Saturday, November 30, 2013
When: 9:30 PM Eastern
#23 Iowa Hawkeyes (7-0) vs Villanova Wildcats (6-0)
KenPom: Iowa 7 | Villanova: 19
RPI: Iowa 33 | Villanova: 28
Sagarin: Iowa 28 | Villanova: 52
Massey: Iowa 19 | Villanova: 32
Imperial Arena (Capacity: 3,900)
Where: Nasau, Bahamas
TV: NBC Sports
Odds: Iowa -3 | 148 O/U
Villanova has faced off with Iowa four times in their history, with three wins and one loss. Jay Wright has faced the Hawkeyes once before, which resulted in a victory for the current Villanova head coach. That meeting came at the 2006 Paradise Jam a short hop away from their current neutral court in the Virgin Islands. That version of the Wildcats, in a rebuilding year, hammered the Hawkeyes 89-60.
The two schools have met often in preseason tournaments. In addition to tonight's game and 2006, they also met in the 1987 Maui Invitational, where Iowa ran the 'Cats off the court, 97-74. Villanova was victorious in a March 1983 NCAA Tournament game, 55-54, when Lute Olson coached his last game before leaving for Arizona.
From Jayhawks to Hawkeyes, Atlantis is the birds for Villanova.
Iowa has won it's first seven games of the season and find themselves ranked coming into this match-up. They have mostly played teams that they were supposed to beat — UNCW, Nebraska-Omaha, Maryland-Eastern Shore and the like — but they were challenged by fellow Big East school Xavier, who took them to overtime before losing 77-74.
Villanova already climbed the mountain last night, picking up a scrappy win against a supremely-talented Kansas team, and they will be looking to avoid a letdown today. While the rankings suggest that Iowa would be an easier win, they cruised to an easy win over UTEP in the tournament semifinal last night, and showed observers that they weren't a paper tiger.
Their offense is driven by the combination of senior guard Roy Devyn Marble (15.7ppg) and junior forward Aaron White (13.6ppg). Losing Marble to a leg cramp during the Xavier game seemingly slowed his scoring down, picking up only seven points against UTEP, but senior forward Zach McCabe has stepped up in the last two games, scoring 11 and 14 points, respectively — a big bounce-back after scoring just one point against Penn.
As was the case last night, the Wildcats' opponent will hold a size advantage and the 'Cats will lean on Daniel Ochefu and the strong-but-undersized JayVaughn Pinkston to battle the Hawkeyes inside.
McCaffery likes to press on defense and has historically coached teams that play tough defense without committing a lot of fouls. They rank just one spot behind Villanova in defensive efficiency, coming in at number-seven, and they rank 25th offensively, shooting 46.3% from the field and 36.4% from deep. Against UTEP, the Hawkeyes shot a cold-blooded 52.5% from the field including 56.3% from deep, though they were just 26.1% from the arc in their opener against Xavier.
Villanova, meanwhile, had trouble hitting any shot last night. If the hot-shooting Iowa team shows up again tonight, Villanova will have to work harder to find its own shot, or risk having trouble keeping up. The 'Cats should be able to have something to say about Iowa's scoring efficiency tomorrow, however, offering far more defensively than UTEP (122nd defense) has put up this season.
Thus far, Xavier is the only opponent that Iowa has faced that ranks above the triple-digits in defense.
For fans, this match-up may not be the one that was expected at Atlantis' Imperial Arena; most expected Kansas to make their way to the title game. However, it should be a highly-entertaining match-up and potentially another close game, with KenPom.com giving it their highest "thrill score," for games occuring tonight.
Ex-Siena coach Fran McCaffery has previously faced Villanova with his previous employer, losing to the Wildcats in the second round of the 2008 tournament after upsetting a highly-seeded Vanderbilt team.
The Philadelphia-native is no stranger to Villanova after spending his final three seasons of college basketball earning the nickname "White Magic," at the University of Pennsylvania. He followed his playing career with a job as a graduate assistant at his alma mater and eventually moved on to coach at Lehigh in 1985. He was notable for maintaining a 100% graduation rate for his players at Siena.
His staff has ties to Villanova as well. Current Iowa assistant coach Andrew Francis had previously served as a video coordinator for Jay Wright.
Iowa alumni include playwright Tennessee Williams, who wrote the timeless classics "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." Literary alums also include both Flannery O'Connor and The World According to Garp author John W. Irving.
The Hawkeyes can also count Willy Wonka himself — funnyman Gene Wilder — among their own.
Newsman Tom Brokaw is another alum, along with pollster George Gallup and WABC (NY) reporter Tappy Phillips. Perhaps most-notably, however, Iowa can count actors Brandon Routh (Superman Returns), Tom Arnold and Ashton "Christopher" Kutcher.