Keys to Iowa-Cincinnati matchup in NCAA Tournament

The Daily Iowan breaks down the keys for each team ahead of Iowa's first-round matchup with Cincinnati.

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Keys to Iowa-Cincinnati matchup in NCAA Tournament

Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon shoots the ball during the Iowa basketball practice at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio on Thursday, March 21, 2019. The Hawkeyes will compete against the Cincinnati Bearcats tomorrow in the NCAA Tournament.

Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon shoots the ball during the Iowa basketball practice at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio on Thursday, March 21, 2019. The Hawkeyes will compete against the Cincinnati Bearcats tomorrow in the NCAA Tournament.

Katina Zentz

Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon shoots the ball during the Iowa basketball practice at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio on Thursday, March 21, 2019. The Hawkeyes will compete against the Cincinnati Bearcats tomorrow in the NCAA Tournament.

Katina Zentz

Katina Zentz

Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon shoots the ball during the Iowa basketball practice at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio on Thursday, March 21, 2019. The Hawkeyes will compete against the Cincinnati Bearcats tomorrow in the NCAA Tournament.

Adam Hensley and Pete Ruden

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – For the first time since 2016, the Iowa Hawkeyes are back in the NCAA Tournament. The Hawkeyes (22-11) take on the Bearcats (28-6) in the round of 64 on Friday. Iowa enters having lost its last game to Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament. Cincinnati enters the tournament fresh off an AAC Championship title, as it took down Houston, 69-57, on Sunday.

Tip-off is set for 11:15 a.m. CT in Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. The game can be watched on CBS.

Keys to a Hawkeye victory:

  • Run the floor. Cincinnati isn’t a transition team, and Iowa’s best bet is to push the pace. Cincinnati had 16 games this season in which the pace was above 65 possessions per 40 minutes. Iowa had 30.
  • Knock down the 3-pointer. Cincinnati doesn’t defend the triple well (35.1 percent defense, 228th in the country). In 33 games, the Hawkeyes knocked down 267 of their 739 shots from downtown – a 36.1 percent clip.
  • Work the post. Luka Garza (6-11, 245 pounds) and Tyler Cook (6-9, 250) have a size advantage. Garza and Cook combined outscore Cincinnati’s big-man tandem of Tre Scott and Nysier Brooks per game, 27.8-17.3
  • Player to watch: Jordan Bohannon. After the junior took just two shots against Michigan, the Hawkeyes need a bounce-back effort out of their best shooter.

Keys to a Bearcat victory:

  • Stay out of foul trouble. Iowa ranks 12 in the nation with 801 free throw attempts, knocking them down at a 74 percent clip. With Tyler Cook and Luka Garza in the Hawkeye frontcourt, the Bearcats can’t let them get easy points from the charity stripe.
  • Get production from players outside of Jarron Cumberland. Cumberland leads Cincinnati with 18.8 points per game. While that is certainly impressive, only one other Bearcat averages double figures (Keith Williams, 10.1 PPG).
  • Crash the offensive glass. Cincinnati has a huge advantage here; the Bearcats rank 14th in the country in offensive rebounding, while Iowa sits at 147th in grabbing defensive boards. The Hawkeyes’ size could help them out here, but the Bearcats need to stick to who they are.
  • Player to watch: Jarron Cumberland. The AAC Player of the Year is the clear leader of a solid Cincinnati squad. He leads the Bearcats with 18.8 points a game to go along with 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists. Cumberland dropped 33 in Cincinnati’s win over Houston in the AAC Championship.

Iowa wins if:

It knocks down shots from beyond the arc. Cincinnati ranks 225th in the country in opponents’ 3-point percentage, allowing teams to hit shots from deep at a 35.1 percent clip.

The Hawkeyes have shooters who have heated up in different games all season. Whether it’s Bohannon, Joe Wieskamp, Isaiah Moss, or Nicholas Baer, Iowa has the pieces to drain shots. If Iowa plays like it did against Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament – where it shot 52 percent from 3-point land – don’t count the Hawkeyes out just yet.

Cincinnati wins if:

It slows the game down. The Bearcats are 9-2 when playing with 65-69 possessions per 40 minutes. Iowa, though, is 6-7 in that pace. Iowa is a team that loves to run and launch 3-pointers, so for Cincinnati, the Bearcats must keep Iowa’s pace of play low, along with triples. The Hawkeyes 13-2 when they make at least nine 3-pointers. The Bearcats at 17-3 when holding opponents to fewer than nine triples. Cincinnati’s best shot for a win is if it controls the game and makes it a grind-it-out battle in the 60s.

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