Iowa rallied from a slow start to get past No. 7 seed Cincinnati with a 79-72 win on Friday in a South Region NCAA tournament game in Columbus.
Cincinnati generated an early 18-5 lead in the first half as they fed off of the Bearcat-friendly Columbus crowd only to see the No. 10-seed Hawkeyes get hot in the second half.
Things turned in Iowa’s favor about midway through the first half when the Hawkeyes started working the ball more inside. Behind sophomore big man Luka Garza (20 points, 8-for-11 shooting), the Hawkeyes were able to establish an inside presence while opening up the team’s perimeter-shooting options.
In the second half, freshman Joe Wieskamp (19 points) and the Hawkeyes started to make an abundance of threes as they finished 11-for-22 (50 percent) from the perimeter — including a blistering 7-for-10 mark in the second half. Junior guard Jordan Bohannon also tallied 13 points while Nicholas Baer added 10 points as Iowa outscored Cincinnati 48-36 in the second half.
Using the hot shooting of senior point guard Justin Jenifer (19 points), Cincinnati appeared to be completely in the driver’s seat in the first half. But once Iowa started responding with a flurry of second-half threes, the Bearcats struggled to play from behind in the final minutes. Jarron Cumberland (18 points) didn’t get rolling as a scorer until the second half while big man Nysier Brooks (11 points) fouled out with a few minutes left. Tre Scott also finished with 10 points on the afternoon for the Bearcats. Cincinnati struggled to match Iowa’s hot perimeter shooting as they were 6-for-27 from three-point range (24 percent) on the day.
This is a great comeback win for Iowa, as they overcame the bad start by working to take better shots. Forcing a lot of early looks, once the Hawkeyes started getting Garza comfortable on the block, it opened up looks for their shooters. It’s also notable that junior forward Tyler Cook, one of Iowa’s best players, was limited to only five points on 1-for-9 shooting.
Iowa was playing sluggish basketball the final three weeks of the regular season. Friday’s second half was a reminder of how dangerous the Hawkeyes can be if they are hitting shots. And for Iowa to rally when Cook was playing this poorly is yet another positive sign that the Hawkeyes are not to be taken lightly going forward.
With Iowa’s win, the Big Ten now moves to 6-0 in the 2019 NCAA tournament after a 5-0 start on Thursday. Iowa advances to face the winner of No. 2 seed Tennessee and No. 15 seed Colgate on Sunday in Columbus.
Best Bets: The Bettor’s Guide to Saturday’s NCAA tournament games
If you love watching soon-to-be NBA big men do battle in the paint, this is the matchup for you. Naz Reid, Kavell Bigby-Williams and Emmitt Williams facing off with Bruno Fernando, Jalen Smith and Ricky Lindo. Buckle up!
I think I lean towards the Maryland side here. The Terps have the size and athleticism on the wings to be able to handle Skylar Mays and Javonte Smart, their big men should be able to keep LSU’s frontcourt in check and Tremont Waters is a pest, I do think Anthony Cowan will be able to avoid the live-ball turnovers that are killers.
PICK: This is a toss-up and a fascinating matchup between two teams with very similar roster constructions. That said, my money here will be on Mark Turgeon, who isn’t exactly the best coach in the world but who should be able to find a way to get it done against Tony Benford, LSU’s interim head coach. This is where it’s worth nothing that LSU blew a big lead in the second half against Florida in the SEC tournament quarterfinals before nearly blowing a bigger lead to Yale in the first round. Thats the difference-maker for me.
2:40 p.m.: No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 7 Wofford, CBS
LINE: Kentucky (-5.5)
IMPLIED SCORE: Kentucky 72, Wofford 66.5
KENPOM: Kentucky 72, Wofford 68
P.J. Washington will not be playing in this one, which is a problem for the Wildcats if this is a longterm injury but not necessarily one that I think will cost them against Wofford. The key here is going to be Kentucky’s ability to chase Wofford’s shooters around screens and how well they deal with Cameron Jackson in the paint. I think that Tyler Herro, Ashton Hagans and Keldon Johnson will be able to keep Fletcher Magee, Storm Murphy and Nathan Hoover from going absolutely bonkers. Jackson is not all that dissimilar from Grant Williams in terms of the way he does his job, and Travis did a good job keeping Williams in check when they played.
PICK: I do like the Kentucky side here, although I don’t feel great about it. We’ll see if that line continues to climb, and maybe that would change things.
5:15 p.m.: No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 10 Florida, CBS
LINE: Michigan (-7)
IMPLIED SCORE: Michigan 63.5, Florida 56.5
KENPOM: Michigan 63, Florida 56
I fully expect this to end up being one of the ugliest games of the tournament. Both teams have top 15 defenses, and Florida has guys that can guard the likes of Jordan Poole and Ignas Brazdeikis. I think this game plays out as a possession-by-possession battle played in the 50s that ends up being a one or two possession game in the final minute.
PICK: I don’t know if Florida will win this game, but seven points is a lot of points in a game that should be as slow and low-scoring as this game will be.
6:10 p.m.: No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 12 Murray State, TNT
LINE: Florida State (-5)
IMPLIED SCORE: Florida State 74, Murray State 69
KENPOM: Florida State 74, Murray State 69
This is so tough. On the one hand, Florida State should have the bodies to be able to keep Ja Morant in check. They have a roster full of length and athleticism on the perimeter and they are a top 15 defense nationally. They are going to do a lot of switching, but that shouldn’t matter as Leonard Hamilton has built a team that is designed to defend like that. The matchup, to me, screams Florida State, especially at just (-5).
But my heart?
My heart says that Ja Morant is about to go on a Stephen Curry-esque run. He’s going to be an NBA superstar, and while we saw what he can do as a creator on Thursday, we have not yet seen just how dangerous he can be as a scorer. I want the Ja Morant ride to last.
PICK: My head says Florida State (-5). My heart says go along for the Racer ride. So I’ll probably just take the over.
7:10 p.m.: No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Baylor, TBS
LINE: Gonzaga (-12.5)
IMPLIED SCORE: Gonzaga 80.25, Baylor 67.75
KENPOM: Gonzaga 81, Baylor 69
I think Killian Tillie is the important piece in this matchup. He’s such a good shooter, an underrated passer and the piece that should allow Gonzaga’s offense to get unclogged against this Baylor zone. In three games back since returning from his second foot injury of the season, he’s averaging 10.3 points in just 15 minutes per game, shooting 6-for-7 from three and 80 percent from the floor.
PICK: The Bears getting 12.5 points is a lot of points for a team that is going to be able to get only the offensive glass. The biggest issue for Baylor this year is that they turn the ball over like crazy, and Gonzaga has not been all that good at forcing turnovers this season. I think I lean Gonzaga, but I won’t bet it myself unless the line moves towards the Zags.
7:45 p.m.: No. 2 Michigan State vs. No. 10 Minnesota, CBS
LINE: Michigan State (-10)
IMPLIED SCORE: Michigan State 75.75, Minnesota 65.75
KENPOM: Michigan State 77, Minnesota 67
Minnesota was not great this season. They are playing a wing at the point guard spot because Isaiah Washington has been a mess. They only go five deep at this point, and they were able to run over Louisville because the one guy that can make threes on their roster made a bunch of threes.
Michigan State beat Minnesota by 24 points the one time that they played this season, but they are a team that relies almost entirely on Cassius Winston running ball-screens, and Minnesota has been pretty good defending ball-screens this season.
PICK: With the spread at (-10), I think I would lean towards taking Minnesota. That’s a lot of points. But I think my favorite bet in this game is actually the under. Michigan State looked gassed in the first round after playing three games in three days during their run to the Big Ten tournament title. Minnesota is basically running out a five-man rotation these days. Legs will catch up with them eventually.
8:40 p.m.: No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 6 Villanova, TNT
LINE: Purdue (-3.5)
IMPLIED SCORE: Purdue 70.25, Villanova 66.75
KENPOM: Purdue 72, Villanova 67
This is my favorite bet of the Saturday slate. The defense that Villanova runs is pretty simple: They switch everything, 1-through-5, because it forces you out of the offense that you want to run. They dare teams to beat them 1-on-1, betting that their players are good enough to defend a cross-match regardless of opponent.
The problem for Purdue here is that, like Saint Mary’s, so much of what they get offensively comes out of the sets and actions they run. Put another way, Matt Painter doesn’t have all that many guys on his roster that can efficiently create for themselves in isolation. That includes Carsen Edwards, who is a tough-shot taker but, in the last month, has not exactly been a tough-shot maker.
The other part of this that makes me lean towards Villanova is that Villanova shoots more than 53 percent of their field goal attempts from three, and Purdue has not made running teams off the three-point line a priority this year.
PICK: If you are going to give me the defending national champs plus the points, I’ll take it. Villanova, if you’re tracking at home, has won 24 straight neutral court games. They win in knockout settings.
9:40 p.m.: No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 5 Auburn, TBS
IMPLIED SCORE: Kansas 73.75, Auburn 73.75
KENPOM: Auburn 75, Kansas 74
This is tough because Auburn is just so up-and-down while Kansas has looked downright bad for the last month until they faced Northeastern and suddenly turned into Kansas again.
What Auburn wants to do is to is to turn defense into offense. They are going to gamble — for steals, for blocks, for leak-outs — and look to get quick threes in transition once they get possession. For 33 minutes, it worked against New Mexico State. Twice in the last two weeks it worked for 40 minutes against Tennessee. Kansas has been turnover prone this season, particularly their ball-handlers, but they have cleaned that up in recent weeks. Devon Dotson, for example, had a turnover rate higher than 20 percent entering the Big 12 tournament and has committed just three turnovers in the last four games.
PICK: The matchup is going to get won based on how well Kansas protects the ball and how well they defend in transition — they finished the year in the 51st percentile nationally. It’s worth nothing that the Jayhawks struggled with West Virginia once this season but handled them easily on two different occasions in the last three weeks.
I think I will probably stay away, personally, but when it comes down to it, I think Auburn is the better team with the better players.
Thursday Recap: Ja Morant goes off, Nevada dies off, Fletcher’s record
Ja Morant was so good against No. 5-seed Marquette on Thursday afternoon that he has really smart people seriously saying they would take him over Zion Williamson at No. 1 in the draft in June. That, of course, is an overreaction by those who probably have not seen Morant before, but it’s not entirely unwarranted.
That’s because the 6-foot-3 Morant put up one of the most dominant performances that I can remember in the NCAA tournament, scoring 17 points on just nine shots while handing out 16 assists, grabbing 11 boards and doing this to Joey Hauser:
I don’t think either of these teams wanted to win this game.
Auburn did everything they wanted to do for 34 minutes. They forced turnovers, they created offense from their defense, they hit threes, they played with a ton of energy. They were up 13 points with seven minutes left … when they forgot how to pass. Six turnovers and a few missed free throws down the stretch allowed NMSU right back in the game, setting up a wild final possession.
NMSU was down two, drove the lane, passed up a wide-open layup for a three, got fouled on said three, missed two of the three free throws, got the ball back out of bounds with 1.1 seconds left down by two points, got a good look at a three from the corner and missed it by ten feet.
I did not think that Minnesota was all that good heading into the tournament, so of course, they went out and smacked around Louisville in the first round.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Nevada Wolf Pack
Nevada finished the season 29-4. Were they the most disappointing 29-4 team ever? My column.
THREE MORE THINGS TO KNOW
1. PHIL COFER’S DAD DIED
Phil Cofer found out after Florida State’s win over Vermont that his father had died. Cofer did not play in the game due to an injury, and the death was not necessarily a surprise — his father had dealt with a “long illness” — but that is still a nightmare situation.
2. NO P.J.
Kentucky’s star forward P.J. Washington did not play in the team’s win over Abilene Christian on Thursday evening. He was wearing a hardcast on his right foot/ankle. Calipari’s statements after the game made it seem awfully unlikely that Washington will play on Saturday, which then puts his status for the rest of the tournament in doubt.
3. WILL WADE ISN’T TELLING THE TRUTH
LSU athletic director Joe Alleva spoke to Stadium in Jacksonville, and he made it clear that he was not happy with the way that Wade had handled the situation.
“I don’t know how deep this goes,” Alleva told Stadium. “That’s the problem, and Will’s refused to talk to us. That’s the hardest part for me. … I wish he’d come in and just tell the truth. Just tell me what went on. I can handle the truth even if it’s bad.”
Wade has been suspended from the LSU team after a report from Yahoo Sports that he was caught on a wiretap discussing a payment for freshman Javonte Smart.
Best Bets: The Bettor’s Guide to Friday’s NCAA tournament games
At noon the day before every NCAA tournament game day, we will be releasing our Best Bets column, breaking down every single game in the tournament that day.
Odds courtesy DraftKings Sportsbook.
12:15 p.m.: No. 7 CINCINNATI vs. No. 10 IOWA, CBS
LINE: Cincinnati (-3)
IMPLIED SCORE: Cincinnati 70.25, Iowa 67.25
KENPOM: Cincinnati 71, Iowa 70
My analysis of this game really isn’t that complicated: I do not think that Iowa is a very good or very tough basketball team. I think that Cincinnati is a pretty good basketball team that beat the hell out of Houston in the AAC title game and that is, definitively, as tough as a three dollar steak.
PICK: Give me the Bearcats.
12:40 p.m.: No. 8 OLE MISS vs. No. 9 OKLAHOMA, TruTV
LINE: Ole Miss (-1)
IMPLIED SCORE: Ole Miss 71.5, Oklahoma 70.5
KENPOM: Oklahoma 72, Ole Miss 71
I don’t trust Oklahoma this year. That’s really what this comes down to. The Sooners went 7-11 in Big 12 play and all of the impressive wins they picked up in the non-conference look significantly less impressive now than they did at the time. Ole Miss isn’t exactly full of world-beaters, but I do think that Breein Tyree and Terence Davis are dudes.
PICK: I want to invest my money on the side that has the guards that are game-changers. If I bet this, it will be with Ole Miss.
On the surface, I love Texas Tech here simply because I think that the Red Raiders are closer to being one of the five or six best teams in college basketball than a No. 3 seed. The problem is that the way the Red Raiders defend — by icing ball-screens — is going to leave Northern Kentucky’s best player, Drew McDonald, free for pick-and-pop threes the entire afternoon.
PICK: Personally, I will likely be staying away from this line, but I do think that Texas Tech is the side that you want to be on.
2:00 p.m.: No. 4 KANSAS STATE vs. No. 13 UC IRVINE, TBS
LINE: Kansas State (-4.5)
IMPLIED SCORE: Kansas State 61.5, UC Irvine 57
KENPOM: Kansas State 62, UC Irvine 56
This changes if Dean Wade plays, but since he is currently listed as doubtful for this matchup, Kansas State is a team that is going to rely on penetration and the ability of their guards to get into the paint. The problem with that is that UC Irvine is a really good defensive team that actually leads the nation in defensive two-point field goal percentage. They have a couple of big uglies in the paint that can make things difficult for a Kansas State team that will be without their best shooter and one of their best passers.
Beyond just the matchup, the Anteaters are really, really good and might be underseeded as a No. 13. With the Wildcats banged up, this is a matchup that Russell Turner can get the best of.
PICK: I really like the Irvine side here, but the money line right now is just +170, so I’ll probably take the points.
2:45 p.m.: No. 2 TENNESSEE vs. No. 15 COLGATE, CBS
LINE: Tennessee (-17.5)
IMPLIED SCORE: Tennessee 82.5, Colgate 65
KENPOM: Tennessee 83, Colgate 68
I will be staying away fro this game. As good as Tennessee is, there have been too many times the season where we have see the Vols play a team that was objectively worse than them closer than they should. I also have no desire to bet a No. 2 seed projected to scored 83 points not to cover. I’ll pass.
3:10 p.m.: No. 1 VIRGINIA vs. No. 16 GARDNER-WEBB, TruTV
LINE: Virginia (-22.5)
IMPLIED SCORE: Virginia 76.5, Gardner-Webb 54
KENPOM: Virginia 77, Gardner-Webb 55
I think Virginia is going to come out with a point to prove. The Cavaliers have heard about how they lost to a No. 16 seed for a full year now. They are coming off of a loss to Florida State in the ACC tournament semifinals that reignited the “Can Virginia win in March?” debate. They are as talented as they have ever been under Tony Bennett, and I fully expect them to absolutely bury Gardner-Webb.
PICK: Not only will I be betting Virginia (-22.5) here, but I think that I am also going to be on the under. I think an angry Virginia team is going to hold GW under 50 points.
I really like Buffalo here. The Bulls are a tough, veteran team that is going to get out and pressure Arizona State and try to force them to turn the ball over. Where the Sun Devils are inconsistent, Buffalo churned out a 30-win season that included going into West Virginia and Syracuse and getting Ws. Arizona State lost by 16 at Vanderbilt.
PICK: I’m taking the tougher team to win here even if it means betting against the more talented underdog. I just can’t see C.J. Massinburg letting the Bulls lose.
4:30 p.m.: No. 5 WISCONSIN vs. No. 12 OREGON, TBS
LINE: Wisconsin (-3)
IMPLIED SCORE: Wisconsin 59.75, Oregon 56.75
KENPOM: Wisconsin 61, Oregon 56
There may not be a hotter team in the country right now than Oregon, who rolled through the end of the Pac-12 season before winning the Pac-12 tournament, beating Washington in impressive fashion twice in the process. The question is going to be how Wisconsin goes about breaking down the zone Oregon will run, and while I do think that Ethan Happ can really pick it apart, it is important to note that the Ducks will be running out Kenny Wooten. He is as good of a defender as there is in the paint, and I would not be surprised to see him slow Happ down.
Also worth noting: The line is this game has moved from Wisconsin (-4) to Wisconsin (-1), then it bounced back up to Wisconsin (-3).
PICK: I’ll lean Oregon here, and I’ll probably wait to see just how high this line will climb. If I can get Oregon (+4.5) I’ll be ecstatic.
6:50 p.m.: No. 8 UTAH STATE vs. No. 9 WASHINGTON, TNT
LINE: Utah State (-3)
IMPLIED SCORE: Utah State 69, Washington 66
KENPOM: Utah State 68, Washington 65
This goes along with the thinking that you should fade the Pac-12 in March. Think about this: The only reason that Washington has a win over an NCAA tournament team this season is because they lost to Oregon in the final of the Pac-12 tournament, giving the Ducks an automatic bid to the dance. Washington beat Oregon in January.
PICK: Utah State has one of the most underappreciated players in the country on their roster in Sam Merrill. Craig Smith is a magnificent coach that will be at a bigger program soon. Take the Aggies.
7:10 p.m.: No. 1 DUKE vs. No. 16 NORTH DAKOTA STATE, CBS
LINE: Duke (-27)
IMPLIED SCORE: Duke 87.75, NDSU 60.75
KENPOM: Duke 87, NDSU 63
This spread is just so monstrous. I don’t think I really want to bet it, but if I do, it will be the Duke side. The Bison are one of the worst defensive teams in the tournament, and asking them to try and slow down Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and the rest of the Dukies is going to be a big, big ask.
Georgia State is always going to be a dangerous mid-major because of the way they run and the talent they have, but I just have too much faith in this Houston team. They aren’t the best or most talented team in the country, but I do think that they are disciplined, well-coached and good enough defensively that they are not going to beat themselves.
PICK: I’ll take the Cougars (-11.5), but I won’t feel all that comfortable about it.
7:27 p.m.: No. 5 MISSISSIPPI STATE vs. No. 12 LIBERTY, 7:27 p.m. TruTV
LINE: Mississippi State (-6.5)
IMPLIED SCORE: Mississippi State 70, Liberty 63.5
KENPOM: Mississippi State 71, Liberty 65
This is a tough game to get a feel for. For starters, Liberty was the second-best team in the Atlantic Sun this season, even if they did pick up a couple of wins against Lipscomb. They also run the Pack-Line defense, which is the kind of thing that can give the Bulldogs, who are without Nick Weatherspoon, some issues.
The problem here is that Mississippi State got dudes. Quinndary Weatherspoon, Reggie Perry, Aric Holman, Lamar Peters. These are guys that, which someone inconsistent, can absolutely take a game over, especially against a mid-major program.
PICK: I’d lean Mississippi State here, especially at just (-6.5), but I also think that the under is in play.
9:20 p.m.: No. 1 NORTH CAROLINA vs. No. 16 IONA, 9:20 p.m. TNT
LINE: North Carolina (-23.5)
IMPLIED SCORE: North Carolina 94.75, Iona 71.25
KENPOM: North Carolina 95, Iowa 70
I think that I am going to stay away from the line here. If I do bet it, I would be betting on the Tar Heels, mainly because this is a team that can put up 100 on anyone but also because I just don’t think that Iona has the horses to be able to keep up with UNC this year. I also think that I like the under. 166 is a huge number, and while Iona has the reputation for being a team that wants to run, run, run and push, push, push, they are not as breakneck offensively as they have been in the past.
PICK: I don’t love either bet here, but if I am going to have action on this game, it will be UNC (-23.5) and the under.
9:40 p.m.: No. 8 VCU vs. No. 9 UCF, 9:40 p.m. CBS
LINE: VCU (-0.5)
IMPLIED SCORE: VCU 63.5, UCF 63
KENPOM: VCU 63, UCF 62
This best is simple for me: UCF is a great defensive team that has an elite shot-blocker in the paint and wants to funnel drivers into the lane. VCU cannot shoot threes very well, they want to drive and their best player — Marcus Evans — will, at the very least, be banged up for this one.
PICK: I like the UCF ML the play here if VCU is going to be favored. I also tend to lean towards the under. Both of these teams really, really defend, and while VCU is still going to try and force turnovers, they aren’t pressing as much as they have in the past.
9:50 p.m.: No. 6 IOWA STATE vs. No. 11 OHIO STATE, 9:50 p.m. TBS
LINE: Iowa State (-5.5)
IMPLIED SCORE: Iowa State 73, Ohio State 67.5
KENPOM: Iowa State 72, Ohio State 68
This line actually appears to be coming down. It opened at Iowa State (-6) and now sits at (-5.5), which is a dream come true for someone like me, that has the Cyclones in the Elite 8 despite decidedly not being back on the Iowa State bandwagon.
Here’s the truth: Chris Holtmann is one of the top ten coaches in all of college basketball, but given the talent disparity between these two teams, if Iowa State shows up to play, they should be able to cover that spread regardless of how Holtmann decides to build his game-plan. The problem is that we can never really quite be sure if Iowa State is going to show up. The Cyclones looked like a top ten team in their run to the Big 12 tournament title. They looked like an NIT team when they lost six of their last eight games during the regular season.
PICK: I think Iowa State has this figured out. I think they win with ease on Friday night.
9:57 p.m.: No. 4 VIRGINIA TECH vs. No. 13 SAINT LOUIS, 9:57 p.m. TruTV
LINE: Virginia Tech (-10.5)
IMPLIED SCORE: Virginia Tech 68, Saint Louis 57.5
KENPOM: Virginia Tech 69, Saint Louis 58
The key to betting this game is going to be how healthy you think Justin Robinson is. He is not their most talented player but he is their most important player. The Hokies were a top ten team with him healthy and went just 7-5 after he was injured on Jan. 30th. He matters because Saint Louis is a really, really talented and tough team that can absolutely lock up defensively. They have the athletes to be able to matchup with Virginia Tech’s four-out, one-in scheme and while they have not been great offensively this year, I do think that they have the talent — Hasahn French, Jordan Goodwin, Javon Bess, Tramaine Isabell — to be able to makes plays when they need to.
PICK: I will not be picking Saint Louis to win this game in my bracket, but at (+10.5), I do think they will cover. That is a big number for a good defensive team against a Virginia Tech that wants to play slow.
2019 NCAA Tournament: Saturday second round tip times, announcer pairings
It wasn’t pretty, but in March, basketball is never a beauty contest.
No. 3-seed Purdue got 26 points and four assists from Carsen Edwards, holding on to a 61-48 win after a late run from Conference USA champ Old Dominion trimmed a 20 point lead to single digits.
It was about par for the course for this Purdue program. Edwards finished with 26 points but needed 23 shots to get there, but his inefficiency did not matter as the Boilers were stout enough defensively to win while scoring 61 points.
Purdue will advance to face Villanova, and it’s a matchup that should be worrisome for Matt Painter’s club. The truth is that Purdue is not a great 1-on-1 team but rather they get their offense from effectively running the sets that head coach Matt Painter schemes up. Villanova switches everything, which makes running offense ineffective against them, and it’s fair to wonder where, exactly, the scoring is going to come from for Purdue is Edwards churns out another 7-for-23 performance.
But that’s neither here nor there.
Because all that matters is that Purdue is going to have a chance to play that game.