Iowa and Tennessee square off Wednesday night in the last first four matchup of the 2014 NCAA tournament in Dayton, Ohio. The winner moves on to the round of 64 to face Massachusetts. The matchup pits two polar opposites on the court, as Iowa is a fast-paced and high-powered offense against Tennessee’s long and athletic defense anchoring the team. Iowa has also lost six of the past seven games after a 19-6 start to the season while Tennessee has won five of six.
A battle with UMass of the A-10 conference in the NCAA’s is not an intimidating prospect for either team, as UMass has lost seven of the past 15 games after a 16-1 start. The difference in the two teams will be crucial, as whoever dictates the pace of this one will likely gain a huge advantage.
Keys for Iowa to Win: The Hawkeyes are No. 7 in the nation in rebounding and although they are not the biggest team out there and do not have anyone averaging more than 6.7 rebounds, they do know how to box out and put five guys on the glass to eliminate second-chance points. On the offensive end, Aaron White and Melsahn Basabe have to make a concerted effort to challenge Tennessee’s big and sometimes overpowering front line to grab whatever offensive rebounds they can. Iowa loves to get up a ton of shots, so if they are able to get a couple of second and third chances on that end of the floor, it could go a long way towards wearing down Tennessee.
Iowa will undoubtedly try to make this an up and down affair, which is fine, but they will need to play better defense than they have been in recent weeks. Their opponents have racked up at least 86 points in three of the past six games. They will be able to win if they can succeed in making this a fast-paced game while also converting on the offensive end, but will find themselves in trouble if they are affected by Tennessee’s length on the offensive end unless they can strap up more on defense.
Keys for Tennessee to Win: The Volunteers are no slouches on the glass themselves, as they are 20th in the NCAA in rebounding, although they do it differently than Iowa does. Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon grab nearly half of Tennessee’s total rebounds, so it is imperative that the two of them control the paint on both ends and stay out of foul trouble.
Tennessee has experienced a much different result on the defensive end than Iowa. They have not allowed a team to score more than 70 points since January 22. If they are able to establish their two bigs and keep Iowa off the offensive glass, it will go a long way towards slowing down the game. Tennessee also needs leading scorer Jordan McRae to win the shooting guard battle with Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa’s leading scorer.
Prediction: Tennessee is the much hotter team of late and has shown a little more success against difficult opponents. The discrepancy on the defensive end also leans heavily in the Vols’ favor as Iowa has only won one game all season in which they scored less than 75 points, and Tennessee has allowed a team to reach 75 points only twice all season, and neither cracked 80. Tennessee will be moving on to face UMass in the NCAA tournament because Iowa will struggle making this a fast-paced game and will be unable to control the glass like they are accustomed to.
Commentary by Justin Hussong