The Iowa Hawkeyes were back at practice Saturday getting ready for the round of 32 with a unique challenge on the horizon. Iowa takes on No. 2 Tennessee Sunday morning. The Vols bring a lot of versatility to the matchup, a skillset not lost on the Hawkeyes.
“I think they’re a little different than everybody,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “They’ve got really good team speed, but they have the ability to score in the post and in transition. They’ll play fast like we do. They’ve got a lot of weapons. They’ve got 5 guys in doubles. So you really gotta get your defense back and set up.”
After a thrilling upset over Cincinnati, Iowa’s confidence is sky high. But it’s back to business as they get ready to take on Tennessee, a team with 30 wins on the season, led by two of the SEC’s best in forward Grant Williams and guard Admiral Schofield.
“Schofield’s gonna be a hard player for us to try to guard, but I’m really confident in the guys in there,” Iowa junior guard Jordan Bohannon said. “We have a lot of guys that can step up and we know it’s going to be a good game.”
“…they shoot the ball well,” Iowa junior forward Tyler Cook said. “They’ve got Williams inside, so it’s going to be important for us to button those guys up and not let them have big nights.”
But it’s far from just a two-man show.
“They have a lot of other good players, too,” Iowa freshman guard Joe Wieskamp said. “Very capable of making plays, shooting the ball and making plays for each other. It’s gonna take everything we have and we gotta really lock into the gameplan for tomorrow.”
“It’s an unselfish group despite the individual talent they have,” McCaffery said. “And I think that says a lot about those kids and their coach.”
Even with the weight of the Sweet Sixteen looming, this group remains poised.
“We realize that the next time we step on the court could be our last, so the mindset is just leave everything on the court and give it all you have, Wieskamp said.
“We didn’t get to the round of 32 on accident,” Bohannon said. “It’s all the hard work we put in and I know we have a good shot of winning the game tomorrow just because of the work.”
Pressure defense and three-point shooting has been the formula to giving Tennessee fits this season. So for the Hawkeyes to clinch their first Sweet Sixteen appearance in 20 years, they’ll likely need to replicate Friday’s perimeter success and trapping defense.