GAME OF THE NIGHT: Midwest No. 11 Iowa vs. Midwest No. 11 Tennessee, 9:10 p.m. (truTV)
The end of the season has been tough for Iowa both on and off the court, with the Hawkeyes having lost six of their last seven games and Fran McCaffery’s 13-year old son having to undergo surgery to remove a tumor from his thyroid. McCaffery, who was with his family Wednesday morning, is expected to be on the sideline of this First Four matchup.
As for the game itself the Hawkeyes and Volunteers are two of the better rebounding teams in the country, but they get the job done in different ways. While Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes (10.3 rpg) and Jeronne Maymon (8.2 rpg) are the clear leaders on the glass for Cuonzo Martin, Iowa has six players averaging between 3.3 (Roy Devyn Marble) and 6.9 rebounds per contest (Aaron White). The question for Iowa is a simple one: can they defend well enough to enjoy success in the NCAA tournament? That’s been a major issue down the stretch, and with Stokes and guard Jordan McRae both capable of punishing Iowa offensively the Hawkeyes have to defend well. If it’s a track meet Marble and company will be at an advantage, but if it’s a “grind it out” affair that benefits Tennessee.
THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: Midwest No. 16 Cal Poly vs. Midwest No. 16 Texas Southern, 6:40 p.m. (truTV)
The first half of the doubleheader in Dayton matches two teams playing the right to play Midwest No. 1 seed Wichita State on Friday. Texas Southern won the SWAC tournament title with forward Aaric Murray leading the way, and for his efforts throughout the season Murray was named SWAC Player of the Year. As for Cal Poly, the Mustangs managed to win three straight at the Big West tournament despite entering the event with a 10-19 record. Forward Chris Eversley and wing David Nwaba lead the way offensively, but the key for Joe Callero’s team will be their ability to control tempo. Cal Poly averages 60.8 possessions/game, and that’s when the Mustangs are at their best.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:
1) The NCAA tournament isn’t the only postseason event being played, with the NIT, CBI and CIT all in play on Wednesday night. One of the better contests on the NIT slate is Iona’s trip south to take on Louisiana Tech, with both teams being automatic qualifiers. Iona’s Sean Armand and Louisiana Tech’s Alex Hamilton will be two of the better guards on display for teams that don’t lack for perimeter depth.
2) Another quality NIT matchup is LSU taking on San Francisco. Much was made about LSU’s talented front court, with Johnny O’Bryant III leading the way, but the Tigers will have to contend with San Francisco’s Cole Dickerson (14.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg).
3) A CIT matchup that should be entertaining is Cleveland State taking on Ohio in Athens. Ohio’s Nick Kellogg and Maurice Ndour lead the way offensively for the Bobcats, who are scoring nearly 72 points per game. Cleveland State’s a slightly better offensive team, and guard Bryn Forbes is averaging 15.4 points per game for a team that has lost just two games since January 22.
4) SMU was a team many felt deserved to be in the NCAA tournament, but their non-conference resume resulted in the Mustangs landing in the NIT. How motivated will Larry Brown’s team be? They need to come out focused against Big West regular season champ UC Irvine, a team many expected to win the league’s automatic bid.
5) Despite being a two-seed in its NIT region Illinois will hit the road due to their home arena undergoing renovations. The Fighting Illini will visit Patriot League regular season champ Boston University, and their young guards will have their hands full with BU’s Maurice Watson Jr.
OTHER NOTABLE GAMES:
- Toledo at Southern Miss, 8:30 p.m. (NIT)
- Wyoming at Texas A&M, 8:00 p.m. (CBI)
- Fresno State at UTEP, 9:00 p.m. (CBI)
- Towson at USC Upstate, 7:00 p.m. (CIT)
- Murray State at Missouri State, 8:05 p.m. (CIT)