Two teams headed in opposite directions collide in Dayton on tonight when the Iowa Hawkeyes play Tennessee in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The Hawkeyes have dropped six of their last seven games while the Volunteers had their five game win streak snapped with a loss to top ranked Florida in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament.
Both teams were part of the Battle for Atlantis this past November. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery watched a couple of Tennessee’s games in the tourney and says they are a much better team now than when he saw them in November. “Just watching them from afar, they’ve gotten progressively better…they are athletic, they are powerful and can hurt you in a variety of different ways,” McCaffery says.
Iowa senior guard Roy Devyn Marble says the Volunteers are a talented team and the Hawkeyes view this as a new opportunity. “I think the guys are excited already and I think the key is that we pick it up defensively,” Marble says.
Junior Aaron White says the Hawkeyes want to extend their season. “It becomes even more real now than it has in the past week or two that this could be the last time you put on the jersey for some of the guys,” White says. He says they have to be focused on the next play no matter what happens.
Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin is concerned about the Hawkeyes’ depth. “A very talented team, a very good transition team,” Martin says. He says Iowa’s depth allows them to play a lot of guys. Martin says the Volunteers expect to face a different Iowa team than the one that limped home in the regular season as he says getting into the tournament will rejuvenate them.
Martin says the key for the Volunteers down the stretch has been defense and limiting turnovers. “I think if we play the way we are capable of playing, we will be fine,” Martin says.
Iowa is 20-12 while Tennessee enters with a record of 21-12. The winner heads to Raleigh for a Friday afternoon meeting with UMass.