Iowa men's basketball has first big test coming up at Seton Hall. Here's what to watch for.
Iowa men's basketball coach Fran McCaffery feels good about where his team sits just one week into the college basketball season. The Hawkeyes hold a 2-0 record with an average margin of victory of 36 points, and now they're set to enter into the more challenging portion of the non-conference schedule.
Iowa will travel to Seton Hall (2-0) on Wednesday (6:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1) as a part of the 2022 Gavitt Games, an annual series featuring Big Ten and Big East schools. The two schools aren't common foes, having played only twice before, but McCaffery is familiar with first-year coach Shaheen Holloway, who became a national sensation during the 2022 NCAA Tournament.
Holloway coached 15-seed St. Peter's to the Elite Eight this past spring before taking the job at Seton Hall, his alma mater. On Monday, McCaffery recalled seeing Holloway play in high school in New Jersey while he was an assistant at Notre Dame, and noted that they've coached against each other when Holloway was an assistant at Iona when McCaffery was the head coach at Siena, both schools in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
"I've known him a long time," McCaffery said. "The job he did at St. Peter's was was absolutely spectacular as we all know. Not an easy job and he did amazing things there and he's doing a great job at Seton Hall. Obviously he was their guy when (former coach Kevin Willard) left to go to Maryland. I think everybody knew Shaheen certainly being one of (Seton Hall)'s all-time greats and having such a big name in New Jersey and throughout the country. His teams play hard, they compete and I would say they're probably a reflection of him. That's how he was."
On the court, Holloway's teams are known for strong defensive play and it's been present in the Pirates' first two games. They've allowed just 96 points in their first two games and in their last game, against Holloway's former team St. Peter's, the Pirates forced six shot clock violations and 20 turnovers. In that game, St. Peter's kept it within single digits until the 11-minute mark in the first half when Seton Hall's held them to just three points over the next eight minutes while forcing six turnovers.
One of Iowa's top goals in its first two games was consistent execution on offense, especially against on-ball pressure; that will be tested on Wednesday.
"They're gonna put pressure on the ball," McCaffery said. "You got to take care of the ball, move the ball and rebound because they're coming for it; that sort of typifies the competitive instincts that they have. ... If you're turning the ball over or maybe you're putting up a bad shot at the end of the (shot) clock because you haven't run offense, then it's gonna be hard to score. For us, we have a lot of guys who can handle the ball and and we do see defenses like this at times in our league. So you got to be able to be ready for that and execute consistently."
The ability to gain extra possessions will likely determine the winner on Wednesday night. Both teams have forced a great number of turnovers (Seton Hall 43, Iowa 38) but the Pirates have turned it over almost as many times on offense (36), while Iowa has turned it over just 15 times. Seton Hall has also been susceptible to giving up extra possessions on the offensive boards, with 31 offensive rebounds allowed through two games.
Can Iowa continue taking care of the ball while also take a step forward in rebounding and win that battle? With the experience on this year's team, McCaffery is confident in his team's ability to do it.
Also of note, guard Tony Perkins was seen on the bench icing his foot during the closing minutes of last week's North Carolina A&T game. McCaffery said that he is fine and will play on Wednesday.
"That's been really good, it's going to have to be great against this team," McCaffery said. "You got to be able to make plays against that kind of (ball pressure). I think the problem you have, sometimes you get sped up, and I think we have enough maturity to to handle that."
McCaffery provided an update on walk-on Amarion Nimmers
McCaffery said recently that freshman walk-on guard Amarion Nimmers was a redshirt candidate and confirmed on Monday that he will redshirt this season. Nimmers has been out recently with a wrist injury, McCaffery described his wrist as "fine" and stated the decision for his redshirt is consistent with how they've handled walk-ons in the past.
"Look at the track record of Austin Ash, Michael Baer, Darius Stokes," McCaffery said. "You want to maintain that eligibility on the back end, give him a year to get adjusted to learn the system and enable him to take advantage of five years to play, four if he wants to. If he wants to graduate he can, but I think when he's 22 (years old) he'll be a pretty darn good player. Either playing here or somewhere else, he'll have options and I think it's my responsibility to make sure he has options."