Two Of Iowa’s D-1 basketball programs will be in the NCAA Tournament this year. It was no doubt that Iowa was in, the question would be how high of a seed they would garner. Their were some questions about Drake after they lost in the MVC Tournament to Loyola. Drake slid in the tournament being one of the last 4 teams in the field even after a 25-4 record this season.
Iowa earned a 2 seed, after winning over 20 games this season with 14 wins in Big Ten play. The Big Ten is considered by all the college basketball pundits to be the strongest conference in the country. The Hawkeyes also had a non-conference win over a “blue blood” program in North Carolina. The Hawks will match up with 15 seed Grand Canyon. The Antelopes won the Western Athletic Conference Tournament to earn an automatic bid. It marks just the 2nd time a team other than New Mexico State has won the WAC Tourney since 2011. Grand Canyon is 17-6 overall, two of those 6 were in competitive games against PAC-12 opponents. Grand Canyon isn’t your typical “low major” in terms of size upfront. Their top two scorers are big men Asbjorn Midtgaard and Alessandro Lever. Midtgaard is a 7 footer from Denmark who averages a double-double and Lever is from Italy he is around 6ft 10 and averages 13 per game and shoots 39% from 3 point range. Grand Canyon also has a speedster at Point Guard in Jovan Blacksher Jr., he is their 3rd leading scorer at 12 per game and is leading them in assists dishing out over 5 per night. Blacksher is not only a speedster and floor general, he also has good hands on the defensive end. Blacksher was a 4 star prospect who stayed closed to home. He played his high school ball at Arizona power Shadow Mountain under former NBA PG Mike Bibby. Grand Canyon is coached by former Valpo and Vanderbilt Head Coach Bryce Drew.
Iowa and Grand Canyon will tip off on Saturday at 5:25 PM. You can hear that game on your home for Hawkeye Basketball, “Iowa’s Favorite Country” K97.
Many people feel Drake got slighted a bit with their draw. Drake is in the “First Four” or play-in round to open the tournament. The Bulldogs are 25-4 and lost 3 of those 4 games after Guard R0man Penn went down for the season with an injury. The Bulldogs are playing for an 11 seed and will take on former Missouri Valley Conference rival Wichita State. The Shockers are 16-5 , they lost their two biggest non-conference games against Mizzou and Oklahoma State. However, they did get a win at Ole Miss in non-conference. They got their biggest win of the season in a home upset of Houston. The Cougars drew a 2 seed in the tournament and that win is likely what got Wichita over the hump and into the “First Four” round. The Shockers underwent a coaching change just weeks prior to their 1st game of the season. Former Head Coach Gregg Marshall who led the school to a run to the National Semifinals during his tenure, resigned amid an investigation that accused him of verbally and physically abusing players at the school. Issac Brown took over as the interim and since has been named Head Coach. The Shockers are guard oriented, their top two scorers are guards Tyson Etienne and Alterique Gilbert. Etienne is a 6 foot 2 Sophomore who averages 17 per game and is a “marksman” shooting 40% from 3 on the season. Gilbert is a 6 foot Senior who transferred to Wichita after starting his college career at Uconn. Gilbert was a multi-time State Champion at Miller Grove High School near Atlanta prior to college. He averages about 10 points per game and is their leader in assists and steals.
Drake and Wichita are scheduled to tip off Thursday just before 5:30 PM, the winner will get 6 seed Southern Cal on Saturday.