Iowa vs. Richmond NCAA Tournament matchups to watch from Keegan Murray to Jordan Bohannon

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Iowa and Richmond men's basketball teams will play in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday having taken similar paths to get there. Both teams won their conference tournaments by winning four games in four days, Iowa as a No. 5 seed in the Big Ten and Richmond as the No. 6 seed in the Atlantic 10.

Like each other, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery and Richmond coach Chris Mooney credited a large part of their success to familiarity with their conference opponents.

And, again, like each other, that benefit no longer exists for each program in the NCAA Tournament field, where often teams are matched up with opponents or play styles that they don't normally see. 

"I think any time you're dealing with different, it's going to be a concern because you have to get ready for that," McCaffery told reporters on Wednesday. "We played some really good teams last week, but we were playing them for the second or third time this year, and we may have played them two or three times last year, you know, so we know their system, and we know their personnel, and coaching tendencies and so forth." 

MORE: Leistikow: The qualities that shaped Fran McCaffery's best year at Iowa

On Wednesday, both coaches and their players outlined the challenges they see in each other and how best to attack it from their perspectives. Here are three takeaways: 

Richmond has all eyes on Keegan Murray

When asked if Richmond has seen a team similar to Iowa in the Atlantic 10, guard Jacob Gilyard couldn't find a reasonable comparison.

And the reason why was Iowa's Keegan Murray. 

"I would say they don't really compare to anybody," Gilyard said. "I mean, they've got an All-American. We haven't played anybody that has that type of player." 

Mooney had familiarity with Murray prior to drawing Iowa in the NCAA Tournament through watching Iowa a few times this year, but said on Wednesday that film prep for Thursday's game revealed that the first-team Associated Press All-American is even better than Mooney thought. 

Richmond's players understand that stopping Murray is more than a one-person job. Their hope is that a team-centered approach will slow him down enough to prevent him from taking the game over. 

"His energy, you can see just sort of ignites them a little bit," Richmond forward Grant Golden said. "I think with players like that, obviously, the saying is, I don't know if you can stop them, you can only hope to contain them, so hopefully we can just go out there and make everything tough for him and make him earn every basket that he gets." 

More:Leistikow's 5 thoughts from Buffalo on Iowa basketball's first-round NCAA matchup vs. Richmond

Outside of Keegan Murray, Iowa's offense presents more challenges

Other players that Gilyard and Golden pinpointed as players that stuck out to them on film were Jordan Bohannon, for his shooting ability, and Kris Murray, also for shooting and his skill off the dribble. 

From a team aspect, Iowa's ability to play in transition is what concerns Mooney most. 

"Every guy seemingly brings the ball up if they get the rebound," Mooney said. "So it's a different kind of transition than a traditional, like (University of North Carolina) fast break or numbered fast break. They're just very good at crossing the court and finding guys in a little bit different areas. Nobody is in the same spot every time. That's a huge challenge for us." 

Richmond's top priority on defense will be preventing Iowa from getting out into transition offense.

Iowa finished the season as the top scoring team in the Big Ten at nearly 84 points per game. But Richmond's defense is coming into Thursday's game with some momentum. The Spiders held each of their four conference tournament opponents to under 65 points and overall haven't allowed a team to reach 75 points for nearly a month. 

Gilyard is also the all-time NCAA career steals leader, setting the record of 386 on Dec. 5, 2021. Disrupting Iowa's offense by forcing turnovers is a top priority for Richmond. 

"I just don't know if anyone can really guard them for 40 minutes and just hold them to a low score," Mooney said. "But for us, it's going to be about making it as difficult as possible. They rarely turn the ball over. We're going to have to have some turnovers and generate some turnovers and be good on the backboard, but I don't necessarily know if it's going to be in the points department. I think it's going to be more a total effort and cumulative effect of great effort and hustle that help us to play well defensively."

MORE: Why Iowa men's basketball is built for a long run in the NCAA Tournament

Richmond has a rare combination of experience and scoring 

McCaffery said that Iowa has played a number of teams this year with experienced players but he can't recall any that have quite the amount of veterans and production that Richmond does. 

Similar to Bohannon, Richmond has six players who exercised their extra COVID-19 year of eligibility. That same group led Richmond to its best season in school history, a 24-7 record in 2020, but that season was cut when COVID-19 first started to spread. 

Production-wise, the Spiders have four players with 1,000-plus career points: Gilyard and Golden, who are both over 2,000 points, forward Nathan Cayo and guard Nick Sherod. Forward Tyler Burton has 984 career points. 

More:5 things to know about Richmond, Iowa basketball's NCAA Tournament opponent

Containing a team that accomplished, experienced and battle-tested will be a tough task for Iowa in the tournament's opening round. But that challenge in itself is what McCaffery enjoys so much about this time of year. 

"I think that's the beauty of what this tournament is," McCaffery said. "Everybody is different. Everybody comes in not knowing what the other team does. You try to figure out — figure it all out in a couple of days, and then you turn the kids loose and see if they can execute a game plan." 

Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa Hawkeyes football and men's basketball for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at ksmith@gannett.com.