been particularly diabolical on offense this year, rating 347th in offensive efficiency. That includes a ranking of 342nd in effective FG% (37.4), which includes dismal shooting percentages on 2-point shots (38.9%) and 3-point tries (23.5%). They've also been turning the ball over on a whopping 31% of their possessions and almost 24% of their shots have been getting blocked. They have a lot of issues on offense, is what I'm saying. 

The Eagles haven't been as dire on defense, though their defensive efficiency ranking of 106.3 has only been good for 318th nationally. Their main flaws on defense have been giving up a lot of 2-point shots (teams are making 57.8% of their shots inside the arc) and putting teams on the free throw line a lot (they have the 8th worst rate in the nation in that category). Teams (so far) haven't been torching them from 3-point range (just 28%) and they've posted decent figures in steals (12.5% steal rate, 75th best nationally) and blocks (10.9% block rate, 107th nationally). 

As for individual players, guard Alex Caldwell is the Eagles' leading scorer at 11.5 ppg on 47% FG shooting (50% 3FG, albeit just 5/10); he's also the only NC Central player averaging double figures in scoring so far. Caldwell is also leading the team in assists, with 3.0 per game. Caldwell's fellow guard, Marque Maultsby, has been second-best in scoring, at 9.0 ppg on 50% FG shooting (just 14% from 3FG). Maultsby is also third on the team in rebounds, 4.5 per game, behind Kris Monroe's 5.5 rebounds per game. 

NC Central plays a lot of three-guard lineups and doesn't have a lot of height overall; they rank 284th nationally in average height, per KenPom, and they only play one guy who's taller than 6'8" (6'10" Cameron Butler, averaging 16.5 minutes per game). Iowa isn't exactly sending out Twin Towers or anything this season with the departures of Luka Garza and Jack Nunge, but Keegan Murray, Patrick McCaffery, and Filip Rebraca are all listed at 6'8" or 6'9" and should pose some challenges for NC Central; McCaffery in particular looks like a matchup nightmare for the Eagles at the small forward position.

If the NC Central team that was feisty against Richmond shows up for this one, this game could be tight for a while, especially if the shots aren't falling for Iowa early. But if Iowa's shots are falling early, this game is likely to turn into a rout in a hurry. The Eagles don't match up particularly well with Iowa and they don't anything especially well that's likely to pose problems for Iowa. 

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