As the Gavitt Games keep rolling along, Seton Hall heads to Iowa City for one of the most intriguing nonconference match-ups in college basketball this season. Both Seton Hall and Iowa lost their leading scorers (Isaiah Whitehead and Jared Uthoff, respectively) from last season, but both still have a lot of talent on the roster and both are 2-0.
Max from Black Heart Gold Pants was gracious enough to answer our questions about the Hawkeyes.
Big East Coast Bias: Player of the Year candidate Jarrod Uthoff is the team's biggest lost. Which player(s) are expected to fill the void left by such a talented college player?
Black Heart Gold Pants: Oh man, it goes WAY beyond Jarrod Uthoff, although you're right that losing an All-American is the biggest loss. The Hawkeyes lost four, FOUR starters from last season - Uthoff, Adam Woodbury, Mike Gesell, and Anthony Clemmons - with the only remaining one being Peter Jok. Jok is supposed to ramp up his scoring to replace the 19 points per game that Uthoff scored last season, but he can't do it alone. Peter scored 16.1 points per game last season, so I don't imagine he's going to up his scoring to much more than 20 per game.
Freshman Tyler Cook is supposed to come in and make a big impact right away, and he'll probably be the body down low to eat up a lot of the minutes vacated by Uthoff. Uthoff averaged 2.5 blocks per game last season, and Cook is supposed to be the real deal in the paint. Only time will tell if he's able to do it so soon.
One last player that will probably be expected to fill the void will be junior Dom Uhl. Uhl has been extremely inconsistent in his time as a Hawkeye, with unbelievable cold streaks followed by ridiculous hot streaks. He errs on the side of cold, though, and has been unable to stay even average for the majority of his career. He played pretty solid minutes last season, and as one of the old guys on the team, will likely be expected to do it again this season.
BECB: What are the expectations for this team after making the NCAA Tournament a season ago in such a tough Big Ten conference?
BHGP: No one really knows what to expect this season, honestly. Last season, people expected the Hawks to go to the Sweet 16, at the very least, especially with all the experience on the team. This season, the knowns are Jok, Uhl, and uh, Dale Jones, a guy who played in six games last season before getting hurt. Outside of them, there are a whole ton of freshmen and sophomores who haven't played a whole lot.
The talent is there this season, but we'll see if they can put it all together as a cohesive unit. Most fans are expecting a middle of the pack season in a strong Big Ten Conference, but as previously mentioned, no one knows. I think best case scenario would be 4th or 5th place in the conference, and worst case would be that they're worse than Rutgers and Northwestern. I don't think the worst case scenario is going to happen.
BECB: This team has seven freshmen on its roster. Which are expected to make an impact and which have impressed so far?
BHGP: As previously mentioned, former four-star Tyler Cook is supposed to be the real deal and he's shown flashes of that in the first couple games of the season. He went 1-for-7 from the field in his first game, but 7-of-9 in the second. Hopefully we get more of the second game this season than the first!
Another freshman who has shown he can play is Cordell Pemsl. He's shooting an absurd and totally unsustainable 79% from the field after two games, but he was pretty well hyped coming into the season and fans are buying into it after seeing him knock down shots. He's also averaging eight boards a game, and will need to work on his free throw shooting (55%), but his future should be bright.
Was debating adding one more, and I'll go for it. Guard Jordan Bohannon is supposed to be an absolute sharpshooter, and he's shown an ability to knock down some deep threes in his first couple games. He's made some pretty bad decisions with the ball, but he'll get better once the game slows down for him.
BECB: I'm a sucker for great guard matchups. Peter Jok vs Khadeen Carrington seems to be the most fun matchup to watch in this game. What are your thoughts on the battle between those two?
BHGP: I'm pretty excited for this one, too. These two should absolutely light up the brand new scoreboards in Carver-Hawkeye Arena and it should be fun to watch. I think that the x-factor here will be the players surrounding them - if Iowa's other players are unable to produce, then you might see some double-teams on Jok, which could lead to Carrington winning the battle between them. Jok has knocked down some pretty ridiculous 3's, one of which was from the Hawkeye logo at center court, and so I think it'll be hard for Seton Hall to neutralize him no matter what they do - he can score and he'll take his shots no matter what. It should be fun to watch these two go at it.
BECB: The backbone of this Seton Hall team is its defense. How will Iowa's offense try to break them down after two solid scoring performances?
BHGP: Head Coach Fran McCaffery is a smart coach who will adapt to what he's seeing defensively. That being said, Iowa has shown that they can score in a multitude of ways in the early part of this season. Does the perimeter defense look a bit weak? Jok, Bohannon, Brady Ellingson, and Nicholas Baer (among others) will jack up some three-pointers. Does the paint look like it's vulnerable? Iowa has the size to attack the rim with Cook, Baer, Pemsl, and Co. A player I want to see shoot more is makeshift-PG Christian Williams, who is 6'7" and has a wingspan of 7'. He can attack the basket, but has played the role of facilitator more often than not.
All-in-all, this is a very balanced Hawkeye squad. They have a handful of players who will attack the Pirates in a few different ways, and then have some nice complimentary pieces to exploit any weaknesses they might see. The Hawks have up to 13 different players that they can choose from, and even elected not to redshirt any freshmen this season because Fran thinks all the new guys can come in and make an impact immediately. There are a lot of different toys to play with, and that makes it hard to say exactly how Iowa plans to attack a team like Seton Hall, but I wouldn't rule out anything.
BECB: With all of that mind, WHO YA GOT?
BHGP: The Hawks don't have a whole ton of experience, but I like their mix of youth and talent. It'll be interesting to see if they can get comfortable against an experienced Pirates squad. I think that Peter Jok is the best player in this game and he'll break out in this one, freeing up the young guys to make some plays. What I'm most interested to see is what kind of crowd shows up. In recent years, Carver doesn't usually fill up until conference play, and while Seton Hall isn't the biggest name, it's still a good team that people should come out to see take on their Hawks. The home-court advantage might not exist if the students don't show up, and that could shift the edge to Seton Hall. But to be a homer, I'm going to go with I-O-W-A.