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Q & A with the Enemy: Gearing up for FSU vs Iowa Basketball

I ask questions. An Iowa basketball expert answers them. Because yelling at the TV is more fun when you know the right names to yell.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Here at SBN, we're fortunate to have a network of informed and passionate partners reporting on schools around the country. And with the Noles making the trek up to Iowa City, we were able to get some thoughts on what to expect from our opponent from one of the best sites out there, Black Heart Gold Pants.

RossWB was grateful enough to answer our questions below, and I shared my thoughts with him as well. So after you these, head on over to BHGP and check out the other side of the coin.

Let's get to the Q&A:

1. Iowa returned the bulk of a team who won 22 games and finished in the top 20 of KenPom last year, but has gotten off to a bit of an up-and-down start. What did the Hawkeyes do right against Marquette and Wichita State that they weren't able to do against Dayton and ND?

ROSS: In both the Dayton and Notre Dame games, a bad ten-minute stretch really torpedoed their chances of winning.  They were competitive in the other thirty minutes of each game, but they dug themselves such big holes in the bad ten minute stretches that they were sunk.  The biggest thing they did better in the Marquette and Wichita State games is just shoot the ball much, much better.  They had an eFG of 60.8% against Marquette and 61.5% against Wichita State and averaged 1.31 and 1.20 points per possession, respectively -- if you shoot the ball like that, you're going to win a lot of games.  Conversely, they had an eFG of just 42.4% against Notre Dame (1.01 points per possession) and 53.2% against Dayton (1.05 points per possession) -- harder to win with numbers like that, especially when your defense struggles (as Iowa's did against Dayton and Notre Dame).  So far this season Iowa has been fairly middling at grabbing offensive rebounds and really bad at getting to the free throw line; if their outside shots aren't falling, their offense has tended to struggle this year.

2. Jarrod Uthoff is a heck of a player. What's the key to slowing him down?

ROSS: Honestly, part of me thinks that Florida State (and most teams playing Iowa) might be better off letting Uthoff get his and focusing more on shutting down Iowa's other options.  Uthoff is an extremely consistent player and able to score in so many ways (in the post, off slick turnaround jumpers near the elbows, behind the three-point arc, at the free throw line) that, generally speaking, he's probably going to get his buckets one way or another.  Iowa's other main offensive threats (Peter Jok, Mike Gesell/Anthony Clemmons) are less consistent and aren't as offensively versatile as Uthoff.  That said, Uthoff does struggle more against athletic, physical defenders -- if you're able to get up in his grill and harass him, he's liable to get frustrated and become less effective.  That seemed to happen for big stretches of the Dayton game last weekend.

3. The 'Noles are best in the open court. How good is Iowa's transition defense?

ROSS: That's a good question. It seemed pretty solid in the early going this year, but Dayton absolutely tore Iowa to pieces in transition.  So I guess the answer is... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. One thing that really hampered Iowa against Dayton was early foul trouble for both Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury. Gesell is Iowa's starting point guard and defensively he does a good job of stopping dribble penetration and keeping guys out of the paint.  Woodbury is Iowa's starting center and defensive anchor; Iowa's defense in the paint really struggles without him -- his presence alters so many shots just by being around the rim and prevents even more shots from even being attempted.  He's also generally good at getting back in transition; without him on the court, Iowa's transition "defense" can be somewhat indistinguishable from pre-game lay-up lines.  So I guess the answer to how good Iowa's transition defense is: it depends.  If Gesell and Woodbury are on the court, it's usually pretty solid.  If they're not, well, it could be a long game for Iowa.

4. What do you expect the crowd to be like for this Big 10/ACC showdown?

ROSS: I think it will be really good -- big, loud, and energetic.  This game is Iowa's only home game against a quality opponent until Big Ten play starts at the end of the month, so that alone should have people pretty fired up.  I think it would be an even more juiced up crowd if Iowa had done better in the Advocare Invitational last weekend -- going 1-2 there did curb some of the enthusiasm that had been building around the team -- but I still expect a sizable crowd to show up and I expect them to be loud and into the game. 

5. Who would be on your all-time Iowa team? Say, maybe a starting five and three guys off the bench.

ROSS: Oh wow, that's an interesting question. My own frame of reference for Iowa hoops really only goes back to the '80s, so I have to omit guys from before that time period, even though I know Iowa had some very good players in the eras before that. But I didn't really get to see them play (even in highlight form), so it's too hard to include any of those guys here.

GUARDS: Ronnie Lester and Roy Marble

I'm cheating a little with Lester because he was a bit before my time, but I've at least been able to see him play a little through highlights and tapes of old games and that's enough to tell me that he was every bit as good as the hype -- and the hype around him was pretty substantial. He was Iowa's best player and a driving force behind some deep NCAA Tournament runs, as well as the guy Magic Johnson once called "the toughest guy to play against in the Big Ten." Pretty high praise there. Lester was an excellent facilitator and skilled at breaking down defenses. Marble is Iowa's all-time leading scorer and a guy who would score in many different ways (although he wasn't a great three-point shooter, aside from his senior season at Iowa) -- he's gotta be on here.

FORWARDS: Aaron White, Jess Settles

Settles was a do-everything forward whose game was a little bit ahead of its time -- he could score inside and out (he'd probably be an even bigger threat from long range today), a strong free throw shooter, a solid rebounder, and a good defender. White is my nod to the modern era of Hawkeye hoops, as well as one of my all-time favorite players to watch. He was a fantastic dunker and great in transition and I think his elite garbageman game would work well with the rest of this team -- he'd be very effective grabbing rebounds and getting easy looks at the rim off his teammates' missed shots.

CENTER: Acie Earl

Earl was a good offensive player who could do a lot of damage in the paint, as well as a solid rebounder and a very good shotblocker. He's going to fill the paint for me, on offense and defense.

BENCH: G Andre Woolridge, F Ryan Bowen, F/C Les Jepsen

Woolridge was a one-man wrecking crew at times for Iowa during the 90s and his quickness and scoring ability could really do some damage off the bench against second-string defenses. Bowen was a strong all-around player who could fill a number of different roles for Iowa and provide production in several different ways. Jepsen was a double-double machine and a guy who could provide even more size off the bench.

6. Prediction time x2: Give me your prediction on the game, and also give me your prediction on who the four teams selected into the CFP will be.

ROSS: Florida State looks like a very intriguing match-up for Iowa and I'm really curious to see how they handle the Seminoles after playing three games in four days last weekend in the Advocare Invitational.  I think the home court atmosphere will give Iowa a bit of a lift, though, and help Iowa's shots fall, with Peter Jok and Brady Ellingson (a key shooter off the bench) draining several threes to give Iowa some scoring punch from deep.  Jarrod Uthoff will get his points, Adam Woodbury will provide solid defense in the paint, and Mike Gesell will run the show on offense and defense from the point.  Florida State keeps it close throughout, but Iowa makes their free throws at the end to walk away with a 72-68 win.

As far as the College Football Playoff goes, I'm not seeing a lot of chaos in the offing this weekend.  I think Clemson and Alabama hold serve in their respective conference championship games, which will slide them into the Playoff field as the 1 and 2 seeds, respectively. Oklahoma's season is already done and they seem to be virtually assured of a spot in the Playoff field.  That leaves just one spot left, which should go to the winner of the Big Ten Championship Game -- and I'm going to take Iowa to edge out Michigan State in that one. This season has been a wild and fun ride for Iowa football and I'm not prepared to call for it to come up short just yet -- I think Iowa matches up with Michigan State pretty well and I think the defense will come up with some key stops in the fourth quarter and C.J. Beathard will lead a game-winning field goal drive to win the game for Iowa.

Many thanks to Ross for sharing his insight--hopefully he gets a first hand look at just how dynamic FSU's freshmen can be tonight in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Also, if you're looking for deeper insight into what amounts to a CFP play-in game between Iowa and Michigan State (If, for example, you like to make wagers--friendly or otherwise) be sure to head on over to Black Heart Gold Pants and check out all they have to offer.