This is the first time in many years that the following can be said in earnest:
If Iowa State defeats Iowa in men’s basketball Friday night, it will be a stunning upset.
The Hawkeyes own two straight double-digit wins over the Cyclones, but Iowa State was the oddsmakers’ slight favorite both times. Iowa hasn’t been the favorite to win in this series since 2014.
The programs finished a long way apart last season when Iowa went 20-11 and Iowa State 12-20, but the Cyclones were 4-point picks before their 84-68 loss to the Hawkeyes in Ames last December. This year, things are different. Iowa is the overwhelming favorite in the game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, by 14 points as of Thursday afternoon.
The third-ranked Hawkeyes are 4-0 and fresh off a 93-80 win over North Carolina Tuesday. ISU is 1-1, with the loss at home to South Dakota State.
So, mismatch? You can say it, and you may very well turn out to be right. Just don’t suggest it to Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery, whose record against Iowa State is 4-6. He faces a team with three new starters, all transfers from other Division I programs.
“They’ve got a lot of new guys that are talented,” McCaffery said. “They’re veteran guys, they’re older guys."
Jalen Coleman-Lands, a 6-foot-4 graduate transfer, has three career 17-point games against the Hawkeyes. The first two were with Illinois as a freshman, the third with DePaul in the Blue Demons’ 93-78 win at Iowa last November.
"Coleman-Lands, this is the third school I’ve coached against him," McCaffery said. "He’s always played well when I’ve watched him.”
Unlike North Carolina, Iowa State doesn’t have the size to counter Iowa’s 6-foot-11 duo of Luka Garza and Jack Nunge.
Iowa got outrebounded 47-38 by the Tar Heels, but the Cyclones have been outrebounded by five per game. Their tallest starter is 6-8 senior Solomon Young, who averages 13 points.
“He’s a handful,” McCaffery said.
So is Garza, who averages 29.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3.0 blocked shots. Garza was “held” to a season-low 16 points against North Carolina, but Joe Wieskamp, CJ Fredrick and Jordan Bohannon combined for 64.
It took a long time to get this ISU-Iowa date finalized on this season’s schedule, but it was never a game in question even with the nonconference slates shrinking because of a later start to this season. The state rivals have met every season since 1969-70.
If one hadn’t been ranked when they have clashed, the other usually was. Sometimes, both were.
“It’s been a really good game pretty much every time we’ve played each other,” said McCaffery.
“I think there’s an expectation from both administrations and both coaching staffs. We’re playing 27 and not 31 (games), but that’s one of those games we want to play.
“We’re going to play the game. We play it every year. It’s a great game. It’s a great game for college basketball, it’s a great game for college basketball fans in the state. We’ll play the game. There was never any hesitation on anybody’s part.”
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