Why the Iowa Hawkeyes and Kentucky Wildcats fell short and everything else we learned on March Madness Thursday
Part of it below. Link: https://www.espn.com/mens-college-b...verything-else-learned-march-madness-thursday
Before Kentucky fell, Big Ten tournament champ Iowa busted a lot of brackets with its loss to Richmond. From your perspective, why do the Hawkeyes keep failing to reach the second weekend? Can you give Iowa fans something to feel hopeful about?Medcalf: The Hawkeyes don't consistently guard anyone and that's why they ruined my -- our -- bracket once again. Fran McCaffery had some solid defensive teams in his early years in Iowa City. But he has had six consecutive seasons with finishes outside the top 75 in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom. That run includes three years in a row with a top-five finish in adjusted offensive efficiency. Those incredibly imbalanced teams can do great things in the regular season, but they often fail to meet expectations in the postseason. Sure, you have some teams that were great offensive teams and average defensive teams that have made runs. But you don't see many great offensive teams with terrible defensive metrics cutting down the nets. Richmond wasn't great offensively, but the Spiders had a few solid runs that changed the game and a strong finish to seal the win.
This year it was Richmond, which finished sixth in the Atlantic 10 standings. Last year, the Hawkeyes gave up 95 points in a double-digit loss to Oregon in the second round. They lost to Tennessee in overtime, 83-77, in the second round in 2019. Iowa continues to encourage these shootouts, but its defensive challenges create postseason challenges.
The positive for Iowa fans? I think a lot of elite transfers have watched Luka Garza win a Wooden Award (nearly two years in a row) and Keegan Murray become a lottery pick in McCaffery's offense and will believe they can do the same thing in that system. But those top talents couldn't overcome the program's defensive challenges to help Iowa reach the second weekend for the first time under McCaffery.
Borzello: It's easy to point to Iowa's generally poor defense as the reason the Hawkeyes continue to struggle in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament. And it's certainly true that their offense is always superior to their defense -- but it hasn't always been a fatal flaw. When they were bounced early in 2015 and 2016, they had defenses ranked in the top 35 at KenPom. This year, their defensive ranks were similar to last season -- but since Feb. 1, Iowa had a borderline top-50 defense nationally. Not elite, but certainly enough to get past Richmond. So there's some randomness and "March-ness" to the exits.
I mean, just look at last year: The Hawkeyes had to play an Oregon team that had lost two of its final 13 games and didn't even play a first-round game after VCU was forced to withdraw. It's also worth noting that Iowa had won one game in each of its past four NCAA tournaments, so it's not like the Hawkeyes suddenly become a different team in the Dance. So I guess those are some reasons for optimism moving forward. At the same time, going 1-2 in two NCAA tournaments with a Wooden Award winner and the second-best player in the country is pretty damning.
Gasaway: March will do whatever it wants every single time, and that's why this tournament is unparalleled spectator sport. Richmond held the Iowa offense to its third-least efficient outing of the entire season, and the other two were road games. The Hawkeyes recorded 29 3-point attempts and made six. Per sports-reference.com, the last time Iowa tried that many 3s and made six or fewer was in January 2020 at Nebraska (4-of-33). The last time before that was, well, we don't know. The database goes back to 2010-11, so we know only that the Hawkeyes have fared this poorly on this many attempts just twice in 12 years. One of those times happened to be in the NCAA tournament. March.
Lunardi: This edition of the Hawkeyes was fifth in the Big Ten in defensive efficiency according to KenPom. That seemed to go out the window as soon as Richmond connected on its first back cut, then another and another. The bad, old Iowa defense was back, lacking floor balance and even basic awareness on inbounds plays. And the Spiders might not be done, as their pending matchup with Providence seems fairly even. As for Iowa fans, what you see is what you get. On a continuous loop.