#2 Villanova Wildcats (30-5) vs. #7 Iowa Hawkeyes (22-10)
When: Sunday, March 20, 2016
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
How They Got In: At Large Bid
Last Tournament Appearance: 2015, Lost to Gonzaga in Round of 32
NCAA Journey So Far: Beat Temple 72-70 in OT in Opening Round
Key Players for Iowa: #20 Jarrod Uthoff (6-9, 210) Sr., F; #14 Peter Jok (6-6, 200) Jr., G; #34 Adam Woodbury (7-1, 245) Sr., C
Scouting Report: Iowa is specifically known for its play up front. Jarrod Uthoff and Adam Woodbury lead a Hawkeye squad with a strong front court presence. Uthoff is a forward who is mostly known for his play on offense. The 6-foot-9 senior has caught the eye of NBA scouts and is currently projected to be a second round pick in this year’s draft. He averages a team-high 18.9 points per game, which are second to only Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine in the Big Ten. Uthoff has drawn comparisons to NBA star Dirk Nowitzki, who he models his style of play after. He can score inside, but also has a solid shooting stroke at mid- to three-point shooting range. He is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Defensively, his 6-10 wingspan can help disrupt passing lanes, which proved crucial at certain points coming down the stretch in the Temple game. Uthoff is a great blocker and guardian of the paint, tallying a conference-best 2.7 blocks per game. He is a solid rebounder, averaging 6.4 boards per game. However, it is his teammate Woodbury, who is better known for his defense.
Woodbury is an excellent complementary piece for Uthoff. While Uthoff is mainly regarded for his scoring and offense, Woodbury is a better rebounder and his 7-foot-1 makes him even more imposing when defending the post. He averages a team-high 8.5 rebounds per game. He doesn’t exactly light up the scoreboard and fill out the stat sheet in scoring, but he can quietly chip in points here and there as opponents forget about him. However, it was Woodbury’s offense that got the Hawkeyes into the second round. While a missed shot would have just forced a second overtime, he had a putback layup fall right at the buzzer to put the Hawkeyes over the Owls.
As for the Hawkeye back court, Iowa has another scoring threat in Peter Jok, who is just an excellent all-around scorer. In his first season with a more prominent role for Iowa, he has certainly delivered. Jok averaged 16.2 points per game this season and is a threat to score from anywhere. He shoots 43.8% overall and a respectable 41.2% from long range. Jok is arguably the top perimeter threat that Iowa has. At the free throw line, he can also get it done, converting 86.3% of his attempts this season.
Also, be sure to keep an eye out for guards Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons. Gesell is a pass-first point guard. He looks to set up his teammates and does a solid job of doing that. He boasts a 6.3:1.9 assists-to-turnover ratio. He is also disruptive on the defensive end. Gesell doesn’t score much, but if he does, he prefers to attack the basket as opposed to pulling up and shooting. As for Clemmons, he is another all-around guard that is serviceable. He doesn’t impress on the stat sheet too much, but he does a little of everything.
Outlook: Villanova has faced some big men before and dispatched them – Providence’s Ben Bentil, Marquette’s Henry Ellenson and Luke Fischer, and Creighton’s 7-footer Geoffrey Groselle. The Wildcats have dealt with strong front court play before and with the work of a strong defensive effort marked by denying these high scoring big men the ball, they have been able to limit the damage they can do. Outside of Uthoff, Jok is the only other true scoring threat. Iowa loves to work the offense through Uthoff first, using him as a means to get things going up front. It is imperative that Daniel Ochefu, and whomever may be matched up against Uthoff, denies him the ball and limits his scoring opportunities. Villanova has to force Iowa to go someplace else for its scoring. It is fortunate for Villanova that Ochefu’s ankle is all healed up, especially with this game coming up.
As for the Hawkeyes, they definitely want Uthoff to go to work inside. However, they might need to establish guard play first, before looking to take it in the paint. Iowa is another team with a solid perimeter defense. It is ranked in the top 20 of Division I basketball for allowing opponents to make only 30.8% of their shot attempts from beyond the arc.
The winner of this game depends on each team’s front court, especially when it comes to rebounding. Villanova may have beaten UNC Asheville in convincing fashion, but its play on the boards was not that great. The Wildcats tied the Bulldogs at 32 rebounds. UNC Asheville does not have a single starter over 6-foot-5. The Hawkeyes are a much better rebounding team with their size upfront.
Whoever can control the paint and the boards on both ends of the court, will be moving onto the Sweet 16.