The first round of the men’s NCAA tournament won’t be fondly remembered by many people in Iowa. Iowa, Iowa State and Drake all packed up after one game in the event, with only Drake having a real shot at victory.
Even the four games played in Des Moines involving eight other teams were a bit of a letdown, as none were decided by less than 10 points.
So where did it all go wrong for the schools from Iowa? Each team had their own reasons for why their time in the Dance didn’t last very long.
Even though we had an optimistic prediction on Iowa’s NCAA’s future odds, it didn’t really work out. Here’s a look at all three and why their seasons were over by Friday night.
Nonetheless, remember you can still bet on March Madness in Iowa.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes Played a True Road Game
The Hawkeyes will never admit it, but this was not a fair situation for them. They had to play Auburn in Birmingham, and the crowd was a factor. Birmingham is just 110 miles from the Auburn campus, and the Tigers have fans across Alabama. This was unquestionably a pro-Auburn crowd, and the Hawkeyes couldn’t really adjust all year to playing on the road. Iowa went 3-8 away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena in the Big Ten, and the Hawkeyes took too long to adjust in this situation.
That said, the road environment isn’t the only reason that Iowa lost. The Hawkeyes lost because they struggled to score in the first half and couldn’t take advantage of Auburn missing its deep shots.
When you go up against a team that isn’t a great 3-point shooting team, you’ve got to get a lead on them to keep them from building confidence. That didn’t happen here. Iowa allowed Auburn to get itself in front, and once in front, the Tigers stayed there. Auburn led for the final 30 minutes of the game, and eventually, the Tigers did start to make shots. When you have as many possessions in the game as Iowa allows, that’s a problem.
The Hawkeyes also didn’t really get going with their own scorers. Keegan Murray shot 5-for-18 and 3-for-11 from deep, and Iowa didn’t really set up its shots. The Hawkeyes only got 11 assists for the game over 40 minutes, which isn’t enough in a game where 84 points were needed to have a chance to win. The combination of the crowd and Auburn being incredibly comfortable playing Iowa’s game proved too much for the Hawkeyes. And the result is another early exit for Iowa.
Read our in-depth analysis of Iowa’s defeat in March Madness here.
— Iowa Men’s Basketball (@IowaHoops) March 17, 2023
Iowa State: The Cyclones Couldn’t Shoot
Anyone who’s been watching Iowa State basketball knew a game like this was coming. Iowa State made its living on forcing opponents into mistakes and letting them beat themselves, much like Iowa does in football. The problem is that eventually, you come up against a team that is not going to beat itself.
That was Pittsburgh. The Panthers brought an experienced team that knew how to stay calm in the moment and let Iowa State dig its own grave. And the Cyclones did exactly that by missing just about every shot they took. Iowa State finished by shooting 23.3 percent from the field and 9.5% from 3-point range, which won’t beat most teams.
This is something that Iowa State must fix with its roster construction. The Cyclones’ style works in the Big 12 because teams get worn down by the grind of the regular season. When a team finds itself facing Iowa State’s pressure and its crowd in February, it’s not likely to keep calm and let the Cyclones make mistakes.
Still, in March, teams have rested for a few days and gotten past the grind of the regular season. They can focus on one game at once, and that means they’re more likely to keep calm and let Iowa State beat itself. Pittsburgh didn’t win the game as much as it let Iowa State lose it. The Cyclones must get shooters on the roster to keep teams from trying this strategy again.
Read our in-depth analysis of Iowa State’s defeat in March Madness here.
— Iowa State Men’s Basketball (@CycloneMBB) March 17, 2023
Drake: The Bulldogs Couldn’t Play Clean Defense
When you’re the underdog, you need to follow your scouting report well and get some breaks along the way. And for Drake, that didn’t happen. The Bulldogs had to know that this game was a battle of who could avoid sending the other to the foul line, given that both Miami and Drake rank in the top 20 nationally in free throw percentage.
And the winner of that battle was Miami by a mile. It wasn’t as much that Drake committed eight more fouls than Miami; it was the kind of fouls that the Bulldogs committed. The Hurricanes committed three shooting fouls for the entire game, plus a fourth that gave Drake a 1-and-1. The Bulldogs committed three non-shooting fouls for the game. If you’ve done the math, that means that just four Miami fouls sent Drake to the line, while 16 fouls out of 19 from the Bulldogs resulted in at least one Hurricane free throw.
That’s not how you win basketball games, not against a team that’s as good as Miami is from the stripe. The Bulldogs played excellent defense in holding the Hurricanes to 30.4 percent from the field. But they gave the game away by fouling too many shooters.
That’s either a lack of coaching or a lack of attention to detail on the part of Drake’s players, and either way, it’s something the Bulldogs will kick themselves for. Given how Miami dismissed a meek Indiana effort in round 2, Drake’s got to be thinking it could still have been playing had it not thrown away its opportunity.
But that’s March basketball. You only get one shot before it’s all over, and the Iowa schools learned that the hard way. The lessons are there to avoid this next year, but it’s up to all three of them to take them and use them.
Read our in-depth analysis of Drake’s defeat in March Madness here.
𝐈𝐧𝐜𝐫𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐠𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐩. 𝐈𝐧𝐜𝐫𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐫𝐢𝐝𝐞.
𝐅𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐀𝐥𝐛𝐚𝐧𝐲
— Drake Basketball (@DrakeBulldogsMB) March 18, 2023
Credits on Featured Image: Drake players watch the game highlights on the Jumbotron after winning the championship game between the Drake Bulldogs and the Bradley Braves in the finals of the Missouri Valley Conference Basketball Tournament on March 05, 2023, at Enterprise Center in St. Louis, MO (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)