No one on this Iowa team is hiding from the late-season swoon that saw five losses in their final six games. But the NCAA Tournament is a brand new opportunity and the Hawkeyes are drawing motivation from their belief that they’re being overlooked this March.
“I don’t think that’s a bad way to look at it at all,” Iowa junior forward Tyler Cook said. “You just gotta come in and handle business, you know, it’s basketball. Coach doesn’t expect us to be perfect, but our effort should be perfect. So I think if you carry that mentality into the game, it doesn’t matter who’s project to win or who’s projected to lose, the better team will win.”
“We’re playing with a little bit of underdog in us,” Iowa freshman guard Joe Wieskamp said. “That’s kind of the same mentality that we had to start the season. We went to New York and beat Oregon and UConn. No one expected us to win that tournament. No one expected us to win a game in that tournament, so that’s kind of the chip that we’re gonna play with.”
The Hawks are also going to have to get down-and-dirty on the glass. The Bearcats are one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the country and Fran McCaffery says Cincy’s mentality impresses him the most.
“Just relentless pursuit,” McCaffery said. “They do have long-armed athletes, I mean, they have guys that just go after everything. And if you don’t, they’re gonna get it.”
That combination of grit and athleticism will test Iowa’s rebounding ability both inside and out.
Iowa sophomore forward Luka Garza says getting back to basics is the only way to keep Cincy off the boards.
“We really have to blockout and get stops, because a lot of times they put up a shot up there because they know they’re gonna get a rebound,” Garza said. “And they go up there and get three shots in one possession. We can’t win if we’re giving up three, four shots in a possession.”
Multiple Hawkeyes say Cincinnati is kind of a combination of two Big Ten teams.
The Bearcats bring a physicality and emphasis on rebounding much like Michigan State, while playing pressure man-to-man defense like Illinois.
We’ll see if the experience of playing both those teams this season can translate to success on Friday.