Iowa basketball: What Fran McCaffery and Hawkeye players said before NCAA Tournament

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central


COLUMBUS, Ohio — When the Iowa Hawkeyes look at Cincinnati's defense on film, it reminds them of Illinois.

"Their aggressiveness, up in your space, just very athletic guys," Iowa freshman Joe Wieskamp said of the Bearcats, Iowa's opponent in the NCAA Tournament.

"They're a very good rebounding team, hold opponents to low point totals (62.2 per game)," Wieskamp continued Thursday during the Hawkeyes' session with the media at Nationwide Arena. "We're kind of a high-powered offense and score the ball very well, so if we can get things going offensively, hit a couple of shots, I think we'll be just fine."

Iowa (22-11) averages 78.3 points per game. The Hawkeyes made Illinois pay for its aggressive defense with a pair of blowout victories this season. That gives them hope. But they also realize Cincinnati (28-6) is a much more formidable opponent.

"This is obviously a completely different team," Wieskamp said.

Tipoff is at 11:15 a.m. Friday. The game will be televised on CBS.


HOW MUCH DOES MARCH EXPERIENCE MATTER? LISTEN TO BAER: Senior forward Nicholas Baer is the only Hawkeye who has played in NCAA Tournament games, getting into two of them as a redshirt freshman in 2016.

But Baer downplayed the importance of previous tournament experience Thursday. Cincinnati is making its ninth consecutive NCAA appearance.

"I wouldn't say necessarily you have to have tournament experience," Baer said. "There's certain things you need to be able to do in March that are going to be keys to succeed, to advance. Being able to execute late game under pressure and being able to stick to your defensive rules. I think those are more important things than necessarily having the experience.

"Obviously, this is a very unique atmosphere. But at the same time a lot of these guys have been preparing for this moment their whole lives."

A SCOUTING REPORT ON CINCINNATI STAR: Junior guard Jarron Cumberland is Cincinnati's undisputed star, averaging 18.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists.

Two Hawkeyes are familiar with the native of Wilmington, Ohio. Freshman CJ Fredrick, who is redshirting this season, is a Cincinnati native and played against Cumberland in high school.

"I was a little skinnier at the time and that's when I was just starting to grow into my body as a sophomore," Fredrick said of the loss his Covington Catholic school suffered.

But he has told his teammates a little about what to expect from Cumberland, who stands 6-foot-5.

"I just told some of the guys, everybody knows he's going to play at his own pace. He's going to try to do everything for their team," Fredrick said. "We all know that that's their guy."

Iowa junior forward Tyler Cook once played alongside Cumberland at a Nike all-star camp in Chicago. Both were juniors in high school then.

"He played really well," Cook said of Cumberland. "I knew he'd be a real good player, which he is today."

A 'PINCH-ME' MOMENT FOR MOST HAWKEYES: This is the stage that every Hawkeye player has been aiming for, many of them for three years.

Isaiah Moss, a redshirt junior shooting guard, had a big smile when asked about what it means to finally play in an NCAA Tournament game.

"I'm super excited. I've been trying to just enjoy every single moment of it," Moss said. "I'm just chilling in my hotel. I'm thinking, 'Man, I'm in the NCAA Tournament right now.'"

Junior guard Maishe Dailey was asked his feeling on the even of his first March Madness contest.

"It's about time. I think it's long overdue," Dailey said of Iowa's first appearance in three years. "I think it had a lot to do with the growing process. Because our freshman year, our sophomore year, we weren't ready to be here in the top 68 teams in the country. I think we've got to build off this. It's a sigh of relief. But we're not not satisfied just making it here."

Why weren't the Hawkeyes ready the previous two years? Dailey had a quick answer.

"I think just seeing the game for a couple of years at this level and seeing how hard you have to play, the attention to detail you have to have," he said.