IOWA CITY — No. 23 Iowa and No. 17 Iowa State garner attention within their border every time they play, regardless of the record.
But this year’s battle set for Friday in Ames has the state buzzing. For the second time in the series’ 66-game history, both teams are ranked at the same time. Iowa State (7-0) already has knocked off last year’s national runner-up, while 10-1 Iowa’s only loss was in overtime against No. 10 Villanova.
The records, the rankings, the statistics all mean just a little bit more this year, Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said.
“It legitimizes everything,” McCaffery said. “You have two really good teams going at it. When you’re a player, you want to play in meaningful games. You want to play in a game that means a lot to a lot of people, and this game means a lot to a lot of people. It’s an important game. It’s why you work so hard. It’s an opportunity you cherish, you’ll remember, you want to play and prepare your best, and that’s what we’ll try to do.”
The game has registered the 14th sellout at Hilton Coliseum the last three seasons. As of last night, only 16 tickets were available on StubHub with the cheapest costing $170. The top seats cost $480.
“As a freshman when we played here, that was our only sellout game, I think,” Iowa senior Zach McCabe said. “It was just hyped. It was something you look forward to.
“I think with both teams ranked, it just shows the value of our program and how we stepped up so far and shown our growth.”
Both teams are statistical marvels this year, not only in their top-shelf conferences, but nationally. Iowa State leads the country with 91.7 points per game. Iowa ranks fifth (89.5). Iowa ranks second in scoring margin 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, eight rebounds and five assists a game. ISU forward Melvin Ejim is the only Big 12 player averaging 18 points and seven rebounds. The Cyclones have six players scoring 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.
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 going to be an unbelievable atmosphere,” McCaffery said. “It was like that two years ago when we went over there. Our guys are used to that.”