Courtesy of a controversial buzzer beater, Villanova will take on the Iowa Hawkeyes in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday afternoon. Villanova throttled UNC-Asheville and will come in to the game feeling good, but the Hawkeyes are a very good team who are more than capable of pulling off the upset.
Regular Season: 23-10, 5th place in B1G
Conference Tournament: Lost in second round to Illinois, 68-66
Best Win: Michigan St. (#12 RPI, twice)
Worst Loss: Penn St. (#145 RPI)
Coach: Fran McCaffery has been at the helm since 2010 and has turned Iowa in to a solid B1G program. He's a Philadelphia native, and has lost his last two matchups against Jay Wright (2013 in the Battle 4 Atlantis final and 2008 as the coach of Siena in the Round of 32).
By The Numbers
KenPom: #24 offense, #37 defense, #22 overall
Four Factors on Offense: 51.3% eFG% (#112), 14.6.5% TO% (#9), 32.1% OR% (#94), 33.4% FTRate (#262)
Plenty of length on the Hawkeyes, but they actually prefer to do their damage on the outside. They've got plenty of shooters and their 38% mark from downtown as a team is very good. They don't turn the ball over, which will be interesting to watch against a Villanova team that made a living converting turnovers into points on Friday afternoon.
Four Factors on Defense: 47.5% eFG% (#67), 28.8% TO% (#129), 31.4 OR% (#261), 24.8% FTRate (#8)
That length is a big help on the defensive end, and both Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemons can pressure ball-handlers on the outside. They don't put teams on the line often, so Villanova is going to need to find a way to exploit this defense without resorting to the long-ball. The Hawkeyes don't rebound especially well on defense, so Hart and Ochefu may find some opportunities there.
Players to Watch
Junior F Jarrod Uthoff (6'9" 210 lbs.) - 19.0 ppg | 6.3 rpg | 1.1 apg
Junior G Peter Jok (6'6" 200 lbs.) - 16.2 ppg | 3.4 rpg | 1.5 apg
The Hawkeyes have plenty of names you'll remember from 2013 - Mike Gesell is still running the show and Adam Woodbury is still the anchor in the middle. But Uthoff and Jok were little-used freshmen back then and have since exploded to become the stars of this team. The offense is going to run through them and they're going to look to take the majority of the shots. They both will take a ton of 3s (5-6 attempts per game each), which can leave them vulnerable to some poor efficiency.
Style of Play
The Hawkeyes don't play especially up-tempo on offense, but they do tend to have a fairly quick trigger on that end of the floor. If Uthoff or Jok gets a shot they like, it's going up. Gesell will look to push the pace after made baskets and both Uthoff and Jok can be dangerous in transition.
On defense, the Hawkeyes will play some zone and that might be tempting against a three-happy Villanova team. Despite their propensity to fall in love with the deep-ball though, Villanova has shown the ability to eat up some zone this year with quick-passing and off-ball movement. The problem for Iowa will be the mis-match on that end. Villanova's guard-heavy lineup could give them some problems.
After the last two years, Villanova fans will feel wary against a talented team like the Hawkeyes. Iowa is a bit under-seeded given their strong KenPom numbers, but they were a dumpster fire heading down the stretch. Yesterday's squeaker against Temple won't do much to up the confidence of anyone on that team. They've been in a prolonged shooting slump for weeks now.
Still, the pressure is on Villanova here. An Iowa loss will just be the end to a tough season. A Villanova loss perpetuates the narrative that this team can't step up when it counts the most.