It’s March Madness, the greatest time of the year. Looking for some help with your bracket? Don’t know which teams to believe in, in this crazy college hoops season? We’ve got your back. We’re breaking down every first-round game in the field of 68, plus looking ahead at which teams will make the run to the Final Four.
7. Iowa (21-10, 12-6/Big Ten)–The Hawkeyes are limping into the Big Dance, losers of six of their last eight games. They were ousted from the Big Ten tournament by 5-13 Illinois in the first round, an unceremonious exit for a team that spent several weeks in the top 10. The biggest difference between the Iowa team that beat Michigan State twice and ascended to No. 4 in the national rankings and this one is that this team isn’t making shots.
The Hawkeyes have gone freezing cold from the field, and the team’s best player and All-American candidate, Jarrod Uthoff, has been clanging everything. Uthoff averages 18.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game for Iowa. 6-6 junior Peter Jok can also shoot from three, and he averages 16.2 points per game. Both have the ability to go off for 20-plus on any given night.
Senior point guard Mike Gessell (8.3 ppg, 6.3 apg) is an excellent facilitator, and 7-1 center Adam Woodbury adds some muscle underneath (7.7 ppg, 8.5 rpg) Iowa loves to push the ball up and down the floor, and can overwhelm teams with its pace and shot-making ability, when those shots are falling.
10. Temple (21-11, 14-4/American Athletic)– Fran Dunphy has done a terrific job with these Owls, who struggled in the nonconference season but rallied around tough defense and a senior-laden group to win the American Athletic Conference regular season title. This team is tough, rugged, and defends very well.
Three of the Owls’ top four scorers are seniors, including bruising 6-5 senior guard Quenton DeCosey, who leads the team in scoring at 15.6 points per game. He also racks up 6 boards and 2.6 assists per game. 6-9 sophomore Obi Enechionyia (11.2 ppg) is a force to reckon with inside, as is 6-8 senior forward Jaylen Bond (10.2 ppg, 8.3 apg).
67.4 points allowed (68th)
68.7 points per game (271st)
PREDICTION: This will be an interesting contrast of styles, as Iowa likes to push the ball up and down the floor, and Temple likes to grind it out with smart possessions and tough defense. It’s probably going to come down to how well the Hawkeyes shoot the ball, and we think a few days off from basketball and a fresh start with lowered expectations will help them regain their form. Look for Iowa to advance to the second round, where it’ll come up short in a barnburner against Villanova.