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2/24 NCAA Tournament Preview: Iowa and OSU Try For Upsets

Preview the Big Ten’s action on Sunday.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round- Iowa Hawkeyes vs Cincinnati Bearcats Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The first week of action in the 2019 NCAA Tournament will conclude on Sunday and two Big Ten teams will be trying to pull off upsets. Iowa will face off against Tennessee and Ohio State will face off against Houston.

Let’s take a look at what’s to come.

Game of the Day:

-No. 10 Iowa Hawkeyes vs. No. 2 Tennessee Volunteers

  • Time/TV: 12:10PM ET (CBS)
  • KenPom Spread: Tennessee (-7)

After scoring a (somewhat) surprising win on Friday against Cincinnati, Iowa will now face off against the two seed in the South Region. The Hawkeyes will be underdogs against Tennessee, but are hoping to surprise the Volunteers.

On paper, there’s no denying that Tennessee is the better team. The Volunteers are 10th nationally on KenPom and have an overall record of 30-5. Even if there are plenty of doubters out there with regard to Tennessee, those are some impressive statistics. The team has also been pretty good on neutral courts this season.

But even with that said, this game could absolutely be an upset. The Volunteers built the team’s gaudy 30-win record thanks to a favorable schedule and have looked pretty vulnerable when facing quality competition this season. And that includes Friday, when Tennessee nearly lost to 15th seeded Colgate.

The key for Iowa to pull off an upset in this one will be on Luka Garza. The Hawkeyes have to slow down a stacked Tennessee frontcourt and, as such, Garza’s play will be huge. Iowa’s offense will get opportunities against an underwhelming Volunteer defense, but it’s going to be up to Garza and others like Tyler Cook to hold up defensively upfront.

Unfortunately, Iowa has shown some significant struggles with frontcourt defense this season and Cook and Garza both some propensity to get in foul trouble this season. As such, it’s going to be an uphill battle for the Hawkeyes.

  • Pick To Win: Tennessee

The Rest:

-No. 11 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 3 Houston Cougars

  • Time/TV: 8:40PM ET (TNT)
  • KenPom Spread: Houston (-5)

Let’s be honest here for a second. Very few expected Ohio State to win on Friday night. Yes, it’s March Madness and anything can happen, but there weren’t many outside the state of Ohio who thought the Buckeyes were going to beat Iowa State. In fact, it’s probably been one of the more surprising results of the NCAA Tournament so far.

I include the comments above for two reasons. First, because it outlines the circumstances of Sunday’s game against Houston. This is all gravy. Ohio State has no business being here. There should be no expectations moving forward. It might seem odd to say about a program with as much history as Ohio State, but they’re one of the underdogs this year.

Moreover, I included these comments because they should provide some perspective on what Ohio State will be up against moving forward. Houston is a really good team that looks poised to compete for a Final Four bid next weekend. The Cougars took it to Georgia State on Friday and have a 32-3 overall record.

What’s particularly challenging when facing Houston is the team’s remarkable balance. The Cougars are good offensively and defensively and have a number of key contributors. More simply put, there isn’t a single spot where Ohio State can target. It’s going to take a group effort to pull off the upset on Sunday.

With that said, Corey Davis is certainly a key component for Houston. The Buckeyes need to find a way to slow him down.

  • Pick To Win: Houston