Iowa, in third place, has put in big offensive numbers and skewed wins behind a potential national player of the year in Luka Garza.
The next test – assuming everything stays on track amid the coronavirus pandemic – is to keep rolling against top tier Gonzaga.
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The Hawkeyes (6-0) will face the Bulldogs in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Saturday in the biggest game of the week in the AP Top 25 schedule. But Gonzaga – who remained atop an unchanged top 5 in Monday’s final poll – hasn’t played since he beat West Virginia on Dec. 2 over COVID-19 protocols, which saw five consecutive games canceled or postponed.
That list included a match with number 2 Baylor, who had to interrupt team activities on Saturday.
The game would feature KenPom’s two main offenses, with the Hawkeyes ranked first in efficiency with an average of 118.9 points per 100 possessions, followed by the Zags with 117.7.
Iowa has scored no fewer than 93 points so far, and neither has won a game with less than 13 points, scoring both points in last week’s win against No. 22 in North Carolina. The Hawkeyes followed by scoring 105 points against Iowa State and 106 points against Northern Illinois while shooting 55% and making 23 3-pointers over the two games.
“Kids dream of this game growing up,” said freshman security guard Ahron Ulis after Sunday’s victory in Northern Illinois. “We enter the game with great confidence.”
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BUSY SATURDAY SLATE
The match between Iowa and Gonzaga isn’t the only standout on the Saturday slate.
The afternoon includes 12th-ranked Wisconsin hosting No. 23 Louisville in a rescheduled contest, announced Monday, of the ACC / Big Ten Challenge.
There’s another ACC Big Ten rally in Cleveland that afternoon between No. 20 Ohio State and UNC in the annual CBS Sports Classic, a double headline that also features unranked Kentucky and UCLA.
That evening, No. 7 Villanova and No. 17 Virginia will meet in New York, although the Cavaliers had to interrupt team activities last week due to concerns about COVID-19 within the program.
RANKED LEAGUE PLAY
The Big Ten and Big 12 each have league games between a pair of ranked teams this week. On Thursday, Kansas visits Texas Tech in fifth place after winning both meetings last year with a combined seven points. And No. 13 Illinois – which plummeted seven places in this week’s poll after losing to Missouri – visits No. 19 Rutgers on Sunday.
THE NEW ARRIVALS
No. 16 Missouri, No. 24 Clemson, and No. 25 Michigan were the additions to this week’s poll.
Missouri plays just once this week, receiving Prairie View A&M on Friday in what will be the Tigers’ first AP ranking since mid-2013-14 season.
Clemson travels to Virginia Tech – which ranked 15th last week – on Tuesday, then visits his rival South Carolina on Saturday.
Michigan, which was ranked in the preseason poll, won’t be playing again until it visits Nebraska on Christmas Day.
Oklahoma State (6-0) was one of the best votes among the non-ranked teams after winning in Wichita State over star freshman Cade Cunningham’s controversial 3-pointer with 9.8 seconds to go.
The Cowboys have the chance to make their way to next week’s AP Top 25 with a few Big 12 games. The first is Wednesday against TCU at home, followed by a road game against No. 11 Texas on Sunday.
Richmond, which fell from last week’s poll of No. 19, also has a busy week. The Spiders (4-1) come from a defeat against number 8 West Virginia and visit Vanderbilt of the Southeastern Conference on Wednesday and then face Loyola-Chicago in Indianapolis on Friday.