The Hawkeye State will have plenty of local basketball to watch this week, as Iowa, Iowa State and Drake all received bids to the NCAA tournament. Drake qualified as the Missouri Valley champions, while Iowa and Iowa State received at-large bids to the event.
The Hawkeyes will open Thursday against ninth-seed Auburn, while the Cyclones and Bulldogs start Friday. Drake will open with fifth-seeded Miami, while Iowa State will face either Mississippi State or Pittsburgh.
Here’s a breakdown of each team’s chances to make it to the second week of the NCAA tournament. So you can bet legally on March Madness in Iowa and wage on the local teams.
Iowa Drew a Road Game
The Hawkeyes really didn’t want this situation. On paper, Iowa could have done a lot worse than facing Auburn, which didn’t close out the season very well. The Tigers lost nine of their final 13 games, crashing from a possible top-three seed to the No. 9 they ended up getting.
But this game’s problematic because of the game’s location: Birmingham. Alabama’s largest city sits just 110 miles from Auburn, and Auburn fans likely bought plenty of tickets while the Tigers were winning games. They’re going to jam Interstate 65 and turn this into a virtual home game for Auburn. Iowa went 3-7 in Big Ten play on the road and went 1-3 on neutral courts, beating only NIT-bound Clemson.
Iowa will have to either take the crowd out of the game or hope the Alabama fans stick around after their game to root against Auburn. The Hawkeyes will also have to dominate on second-chance points. Johni Broome was a terror inside for Morehead State last season, and he now leads Auburn’s interior attack.
Iowa has to keep him and Jaylin Williams off the boards, as Auburn ranks 14th nationally in second-chance points. Iowa also excels at second-chance buckets, and the Hawkeyes can’t get shoved around inside. Auburn’s strength on defense is its 3-point defense, which is Iowa’s biggest weakness. The Hawkeyes can’t lose the inside game while also failing to win the battle of 3-point baskets.
To make matters worse, the winner gets a date with top seed Houston. If Marcus Sasser’s healthy, the Cougars represent a matchup nightmare for Iowa. For a team that finished fifth in the Big Ten, this is anything but ideal.
— Iowa Men’s Basketball (@IowaHoops) March 14, 2023
Drake Has An Opportunity
Miami is overseeded as a No. 5 seed. Drake’s right where it should be on the 12 line, and the Bulldogs come in with no pressure and a truly neutral court. None of the four teams in this section have any ties to Albany, so the crowd will naturally rally behind the chance at an upset.
To pull it off, Drake has to take advantage of Miami’s defensive shortcomings. The Hurricanes really struggle to defend midrange jumpers, and that’s something Drake does very well. The Bulldogs send much of their offense through Tucker DeVries, but Roman Penn is actually the stronger shooter of the two. If he’s hitting, Drake will match Miami.
Where the Bulldogs could run into problems is their own defense. Miami is also blessed with sharp shooters in Isaiah Wong and Jordan Miller, and defense isn’t something Drake does well. Above all, Drake has to limit Miami to one look per trip. The Hurricanes excel at second-chance baskets because they have so many good shooters. Miami might miss once, but it probably won’t miss twice. The winner here gets either Indiana or Kent State, both of which are beatable teams.
— Drake Basketball (@DrakeBulldogsMB) March 12, 2023
How Does Iowa State Prepare?
The Cyclones face a weird situation. They don’t know who their first opponent will be yet, as they get the winner of Tuesday’s game between Mississippi State and Pittsburgh. They will have a full two days to prepare for their opponent, and they don’t have to travel to more than one site, so that should give them an edge.
The one similarity between the Bulldogs and the Panthers is that both get to the line regularly. Iowa State doesn’t foul that often, and the Cyclones pride themselves on fantastic defense, so either game should be a tight battle. Pittsburgh will try to force the pace and take a fair amount of 3-pointers, while Mississippi State will play the game at a snail’s pace. If the Bulldogs are the opponent, expect this game to finish in the mid-50s.
For the Cyclones to prep for this game, they’ll need to focus on defense first. The offensive opportunities will come on their own if they meet Pittsburgh, and Mississippi State won’t mind grinding out a game where neither side gets a good look at the hoop.
Either way, Iowa State has to prepare for a difficult game. Facing a team that has already played in the event is never ideal, even when they’re traveling, and you aren’t. The Cyclones also can’t get caught looking ahead. They could face a very winnable second game, as Kennesaw State could reasonably upset Xavier, but Iowa State’s primary concern has to be beating this play-in winner.
If you want to bet on March Madness in Iowa here is a betting guide to follow.
— Iowa State Men’s Basketball (@CycloneMBB) March 14, 2023
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