Iowa Lands Two Seed, Faces Grand Canyon in Opening Round

Iowa plays Saturday at 5:25P at Farmer's Colliseum

First, some notes from Iowa Sports Information:

The University of Iowa men’s basketball team received an at-large berth to the 2021 Men’s Basketball Tournament, its 27th appearance in the tournament, including its fifth under head coach Fran McCaffery. 

Iowa (21-8) received a No. 2 seed in the West Region and will play 15th-seeded Grand Canyon (17-6) on Saturday in Indianapolis. Saturday will be the first ever meeting between the two teams. The other two teams in Iowa’s first-weekend bracket include No. 7 Oregon and 10th-seeded VCU. 

The No. 2 seed matches Iowa’s highest seed ever in NCAA Tournament history (No. 2 seed in the 1987 Tournament). 

  • Iowa qualified for five NCAA tournaments over the last seven years (2014, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2021) and eight postseason tournaments over the last 10 seasons (4 NCAA; 3 NIT). The Hawkeyes likely would have qualified for the 2020 NCAA Tournament if not canceled due to the pandemic.
  • Iowa was ranked in the top 15 of the Associated Press Poll every week during the 2020-21 season. The Hawkeyes were ranked fifth in the preseason poll and No. 5 in the final regular season poll.
  • The Hawkeyes recorded 13 Quad 1 (8) and Quad 2 (5) victories.
  • Iowa won eight games over AP Top 25 teams in 2020-21, tying Kansas and Illinois for second most in the country (Oklahoma State, 9).
  • Senior Luka Garza was named Big Ten Player of the Year, junior Joe Wieskamp was a second team all-conference honoree, while Keegan Murray was named to the five-player All-Big Ten Freshman Team.
  • Five of Iowa’s eight losses in 2020-21 came to teams ranked in the top 10 of the NCAA NET Rankings.
  • Fran McCaffery has guided Iowa to 20 wins or more in seven of the last nine seasons and finished in the top half of the Big Ten eight of the last nine years. Iowa is tied with Michigan State and Wisconsin for the most upper division finishes in the Big Ten since 2013.

JON’S TAKE:  At first blush, Grand Canyon is a bit of an outlier team in the MAC, where they won the conference championship this year.  They start a two-center look, with a 6-10 and 7-0 offering in the paint.  Midtgaard averages 14/9 while Lever averages 13/5.   Javon Blackshear, a 5-11 waterbug point guard, is their third leading scorer, averaging 12 per game and making 39.2% of his treys.

Grand Canyon shot 470 three-pointers this year, compared to Iowa’s 733. This is a team more comfortable trying to beat you with their size.  It’s also a team that can play defense.  They were 6th in the nation in effective FG% defense, 22nd in 2FG% defense and 7th in block percentage.  They were also 15th in the nation in 2FG%, again playing into their size advantage in the conference they play in.  They were 245th in three point shooting, making just 32.2% of their long balls.  They ranked 108th in, with the 142nd ranked offense and 74th ranked defense.  They also do not appear to be a deep team, ranking 277th in bench minutes and they don’t turn you over that much, ranking just 343rd out of 354 teams in steal percentage.

Their best win of the year, and one of just two games they played against KenPom top 100 teams, was against Steve Alford’s Nevada squad, who was ranked 87th in KenPom.

If Iowa beats Grand Canyon, it will play either seven seed Oregon or 10 seed VCU.  VCU has the 10th best defense in the nation per Pomeroy. They lost by three early in the year to Penn State, but had three KenPom Top 40 wins, including against tourney teams Utah State and St Bonaventure, plus a win over Memphis, who was left out of the dance despite being ranked 38th in Pomeroy’s rankings.

Oregon won the Pac-12 regular season and is a team that is getting healthy at the right time. They were 14-4 in a down Pac-12, and are coached by Dana Altman. Chris Duarte and Eugene Omoruyi lead them in scoring at 16.7/ppg each, and both were first team All Pac-12. Duarte averaged nearly two steals per game as well. Oregon is ranked 16th in Offensive Efficiency and 76th in Defensive Efficiency per Pomeroy, or a very similar fingerprint to Ohio State.

We will have more March Madness content all week long.

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