Regardless of how wrong or right their seeding may be, the Cincinnati Bearcats have their marching orders for the NCAA Tournament. The American Athletic Conference Tournament champions will serve as the seventh seed in the South Region of the bracket, which may seem like a bit of a demotion for a league champ, but it is the hand they were dealt all the same. For their trouble, they were matched with the Iowa Hawkeyes of the Big Ten. Friday’s matchup will be upon us soon, so let’s take some time to familiarize ourselves with just who the Bearcats will be facing.
Record: 22-11 overall, 10-10 Big Ten Conference
Good Wins: Iowa State, Ohio State, Michigan, Oregon
Bad Losses: Rutgers, Nebraska
KenPom Overall: 36th
Offensive Efficiency: 117.2 points per 100 possessions (15th nationally)
Defensive Efficiency: 101.2 points allowed per 100 possessions (115th nationally)
Location: Iowa City, Iowa
Coach: Fran McCaffery
Iowa will be making its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2016 thanks to a few key contributors. The most notable among them are junior forward Tyler Cook and junior guard Jordan Bohannon. Both were named to the all-Big Ten third team by the conference’s coaches and each will be critical to any plans the Hawkeyes have this Friday.
Cook was a top 100 recruit out of high school and the 6’9” forward put in another strong season as a junior. He was the Hawkeyes’ leading scorer in the regular season (14.9 PPG), although he did take a step back in efficiency, shooting 52.8 percent from the field compared with last year’s mark of 56.6 percent. Not one to take shots from long range, Cook will be trying to get his looks closer to the basket, where he has improved on the glass, with a career-high rebound rate of 14.6 percent. He also has some bursts of playmaking, like when he handed out six assists against Illinois in the Big Ten Conference Tournament. In fact, he ranked third on the team in assist rate (16.4 percent), showing just how expansive his game can be.
Bohannon is the real architect on offense, however. He leads the team in assists (3.4 per game) and also doubles as Iowa’s three-point specialist, shooting 38.5 percent on 5.9 attempts per game. He is the only player on the roster making more than two per game and also one of four double figure scorers. The other two are 6’11” forward Luke Garza (12.9 PPG) and all Big Ten freshman Joe Wieskamp (10.8 PPG).
Style of Play
McCaffery’s team scores at a relatively solid clip (78.3 PPG) and is a rather efficient unit offensively speaking. They were the No. 1 scoring offense in the Big Ten during conference play (75.1 PPG) and they are among the top 15 teams in the country in adjusted offense, according to KenPom.
For a team that ranks outside the top 50 teams in the country in both true and effective field goal percentage, the Hawkeyes’ keys to success are ball movement and getting to the free throw line. They are 11th in the nation in percentage of points from free throws and third in free throws made per 100 possessions, according to Team Rankings. Five different players take at least 2.5 foul shots per game, and Cook is the only one shooting below 75 percent. Surprisingly, lots of free throws haven’t entirely slowed the Hawkeyes down, as they are a top 100 team in possessions per 40 minutes, according to KenPom. In addition, with the help of Bohannon, Cook and reserve guard Connor McCaffery, Iowa is 26th nationally in assists per possession.
Iowa is not as effective on defense. No team in the Big Ten allowed more points per game in league play than the Hawkeyes, who are 115th in the nation in points allowed per 100 possessions. They don’t do a great job protecting the paint or even making shots difficult, with their opponents shooting 58.9 percent on non-blocked two point attempts, according to Team Rankings. Redshirt senior Nicholas Baer is the only Hawkeye with a defensive rating below 100 or to be blocking at least one shot per game, but he is largely used in a reserve role.
Iowa can be a clinically efficient offensive team that relies heavily on a constant ball movement, smart shot choices and a skill for creating foul shot opportunities. All that offensive might can mean very little because of their ability to consistently make stops on defense.