By Patrick Vint on November 16, 2022 at 11:43 am
Nov 12, 2022; Newark, New Jersey, USA; Seton Hall Pirates forward KC Ndefo (13) reacts after scoring and being fouled in the first half against the St. Peter's Peacocks on at Prudential Center.
© Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

IOWA (2-0) VS. SETON HALL (2-0)

DATE: November 16, 2022
TIME: 6:30 p.m. CT
LOCATION: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
TV: Fox Sports 1
RADIO: Learfield Sports
STREAMING:  Fox Sports Live
LINE: Seton Hall -1
KENPOM: Seton Hall -1 (Iowa 47% win probability)

Iowa makes its return to the Gavitt Games for the first time in three years Wednesday night, as the Hawkeyes travel to Seton Hall.  Tipoff is at 6:30 God's time, with television coverage on FS1.

You might remember the last time Iowa played in the Big Ten-Big East Non-Challenge.  It was the second game of the 2019-20 season.  Iowa, fresh off a February flameout that had dropped the Hawkeyes to a 10 seed in the previous year's tournament, was playing without Tyler Cook, who had just left early for the NBA.  A lineup of Joe Wieskamp, CJ Fredrick, Connor McCaffery, Jack Nunge and Luka Garza fell behind by 16 against lowly DePaul in the first ten minutes and never really recovered, losing 93-78.  It looked a lot like Iowa was simply going to be bad that year.  Three seasons, two high seedings, and two absolute Hawkeye all-timers later, it's clear we may have been overreacting slightly to that DePaul loss.

You might also remember the last time you saw first-year Seton Hall head coach Shaheen Holloway.  He was all over your televisions last March, leading tiny St. Peter's to the final eight of the NCAA Tournament.  That team was built on its defense: The Peacocks contested everything last year, finishing the season No. 7 nationally in effective field goal rate allowed, No. 13 in three-point percentage allowed, No. 12 in two-point percentage allowed, and No. 12 in blocked shot rate.  It was made all the more impressive by the fact that St. Peters' tallest regular player was just 6'7" KC Ndefo.

Holloway was signed up for the Seton Hall job before the body had turned cold on his miracle tournament run at St. Peter's.  And then he brought Ndefo with him as a grad transfer.  And then they put St. Peter's on the schedule for early November, and damn near doubled them up, winning 80-44 by doing the same stuff that Holloway had preached at St. Peter's: Contesting every shot and causing the occasional turnover.  We're only two games into the season, and Seton Hall has faced about as difficult a slate as Iowa has, but the Pirates are second nationally in effective field goal percentage allowed, second in non-steal turnover percentage, sixth in three-point percentage allowed, eleventh in two-point percentage allowed.  This is St. Peter's with better players...and one of the same players who happened to be the best player from last year's team.

But Holloway has size and depth that he could never get at St. Peter's, and he's using all of it.  The top scorer so far is 6'10" senior center Tyrese Samuel, who is scoring 11.5 points per game, blocking about one in every eight shot attempts when he's on the floor, passes quite well for a big guy, and is generally wrecking shop.  When he takes a breather -- and he's played less than half the minutes so far this year -- he's replayed by another 6'10" senior center, Tray Jackson, who might just be the same person. 

Senior guard Jamir Harris (6'2", 192) gets to the line a lot, though he's not much of a perimeter threat.  Harris is joined in the backcourt by former Pitt point guard Femi Odukale, a 6'6" junior with enough vision and handle to share those point guard duties with Harris.  They're backed up by senior Al-Amir Dawes, a Clemson transfer who has been one of the two legitimate perimeter threat on the roster so far this season (50% on six three-point attempts) after back-to-back 39% three-point shooting seasons for the Tigers.  Freshman Jaquan Sanders (6'4", 205) has attempted seven shots; they've all been from behind the three-point line, and he's made three, so he's worth monitoring.  Louisville transfer Dre Davis (6'6", 212) also contributes minutes and scoring, and is better at getting to the free throw line than anyone else on the roster.  

The rest of the roster is, essentially, generic wing-type substance.  Ndefo is starting, but plays a far more limited role than he did last year at St. Peter's, acting as a rebounder and defensive presence.  The starting lineup is rounded out by Kadary Richmond, a 6'6" junior who was playing point guard until this fall and doesn't seem to know what his new role should be.  Freshman Tae Davis (6'9", 205) has provided some scoring off the bench, and has proven especially adept at drawing fouls.

The "drawing fouls" thing is worth watching.  Seton Hall is currently second nationally in free throw attempts per field goal attempt, and while they're making just 68% at the line, the volume -- and the foul trouble that comes with it -- is problematic.  If there is a spot where Iowa could get in trouble, it's a lack of athleticism in the post; both the size of Jackson, Samuel and Tae Davis, and the drive-and-score tendencies of Dre Davis, Harris and Richmond are going to put pressure on the frontcourt.

On the other hand, Iowa's been among the nation's best at avoiding fouls altogether so far this season.  And therein lies one of the many conundrums in tonight's contest.  This is a stark contrast of styles, playing out in Kenpom efficiency rankings.  Seton Hall gets three free throw attempts per four shots; Iowa allows just one free throw per nine shot attempts.  Iowa commits a non-steal turnover on just one in twenty possessions; Seton Hall forces one in every six.  Iowa has been shooting at a nearly 60% effective rate; Seton Hall has allowed barely half that rate so far.  At least on paper, this game is strength vs. strength, no matter which team has the ball.  It's why Vegas and Pomeroy see it as a toss-up, and it's why this should be one of the most interesting games of the early season.

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