Pre-Tournament Franalysis: Cayman Islands Classic

By Matthew Lundeen on November 19, 2017 at 4:20 pm
Iowa looks to beat some real competition in the Cayman Islands Classic.
© Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa looks to beat some actual competition over the next three days, with the grand prize being a likely showdown with Cincinnati.

It's the week of Thanksgiving again, and along with heaping helpings of turkey and other warm, delicious sides, we are also served copious amounts of college basketball. After most teams started the season off playing some real lackluster opponents, Thanksgiving week also gives us a range of early season tournaments that tend to provide us with better games against quality competition. 

Well, usually this is the case.

In the case of Iowa, however, there aren't a lot of great opponents in the Cayman Islands Classic that they begin play in on Monday. Along with the Hawkeyes, the other seven teams of this eight-team tournament include: Buffalo, Cincinnati, Louisiana-Lafayette, Richmond, South Dakota State, UAB, and Wyoming. Cincinnati is a legitimate opponent, and Wyoming is currently ranked #84 in the country by Kenpom, but everyone else is ranked outside the top 100. While this is certainly an upgrade in competition from the first three games, it's still a far cry from the quality of teams we would rather be watching the Hawkeyes challenge themselves against.

Because of the overall lack of quality in Iowa's non-conference schedule this year, there is going to be a lot of pressure on the Hawks to make the championship game and (hopefully) face off against Cincinnati. Anything less is probably going to be seen as a disappointment, and, unfortunately, Iowa is pretty good at disappointing in these tournaments this time of year.

Nonetheless, this is Iowa's schedule, and complaining about it isn't going to change it this year. Iowa's participation in the 2018 2K Sports Classic next season should prove to be more entertaining (and it should actually be televised!), and also prove better for their RPI or whatever tournament people look at nowadays. For now, though, let's look at this year's Cayman Islands Classic.

The Bracket

Cayi Bracket 17 New by mlundeen1123 on Scribd

Obviously, Iowa is the favorite on their side of the bracket, while Cincinnati is the favorite on the other side. If the Hawkeyes beat the Ragin' Cajuns tomorrow morning, they will face off on Tuesday against the winner of the Wyoming/South Dakota State game. And if the Hawkeyes win that game, they will play in the Championship game against one of Cincinatti/Buffalo/UAB/Richmond (likely the Bearcats) on Wednesday night. 

If you plan on watching these games, you will need to buy a subscription. If you, like me, bought the FloHoops subscription for the month, you should be able to watch this game just fine. If you didn't, however, you will need to purchase that or a CBS Sports Live subscription. Chad Leistikow did the latter, and gave the details over Twitter last week. Thus, I will just let him tell you how it works.

With that out of the way, let's break down the teams that Iowa will and could play over the next three days.

Round One


Team Overall Offense Defense Tempo 3pt FG Attempts Height Experience Minutes Continuity
Iowa #58 #42 #74 #101 #69 #3 #333 #88
ULL #111 #75 #191 #11 #132 #241 #95 #172

Note: All four factor stats are adjusted for strength of schedule and scaled so that zero is equal to the Division I average in each category. Anything higher than zero means that a team is better than average in that category, while anything below zero means a team is worse than the norm. Also, all rankings come from Kenpom

Tipping off at 11:00 AM Monday, Iowa starts the tournament by taking on a high-octane Louisana-Lafayette squad. The Ragin' Cajuns are an up-tempo team that has shot the ball really well and cleaned up on the offensive glass through three games. That said, they didn't shoot well against their only real competition of the year in Ole Miss (they had seven shots blocked), and they lost that game by 18 because they don't appear to offset those missed shots with trips to the free throw line. They also look like they could have some turnover problems. 

Of course, we still don't know much about this Iowa defense yet. They didn't look so hot last Thursday night, but they mostly played well through their first two games before that. The most glaring mismatch on this side of the ball looks like Iowa's lack of defensive rebounds, but hopefully the Hawkeyes can use their height advantage to block shots like Ole Miss did. They may also be able to force a ton of turnovers.

On the other side of the ball, Iowa should dominate. Louisiana-Lafayette's opponents have had, on average, the fastest possessions in the country this season, meaning that their opponents are carving up this Ragin' Cajun defense early in the shot clock with little resistance. About the only thing they have done well this year is limit three-point attempts. Outside of that, opponents are shooting the ball well, not turning it over, grabbing a good chunk of their misses, and oh yeah, getting to the free throw line at will. All of that looks very favorable for Iowa. Hopefully the Hawkeyes can make their free throws because there will probably be a ton of them in this one.

Overall, if Iowa plays semi-passable defense, they should beat Louisiana-Lafayette by double-digits. 

Players to Watch

Jakeenan Gant is a 6'8" 207 lb. power forward, who is scoring 14 points and grabbing almost eight boards per game this year. The former Missouri Tiger is not much of a threat to stretch the defense, as almost 70% of his field goal attempts have been at the rim. Overall, in 22 minutes per game, Gant does a lot of the dirty work in the paint for Louisiana.

Cedric Russell is a freshman combo guard that Iowa needs to keep their eyes on. Although he comes off the bench, the 6'2" guard leads the team with 16.7 points in 23 minutes per night, and he's done so by my making 11 of his first 15 three-point attempts this season. (15 of his 20 field goal attempts this season have been from long range.) Grambling State had a number of good looks from deep a few nights ago, so let's hope that doesn't happen again because Russell could make the Hawkeyes pay.

What Kenpom Thinks

Pomeroy's computer likes Iowa by six in an up-tempo, high-scoring affair. He projects a score of 86-80 on 77 possessions, and gives the Hawkeyes a 72% chance of winning. Iowa is certainly capable of winning by more, so let's hope the defense shows up in this one.

Round Two


Team Kenpom Offense Defense Tempo 3pt FG Attempts Height Experience Minutes Continuity
Iowa #58 #42 #74 #101 #69 #3 #333 #88
Wyoming #84 #85 #90 #45 #97 #30 #87 #143

This is a tall and experienced Cowboys team, who are looking to prove that they belong with big boys. And, fortunately for all of us, they are on Iowa's side of the bracket!

On offense, the Cowboys rely on their shooting and their ability to get to the free throw line to carry them. They have been turnover prone thus far, and have appeared to say "no thank you" to offensive rebounds (a plus for Iowa), in an attempt to stop their opponents from getting out in transition and forcing them to run their half-court offense. They shoot a ton of threes and they are making 46% of them on the season. That number will go down as the season unfolds, but it's still scary, nonetheless.

Defensively, Wyoming has done just about everything well. The most important thing a team can do on defense is make sure the ball doesn't go through the cylinder. And, so far, they have done that by posting the 19th best block rate in the country. That doesn't mean Iowa can't attack them, however, as Wyoming's starting lineup has four guys who weigh 187 lbs. or less. I wouldn't look for Iowa to shy away from them, as the Hawkeyes can more than match their length and should surpass them in the strength category. 

The biggest concern in this one would obviously be three-pointers. If Iowa can limit Wyoming from going crazy from downtown, they should be able to beat them fairly easily. 

Player to Watch

Hayden Dalton is a 6'8" 185 lb. senior forward for the Cowboys. Through two games this year, he is averaging 26 points and 11 rebounds in 40 minutes of action per night. Yes, that's right, Dalton has yet to see the bench this season. He can score from all over the court, but he's mostly a jump shooter, and almost half of his field goal attempts for his career have come from beyond the arc where he's a 36% shooter. 

Most Likely Scenario in Which They Play Iowa

Both teams win in round one and play for the chance to go to the championship game in the second round. 

South Dakota State

Team Kenpom Offense Defense Tempo 3pt FG Attempts Height Experience Minutes Continuity
Iowa #58 #42 #74 #101 #69 #3 #333 #88
SDSU #119 #74 #208 #267 #8 #206 #48 #72

The Jackrabbits are coached by two-time former Fred Hoiberg assistant, T.J. Otzelberger. And, after a little more than a year in Brookings, South Dakota, Otzelberger appears to be cut from the same offense-first cloth as his former mentor. You see, South Dakota State doesn't play much defense, but they sure can shoot the ball from deep. This junior and senior-laden roster is only making an awful 37% of their two-point field goals this year, thanks to getting a ton of their shots blocked. Yet, they make up for that weakness by taking 52% of their field goal attempts from deep and connecting on 40% of them. They also rarely turn the ball over.

Iowa should be able to score points galore on SDSU should they end up playing this squad. However, this experienced Jackrabbit team can regularly put five guys on the court that can shoot from distance and they could make things dicey for Iowa if their threes are falling. 

Player to Watch

Mike Daum is easily South Dakota State's best player. The 6'9" 250 lb. junior center is fresh off a 21-point game against Kansas and is averaging 21 points and 11 rebounds in 28 minutes per game this year. The Jackrabbits' big man is the focal point of their offense, as he uses the most possessions and takes the most shots of anyone when he's on the court. He also takes a large chunk of his attempts from three-point range, where he's a 43% career shooter. He is truly a nightmare to guard. 

Most Likely Scenario in Which They Play Iowa

Kenpom gives South Dakota State a 40% chance of beating Wyoming in round one, which is still higher than the 24% that he gives Louisiana-Lafayette of beating Iowa. Thus, the most likely scenario for Iowa to face the Jack Rabbits, would include both teams winning in round one and facing off in the semi-finals in round two. 

Round Three


Team Kenpom Offense Defense Tempo 3pt FG Attempts Height Experience Minutes Continuity
Iowa #58 #42 #74 #101 #69 #3 #333 #88
Cincinnati #10 #16 #8 #280 #89 #92 #251 #121

The Bearcats appear to be the best team in this tournament. Most bracketologists are projecting them to be a three or four seed in the NCAA Tournament come March, and they haven't done anything to dispel that notion as of yet. They haven't actually played anyone with much of a pulse so far, but they have at least done what they've needed to do in every game, as their smallest margin of victory through three contests has been 30 points. 

Offensively, Cincinnati's best attributes are their offensive rebounding and their ability to draw fouls. Iowa is usually good at avoiding fouls for the most part, but those second chance opportunities are very scary for the Hawkeyes, who haven't been above average in defensive rebounding since the 2015 season. The Bearcats can also shoot the ball well enough from all over the court to make this a very potent offensive attack. 

At the other end of the court, Cincinnati's defense is probably the strongest part of their team. They don't force a bunch of turnovers, but they contest shots with the best of them and they eliminate offensive rebounds and rarely foul.

If Iowa makes the championship game, playing a hard-nosed team like Cincinnati worries me. There is definitely blowout potential here, seeing how this would easily be the best team Iowa has faced all year and they are no doubt the most disciplined. I certainly want Iowa to face them for the boost to their schedule, but I don't exactly feel confident that this won't be another tournament laugher. 

Players to Watch

Cincinnati has a pair of dangerous wings in sophomore Jarron Cumberland and junior Jacob Evans. Both stand 6'5"-6'6" tall and both can knock down the three or get to the rim. Through three games this season, Cumberland has a stat line of 16.3 points, six rebounds, and three assists in 24 minutes per game. Evans, meanwhile, is putting up 13 points, five rebounds, and five assists in 23 minutes.

If there is any solace, some of Iowa's best defenders -- Isaiah Moss, Jack Nunge, and Ahmad Wagner -- would be assigned to these guys. So maybe Iowa could slow them down a bit. 

Most Likely Scenario in Which They Play Iowa

Cincinnati and Iowa are the favorites to play each other in the Championship game. Both teams just need to take care of business in rounds one and two. 


Team Kenpom Offense Defense Tempo 3pt FG Attempts Height Experience Minutes Continuity
Iowa #58 #42 #74 #101 #69 #3 #333 #88
UAB #118 #122 #128 #219 #287 #157 #149 #276

The Blazers enter this tournament with huge wins over the likes of Jacksonville, Chattanooga, and some British guy named "LeMoyne Owen." Now, of course, Iowa fans shouldn't be criticizing non-conference schedules this season, but that still doesn't change the fact that UAB hasn't exactly played anybody yet. Thus, we don't really know what to expect from this team. But they do have some experienced players on the roster (although their minutes continuity isn't ranked nearly as high), and they could certainly surprise in this tournament.

This team doesn't appear to have a ton of shooters (they also don't shoot many threes), but they have made up for that with offensive rebounding and by getting to the foul line this year. Meanwhile, their defense has put a lid on the basket for opposing teams and made sure there haven't been many opportunities for second chance points.

Still, it's worth noting UAB's numbers have come against terrible competition. I'm not saying they couldn't upset Iowa or Cincinnati in this tournament, but I am saying that their defense probably won't be holding either team to 45% shooting. 

Player to Watch

Chris Cokley is UAB's starting center, and is one of three seniors on the roster. He's 6'8" and only weighs a svelte 216 lbs., but he can be an absolute force in the paint. He's currently averaging a double-double (19 points and 12 rebounds) through three games this year. If Iowa ends up playing UAB, keeping Cokley off the glass will be a big job.

Most Likely Scenario in Which They Play Iowa

For Iowa to see UAB, they would likely need to win in round one, but lose in round two to either Wyoming or South Dakota State. That would leave the Hawkeyes and Blazers (who will likely lose to Cincinnati in round two) fighting for third place. 


Team Kenpom Offense Defense Tempo 3pt FG Attempts Height Experience Minutes Continuity
Iowa #58 #42 #74 #101 #69 #3 #333 #88
Buffalo #155 #149 #153 #39 #196 #88 #237 #223

Buffalo is a fairly young and tall team like Iowa. However, they don't have nearly the continuity in minutes and aren't as talented as the Hawkeyes are. The Bulls don't shoot the ball particularly well on offense, and their defense so far this season has leaned heavily on erasing second chance opportunities. The only real hole that Iowa has shown so far that this team may be able to exploit is defensive rebounding. That hasn't yet proven fatal for Iowa this year, and I wouldn't expect it to against this team. 

Player to Watch

Nick Perkins is a 6'8" 250 lb. power forward/center. The junior is averaging 21 points and five rebounds in 32 minutes per game thus far. Perkins is a stretch big man, who has attempted nearly 40% of his career field goals from beyond the arc, but whose effectiveness has been limited by the fact that he has only made 31% of those tries. It should be noted, however, that he has made five of his first eight shots so far this year. 

Most Likely Scenario in Which They Play Iowa

Iowa would need to lose in the first round and win in the second round. If that were to happen, the Hawkeyes and the Bulls would probably face off in the battle for fifth place, as Buffalo would be favored to beat Richmond if (or basically when) they meet in the second round.


Team Kenpom Offense Defense Tempo 3pt FG Attempts Height Experience Minutes Continuity
Iowa #58 #42 #74 #101 #69 #3 #333 #88
Richmond #187 #146 #230 #235 #142 #298 #336 #272

The Spiders are the worst team in the tournament. They are 0-2 on the season, losing both games by double-digits to well known powerhouses Delaware and Jacksonville State. They are young, they are short, and they are shooting just 20% from long range to start the year. In other words, they are very bad.

Player to Watch

De'Monte Buckingham is a starting shooting guard/small forward for Richmond. The 6'4" wing is averaging 15.5 points through the Spiders' first two games, along with 5.5 rebounds, and three assists in 32.5 minutes per night. 

Most Likely Scenario in Which They Play Iowa

Iowa would likely need to lose in both the first and second rounds. At that point, the Hawkeyes would be fighting for a whopping seventh place finish, and the fanbase would be on the verge of collective self-immolation. 

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