The Incredibly Shrinking Men’s Basketball Team will have to come up big Thursday night in Las Vegas.
Iowa has gone from an 11-player rotation in to 10, 9 ... Reserve forward Patrick McCaffery has missed the last three games with a health issue and apparently is out indefinitely. Senior guard Jordan Bohannon sat out Sunday’s win over Cal Poly with what was termed hip soreness. And starting forward Jack Nunge tore the ACL in his right knee in that Sunday game, leaving the Hawkeyes to face the rest of the season without him.
So what’s staring the Hawkeyes in the face Thursday in the off-Strip Orleans Arena? No. 12 Texas Tech, which has lost just once over its last 11 games. That loss was in overtime against Virginia in the national-championship game.
The Red Raiders had four senior starters on that team. This season, five of their top nine players are freshmen. Instead of retreating, they’re 5-0 this season with an average winning margin of 26.8 points.
Tech Coach Chris Beard’s trademark tenacious defense didn’t leave with the west Texas wind after last season’s greatness. The Red Raiders are outrebounding foes by 12 per game, and have held opponents to 37.4 percent shooting from the field.
“They’re really good defensively, as we all know,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said Sunday. “They’re also really good offensively.”
They have five players scoring 10 or more points per game, topped by freshman guard Jahmi’us Ramsey, who averages 19.4. Ramsey made 5 of 6 three-pointers and had 27 points in Tech’s most-recent game, a 96-66 win over Long Island-Brooklyn.
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Iowa has a similar story. Freshman Hawkeye guard CJ Fredrick sank all five of his 3-pointers and had 21 points Sunday in Iowa’s 85-59 victory over Cal Poly, upping his season-average to 10.4.
Hawkeye center Luka Garza tops the Big Ten with 22.2 points per game, and is third in rebounding at 10.2 an outing.
In Nunge’s absence, Ryan Kriener probably moves into the starting lineup at power forward. The 6-10 senior from Spirit Lake averages 7.6 points and 4.6 rebounds. He is shooting 76.5 percent (13-of-17) from the field.
This game starts a stretch of seven straight challenging games. Thursday’s and the next three are in time zones other than the Central. Six are against teams from Power Five conferences. The other will be Friday night in Las Vegas against one of two formidable foes in Creighton (4-1) or San Diego State (6-0).
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