With Villanova and Iowa set to square off in just a few hours, RossWB from Black Heart Gold Pants, SB Nation's Iowa blog, was nice enough to join us for a Q&A preview. Here's everything you need to know about the Hawkeyes.
BECB: Let's get the obvious question out of the way. Iowa defeated Temple in overtime on Friday. Five guys played 30+ minutes with Jarrod Uthoff leading the way with 43 minutes. Villanova, on the other hand, had a relatively easy game against UNC-Asheville where Ryan Arcidiacono was the only player crossing the 30-minute threshold.
How big of a role will fatigue play for Iowa, and what will they do to combat it?
ROSS: I think fatigue is a concern for Iowa, although I'm hopeful that the adrenaline that comes from being in the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament will help carry them for most of the game. I think Iowa will need to be judicious about getting guys rest in the first half to help keep them fresh for the second half, although that carries with it some very significant risks, too. Iowa's offense often struggles when Jarrod Uthoff or Peter Jok are on the bench (and it really struggles when they're both on the bench at the same time), so too much rest for them could dig Iowa a hole they have trouble escaping. Iowa's going to need to get some good performances out of bench players, too. Dom Uhl, Nicholas Baer, and Christian Williams are Iowa's main contributors off the bench and they're going to need to at least a few of them to score and grab enough rebounds to keep pace with Villanova.
BECB: Iowa was 10-1 in Big Ten play at one point. They finished 12-6, and lost to Illinois in the Big Ten tournament. A lot has been made of their issues down the stretch, but what do you think was the main cause for the big slump?
ROSS: As you noted, there were a lot of reasons behind Iowa's late season swoon, but if you forced me to pick just one I'd go with Iowa's struggles at the end of games. None of Iowa's losses have come in blowout fashion -- they've all been close games and Iowa's had chances late to win them. They've rarely been able to make the winning plays in those situations, though. Most often, the struggles have come at the offensive end of the floor. Iowa's half-court offense at the end of games has been an absolute horror show, characterized by lots of wasted time, poor ball movement, and a lack of decent looks at the basket (and, not surprisingly, few made field goals). Iowa's also struggled to convert free throws in late game situations on several occasions. There were simply far too many games where Iowa had chances late but couldn't get over the hump because their scoring ground to an absolute halt.
BECB: Which matchup do you think will lead to the most success for the Hawkeyes?
ROSS: I don't see a lot of weak links in Villanova, so I don't see any particular areas where I think Iowa has a significant advantage that they'll be able to exploit. I am curious to see how well Anthony Clemmons can slow down Ryan Arcidiacono and how much that will disrupt the Villanova offense. Clemmons usually gets the job of stopping the more dangerous guard and that looks like Arcidiacono in this case. This might also be a game where Iowa needs to try and hammer away inside. That hasn't often been their M.O. this year, given Adam Woodbury's limited offensive game and Uthoff's more perimeter-oriented approach, but if Iowa isn't hot from outside (and they haven't been for the last several games), then they might be better served to try and attack the paint.
BECB: Which matchup do you think will give the Hawkeyes the most trouble?
ROSS: I'm most concerned about the matchup of Villanova's forwards against Iowa's forwards -- Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins against Peter Jok and Jarrod Uthoff. That's a matchup of strength on strength and I think it's one that Iowa has to win to have a chance of winning the game. But I think the Villanova players can definitely make things difficult for Iowa's players -- Hart's length and athleticism could make it hard for Jok to get clean looks and Jenkins' physical presence could cause problems for Uthoff. If Hart and Jenkins are able to outplay Jok and Uthoff -- or even play them to a draw -- I think Iowa will be in big trouble in this game.
BECB:Who wins and why?
ROSS: My head says Iowa was a bit lucky to get a win against Temple and they still look more like the team that lost six of their last seven prior to that game than a team that's truly turned things around. My head says that team loses to Villanova, 76-67. My heart says Iowa's outside shooting finally gets on track, Clemmons has a big game, Gesell hounds Arcidiacono into a few key turnovers late, and Iowa grabs a 75-71 win. You can decide which one of my internal organs you'd rather listen to for a game prediction.