IOWA (5-0) VS. UTC (4-1)

DATE: November 26, 2022
TIME: 6:00 p.m. Central Time
LOCATION: Northwest Florida State College Arena, Niceville, FL
TV: CBS Sports Network
RADIO: Learfield Sports
LINE: Iowa -6.5
KENPOM: Iowa -6 (Iowa 70% chance to win)

Iowa takes on TCU in the Emerald Coast Classic last Saturday night, with Niceville kicking off at 6:00. And, yes, announcers Brad Johansen and Steve Lappas will be back on the CBS Sports Network call-up. Best to bring a stopwatch, shot clock owner’s manual, and Neil DeGrasse Tyson to explain how time works.

I was going to make a sarcastic comment about how Iowa and TCU were about to join the legendary winners of the Emerald Coast Classic, but this tournament actually has a legit history. They’ve been playing this tournament since 2014, with a pandemic hiatus in 2020, with all the champions eventually making it to the NCAA Tournament. It may be a game at a JUCO gym in the Florida Panhandle, but the Emerald Coast Classic final is a harbinger of things to come.

TCU is still hard to read after five games. They have played against five teams, but they were all ranked below Kenpom 200 at the time of the game. They lost a home game against Northwestern State by one point (Iowa fans know how that can happen) and didn’t summarily dispatch winless Cal last night, so there are certainly some signs of concern.

It’s Jamie Dixon’s seventh season in Fort Worth. Pitt’s longtime coach hasn’t been able to build on the sustained success he had with the Panthers, but TCU made the field of the NCAA Tournament last year and led Arizona to second-round overtime before bowing out.

TCU has recovered most of the key components of that team, but has been dealing with a series of injuries. Junior guard Mike Miles (6’2″, 195) missed two games with a bruised bone and returned last night against Cal to add 23 points. His backcourt teammate from last year, Damion Baugh, is serving a suspension indefinitely from the NCAA for signing with an unapproved agent during the NBA Draft process last spring, so Dixon turned to Shahada Wells (6’0″, 183), who barely played last year but shot the 38. percent of three at UT-Arlington two years ago. Youth guard Rondel Walker (6’5″, 180) has also started three times and has averaged 22 minutes per game, but has functioned as a pure perimeter shooter.

TCU’s front line is hampered by a recent back injury to starting power forward Emanuel Miller (6’7″, 215). The senior was averaging over 13 points per game before missing last night’s game; given the rapid turnaround, seems unlikely we’ll see tonight. However, they still have plenty of other options. Senior forward Chuck O’Bannon (6’6″, 215) is the only player to start all five games this season for TCU, and is essentially a second guard. O’Bannon leads TCU in 3-point attempts by a wide margin, but he’s shooting just 21% from behind the arc. He has also been a strong perimeter defender and commits more than 5 fouls per game, although his 68% free throw rate leaves a lot to be desired. Sophomore JaKobe Coles (6’7″, 215) and junior Micah Peavy (6’7″, 215, see a theme here?) work in rotation with O’Bannon and Miller at the posts. forwards. Both are willing, if not particularly good, perimeter shooters and effective around the rim, but there’s not much else to their profiles to mention.

At center, Dixon rotates sophomore Eddie Lampkin (6’11”, 263) and junior Xavier Cork (6’9″, 230). Lampkin is a solid rebounder and shot blocker, and he has the size to cause trouble in the lane, but he doesn’t score much. Cork essentially has no statistical profile.

There just isn’t much of note here. TCU certainly has size and length up front, but it’s not particularly productive. They appear to be perimeter oriented on offense, but are shooting an abysmal 24% from three. They basically clog the lane on defense with that much length, which leads to decent block rates and long possessions for the opposition, but they also have to play against a team ranked above 165th in offensive pace. Iowa is ninth. This is an experienced and deep team, but it’s not clear how that translates to the court, and Iowa is generally not the circumstance where you have time to figure it out.

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