Hawkeyes draw well in first-round NCAA matchup with Temple
Despite the way the season ended for the Iowa men's basketball team, a favorable matchup awaits in the NCAA Tournament.
Iowa (21-10) picked up a No. 7 seed and will play No 10 Temple (21-11) in a first-round game at 2 p.m. Friday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. The winner gets either No. 2 Villanova or No. 15 UNC-Asheville in the second round. The Hawkeyes are in the South Regional, where Kansas is the top seed.
Temple won 10 out of its last 13 contests, securing the American Athletic Conference regular-season title. However, the Owls lost in the semifinals of their conference tournament and were listed as one of ESPN analyst Joe Lunardi's "last four in" prior to the bracket announcement Sunday. Despite three players averaging double figures in scoring — Quenton DeCosey (15.6), Obi Enechionyia (11.2), and Jaylen Bond (10.2) — Temple is paltry on offense, ranking 266th in the country at 68.7 points per game. Iowa, by contrast, is 57th at 78.1 points per game.
"They've got talent, they've got depth, and they're really well coached," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "They're in a terrific league and they did very well. They're used to playing in the postseason, so we need to be ready."
The Hawkeyes and Owls boast two common opponents from this season in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Both defeated Minnesota (Iowa 75-71, Temple 75-70) and lost to Wisconsin (Iowa 67-59, Temple 76-70).
Though Temple lacks on offense, coach Fran Dunphy's club isn't apt to making many mistakes. They are first in the country in turnovers per game and average 67.4 points allowed.
"(Dunphy's) teams are exactly what you want to be," McCaffery said. "They don't turn it over, they take care of the ball, they get good shots, they make it hard for you to score, they rebound."
Similar to Iowa's veteran-laden lineup of four seniors and one junior, Temple's starting five features two seniors, two juniors and one sophomore. Most of the Owls' rotations on the hardwood include three guards and two forwards, but sometimes they utilize four guards.
Iowa will need to counter with as strong of a backcourt presence with guards Mike Gesell, Anthony Clemmons and Peter Jok, which could also open chances closer to the basket for forward Jarrod Uthoff and center Adam Woodbury. Iowa scored 70-plus points all but twice in its first 25 games, but notched fewer than 70 in three of its last six.
"They've got a storied program, we'll be ready," Woodbury said. "When you get to play in an NCAA Tournament on a national stage like that, it's always fun. A lot of people tune in, a lot of people will be there. We're excited for the opportunity."
Peering ahead, Villanova (29-5) will likely upend UNC-Asheville (22-11). If Iowa also wins over Temple, the Hawkeyes will face a daunting task against the Big East stalwarts. Iowa went to overtime before losing 88-83 to the Wildcats early in the 2013-14 season.
But no one on Iowa is thinking beyond Temple.
Not yet, anyway.
"I'm not looking past Temple at all," Gesell said. "Anything can happen once the tournament starts, so I'm just focused on Temple."
Reach Matt Cozzi at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @matt_cozzi.