Game Preview: Iowa vs Tennessee

Matthew Holst

Iowa and Tennessee square off in the last play-in game of the NCAA Tournament.

By the Numbers

Iowa Team Tennessee
20-12 Record 21-12
9-9 Conference 11-7
B1G Conf. Record SEC
11 NCAA Seed 11
55 RPI 40
27 KenPom 13

March 19th, 2014 - University of Dayton Arena - Dayton, Ohio

9:10 ET - TruTV

The Skinny

The Iowa Hawkeyes were once the tenth ranked team in the NCAA, but now have been relegated to the play-in game of the NCAA Tournament. How does this happen? The easiest thing to point to is the lack of defensive efficiency. The Hawkeyes have struggled against team's second and third scoring options. In this game, it'll be up to Iowa to limit not just Tennessee's leading scorer, Jordan McRae, but also Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon. All three average in double figures and although it'll be impossible to stop all three, it is important to not let them go all Will Sheehey on them. On the opposite side of the ball, Iowa will be going up a defense that has given up no more than 56 points in their last five games. A game like the one against Northwestern can't happen again if they expect to beat Tennessee.

Tennessee has been an extremely strong defense in the SEC. They gave up just 61.1 points per game in conference and are feeling great defensively as of late. Surprisingly these two teams have some things in common. They can be dominant defensively, they are very skilled at rebounding, and they both have a star shooting guard. The defenses have been talked about, so let's get to the rebounding. They average 38.8 per game compared to Iowa's 40.7. This ranks Tennessee 20th compared to Iowa's seventh. As for the shooting guards? Iowa's star guard is Roy Devyn Marble and the Vols' star is Jordan McRae. Both of these players are averaging more than 17 points per game.

Projected Starting Lineups

Iowa Position Tennessee
Mike Gessell G Antonio Barton
Roy Devyn Marble G Jordan McRae
Aaron White F/G Josh Richardson
Melsahn Basabe F Jarnell Stokes
Adam Woodbury C/F Jeronne Maymon

Key Players

Roy Devyn Marble is the guy that has to carry Iowa to victory on Wednesday. The Hawkeyes' starters struggled in their last game while Marble played great. He's averaging 17.3 points per game, but has scored 20+ in six of the last seven games. Not only does he score, but he has added four assists in each of the last seven games. Marble will be the guy covering McRae all game long as well.

Every starter on the squad has to be productive especially Aaron White. White took two shots (and made both) in the last game. He can't take two shots against Tennessee. Mike Gessell's 0-10 from the field is unacceptable as well. Melsahn Basabe actually played decently against Northwestern with six rebounds, one block and one point. Unless injured, he has to be playing more than nine minutes though. Lastly, Adam Woodbury needs to forget his last game and get back to the way he's played for most of the season.

Jordan McRae is Tennessee's version of Roy Devyn Marble. He averages 18.6 points per game and logs almost 32 minutes per game. McRae has scored double digits in every game but four. In those games the Vols are 2-2. It is likely that McRae will be guarding Marble in this play-in game.

Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon are going to be a big threat to the big men of Iowa. Not only do these two average 10+ points (Stokes- 14.7, Maymon- 10.1), but they average 8+ rebounds. Stokes and Maymon are both 6'8, but are part of the reason why the Vols rebound so well. These two will be matched up against guys like Basabe, Olaseni, and Woodbury all night.

Prediction

Iowa has so many negatives coming into this game, but they do have some matchup advantages in this game. Woodbury has at least 3-4 inches on Tennessee's biggest starters (depending on how correct height info is). Roy Devyn Marble is shooting great from the field lately, while Jordan McRae hasn't topped 18 points in a game (his season average) in the last five games.

Tennessee's defense is hitting on all cylinders right now, but SEC talent isn't necessarily the same as B1G. They have shown defensive dominance against Florida, South Carolina, Missouri, Auburn, and Vanderbilt. Only one of those teams is in the NCAA Tournament.

In a game that is going to be very close, Iowa's size will pose a big problem for Tennessee. Combine this with the fact that Iowa can't possibly play any worse offensively than in their last game and I think Iowa wins this one.

Iowa 66 Tennessee 63

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