Can you give us a reason to believe Iowa will make it to the Sweet Sixteen?
ROSS: Because Iowa has Aaron White and the Ginger Ninja isn't ready for his Iowa career to be over yet? That's really all I've got, outside of hoping that North Dakota State shocks the world and knocks off Gonzaga in the first round (sorry, NCAA) on Friday. Iowa's match-up with Gonzaga makes me very nervous (see below). But Aaron White has been playing out of his freaking mind of late and who knows how far he might be able to carry Iowa (assuming he gets at least halfway decent assistance from a few teammates)? He's posted five straight games with 20+ points and put up double doubles in three of his last six games. He's even shooting threes better than he ever has in his career -- 9/15 over his last seven games. Aaron White rode that beastly run of form to a (deserved) spot on the All-Big Ten first team; who's to say he can't use it to carry Iowa through the first weekend, too?
What's Iowa's biggest weakness heading into the tournament?
ROSS: Inconsistency, particularly at the guard position. Iowa hasn't had too many off nights from the likes of White and Uthoff, but things have been much more up and down in the backcourt. Mike Gesell, Anthony Clemmons, and Peter Jok have all had several strong performances this year... but they've also had several games where they struggled to make an impact. If they no show a game in the NCAA Tournament, it's going to put a lot of pressure on White, Uthoff, and the rest of the frontcourt -- and that's probably going to make Iowa too one-dimensional. But if Iowa can get solid production out of their guards, I think a more balanced offensive attack will make Iowa a very tough out in the Big Ten Tournament.
Does Iowa have the firepower to beat Davidson and potentially Gonzaga?
ROSS: I think they have the firepower to beat Davidson, primarily because they have an enormous advantage down low. Aaron White, Jarrod Uthoff, Gabe Olaseni, and Adam Woodbury will all tower over Davidson's players in the post and they should be able to take advantage of that and get easy buckets and trips to the free throw line. Davidson has a collection of very good guards who may be able to keep them in the game, but ultimately I think Iowa's strength down low will be enough to power them to a long-awaited NCAA Tournament victory.
I'm less sure that Iowa has the firepower to knock off Gonzaga. In Kyle Wiltjer (6-10) and Przemek Karnowski (7-1), the Zags have talented bigs that can negate Iowa's size advantage in the post and in Kevin Pangos they have a guard better than anyone in Iowa's backcourt. The Zags should also enjoy a nice home court advantage by playing the game in Seattle. The best thing that Iowa might have going for them in that match-up is that there will be no pressure on them at all -- anything beyond a single win at this NCAA Tournament would be gravy. Meanwhile, Gonzaga will have to deal with the pressure of expectations -- a pressure that they haven't always dealt with very well in past tournament appearances.
What player needs to step up for the Hawkeyes to advance in the tournament?
ROSS: Mike Gesell, Iowa's starting point guard needs to put together some excellent performances this weekend if Iowa wants to be anything more than one-and-done in the tournament. Aaron White is Iowa's best player and Jarrod Uthoff might be its most skilled player, but this team rises and falls with Gesell a lot of the time. Gesell was a key player in Iowa's wins over North Carolina (16 points, including several buckets down the stretch), Ohio State (11 points), Michigan (14 points), Maryland (8 points, 9 assists), and Penn State (14 points, 7 assists). But in several of Iowa's losses he's struggled to make his presence felt (9 points on 4/12 shooting against Iowa State, a combined 10 points on 5/15 shooting in Iowa's losses to Wisconsin, 0 points in Iowa's loss to Minnesota). White and Uthoff should be able to produce against Davidson, but if Iowa wants to be playing on the weekend they're probably going to need help from the guard position and Gesell is the most viable option back there.
What aspect of Davidson's game could give Iowa the most problems?
ROSS: Davidson's outside shooting is definitely worrying. Davidson gets a lot of points (40.7% of their total points) from outside and hoists up a lot of shots (45.7% of their total FGA), but they do that because they make 3s -- a lot of 3s. 39.3% of their 3s, to be precise. Overall, Iowa's been pretty solid defending the three this year (teams are making just 32.4% of their triples against Iowa), but they've got burned badly by 3s in several of their losses (Iowa State made 12/22 in their blowout win over Iowa, Wisconsin made 9/22 when they torched Iowa, Northwestern made 9/20 in their upset win over Iowa, and Penn State made 6/15 in their upset win just a week ago). The efficiency and precision of Davidson's offense in general concerns me, even with the improved play from Iowa's defense over the last 4-6 weeks, but their outside shooting definitely concerns me the most. If they're clicking from deep, they could make it very difficult for Iowa to keep pace.
Finish this sentence: At the end of the weekend Iowa will be...
ROSS: Sad that the season is over after a hard-fought loss to Gonzaga on Sunday, but happy that they were able to end the program's 14-year drought in NCAA Tournament wins by beating Davidson on Friday. I think Iowa's size advantage in the post will be too much for Davidson to overcome and I think Iowa will use the motivation of the Penn State loss last week (among other things) to refocus and play very well on the defensive end and do enough to stymie Davidson's high-powered attack. Unfortunately, I think Gonzaga will be able to negate Iowa's size advantage down low and Kevin Pangos and Kyle Wiltjer will be too much for Iowa to overcome.
Again I'd like to thank Ross from BHGP to take the time to talk about Iowa's tournament chances. We wish the best of luck to the Hawkeyes..