Interest in this year’s Iowa-Iowa State men’s basketball game has dwarfed just about any previous meetings between the instate rivals.
As of 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, only 19 tickets were available on StubHub with the cheapest at $177 a ticket. And those are in the balcony.
Friday’s game (8:40 p.m. tipoff, ESPNU) is only the second meeting in their 66-game history where both teams are ranked. Iowa State (7-0) enters the game No. 17 by the Associated Press, while Iowa (10-1) is No. 23. Interest in both programs is sky-high for the season. The atmosphere is intense any time they play, let alone when both are considered among the nation’s best.
The teams got a quick glimpse of one another at last Saturday’s Big 4 Classic at Des Moines’ Wells Fargo Arena. The Cyclones escaped with a 91-82 overtime win against Northern Iowa, while Iowa dispatched Drake 83-66.
Iowa State played the opener and its players sat behind the baseline and watched the first half of Iowa-Drake. Iowa’s players didn’t quite have the same luxury, but they have a familiarity with one another.
ISU Coach Fred Hoiberg said his scouting reports of Iowa were based more on video evidence rather than limited time and an obscure angle at Wells Fargo Arena.
“I think with technology the way it is right now you can do a lot of that stuff,” Hoiberg said. “One thing you see in person is just how long they are. It poses a lot of problems. It’s a great team that plays together. They’ve got it together now. In the NIT run at the end of last season they were playing about as well as any team in the nation last year. They had some heartbreaking losses late in games against some elite teams.”
Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery was impressed with how the Cyclones rallied from a 49-31 second-half deficit to win against UNI.
“I think the thing about Iowa State that impressed me Saturday was that comeback,” McCaffery said. “Any time a team comes back, you say, ‘Wow, that was impressive.’ To me it was the way they did it. When you’re down 18 with less than 16 to go, that is often panic time. They didn’t panic at all. They shared the ball. They defended. They got one stop, one bucket at a time. They have an experienced team, and they showed it.”
Both teams are statistical freaks this year, not only in their top-shelf conferences but nationally. Iowa State leads the country with 91.7 points per game. Iowa is ranked fifth (89.5). Both teams’ scoring margin exceeds 24 points — Iowa ranks second at 25.4, ISU fourth at 24.1 Iowa ranks third in field-goal defense (36 percent) while ISU ranks 10th (37 percent). The Cyclones are fourth in rebounds per game (46.3) and the Hawkeyes are fifth (46.0).
Iowa State point guard DeAndre Kane is the only player nationally averaging more than 15 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists a game. ISU forward Melvin Ejim is the only Big 12 player averaging 18 points and 7 rebounds. The Cyclones have six players averaging at least 9.9 points a game.
Iowa counters with perhaps the nation’s deepest lineup. Ten different players average at least 15 minutes a game. While only three score in double digits (Devyn Marble 15.6; Aaron White 12.6; Jarrod Uthoff 10.3), all 10 average at least 4.9 points.
“They’re playing at extremely high level,” Hoiberg said. “They had a chance to beat a great Villanova team, the one they dropped in overtime. This team very easily could be undefeated right now.”
“”It’s a team with a lot of weapons,” McCaffery said. “You can see that. They’ve got athletes. They’ve got shooters. They can beat you in a lot of different ways. It’s going to be a great atmosphere, a great environment, and we’ll be ready.”
Ejim is the only Cyclone playing for the fourth time against the Hawkeyes. Iowa’s Marble, Zach McCabe and Melsahn Basabe are competing against ISU for their fourth time.
“I’ve played them three times so I’m familiar with them,” Basabe said. “They usually keep the same identity, very talented, going to hit off the offensive glass, people who can create off the dribble. We’ll be ready for them.”
Since 1983 the teams are tied 16-16 in their annual rivalry. The home team has won nine of the last 10, with ISU’s 75-72 victory at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in 2010 the lone exception.
It’s the 14th sellout at Hilton Coliseum over the last three years. ISU is 21-1 at home since the start of 2012-13 with its lone loss against Kansas in a controversial ending.
The Hawkeyes last won at Hilton on March 21, 2003 in the NIT (54-53).
ESPNU’s TV crew: Mike Couzens (play-by-play) and Reid Gettys (color)