IOWA (1-0) VS. NORTH CAROLINA A&T (1-0)
Hope you've renewed your Big Ten Plus subscription, because for the first -- and possibly last -- time this season, Iowa hoops will not be on cable when the Hawkeyes face North Carolina A&T Friday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 God's Standard Time from the friendly confines of Carver Hawkeye Arena.
North Carolina A&T is certainly an interesting case study. For the last three seasons, they had been coached by Willie Jones, a longtime southeastern low-major assistant. On August 18, as the academic year commenced, Jones was fired. There wasn't any sort of extraordinary reason given for why Jones was fired, which would make it one of the latest performance-based terminations in modern college athletics. In an even stranger turn, the program promoted assistant Phillip Shumpert to the top spot for this season, in anticipation of "a national search to fill the head coaching vacancy following the 2022-23 season." If that was the case, why not keep Jones for one year and save some money?
Regardless, it's Shumpert's team now (and if this is to make any sense, it's an audition for the head job permanently). He got his tenure started with a 39-point win over Division II Edward Waters University earlier this week. The Aggies will see a slightly better level of competition Friday.
NCA&T is certainly experienced, with four upperclassmen -- three seniors among them -- in the starting five. Chief among those is senior guard Demetric Horton (6'5", 200), who transferred into the program from Purdue Fort Wayne before last year. He was the Aggies' most efficient scorer last season, posting a respectable 54% effective field goal rate. He's also a volume perimeter shooter, averaging almost five three-point attempts per game and making more than 35%. In the season opener, Horton took ten shots -- seven from behind the arc -- and posted 19 points, 6 assists and a rebound, making 5/7 from three. Horton is joined in the backcourt by sophomore point guard Kam Woods (6'2", 185), who has moved from Troy to Northwest Florida C.C., and now to NCA&T. Woods averaged 10.3 points per game as a freshman at Troy, with three 20-point games in a four-game stretch in January 2021. He was the team's leading scorer Monday night, putting up 22 points on a highly-efficient 8/14 from the field. If Monday night's game is any indication, North Carolina A&T is going to rely heavily on this backcourt duo to provide scoring. Their backups, Love Bettis (6'0", 170) and Tyrese Elliott (6'2", 190) were the only other double-digit scorers for the Aggies Monday night, in a game where they scored 100 points, so the scoring focus is definitely on the perimeter.
The Aggies do have some size on the front line, though. Senior forwards Austin Johnson (6'9", 235, UC Irvine grad transfer) and Webster Filmore (6'7", 225) got the starts alongside junior Marcus Watson (6'6", 235, New Mexico St. transfer). Watson can fire it from the perimeter, having taken 110 three-point attempts last season (but making just 27 percent of them). All three put up modest stats Monday, with Filmore's 5-point, 5-rebound performance likely the best of the three. Senior Jeremy Robinson (6'6", 215) provides depth as a stretch four (47% from three last year on 53 attempts), while freshman Duncan Powell (6'8", 225) came off the bench to be the team's leading rebounder Monday night.
Still, with this amount of scoring in the backcourt and a frontcourt devoid of a true superstar, Iowa is going to rely heavily on its perimeter defense if it is to beat that 24-point spread. It's a Tony Perkins game, folks. Tony Perkins games are awesome.