The Bearcats and Hawkeyes enter the dance on completely different tracks.
Cincinnati is rolling after winning eight of its last 10 games while Iowa comes in as losers in six of its last 10. The Bearcats feature a dominant defense while the Hawkeyes bring an efficient offense.
Date/Time: Friday, March 22, 12:15 p.m. ET
kenpom.com projection: Cincinnati def. Iowa 72-71
Betting Line: Cincinnati -3.5 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)
No. 7 seed Cincinnati
Coach: Mick Cronin
Record: 28-6 (14-4)
Conference tournament finish: Won AAC
Player to Watch: Jarron Cumberland
Cincinnati is probably under-seeded and gets a stroke of luck playing its first two games 100 miles away in Columbus. The Bearcats are the 28th best team in the nation in defensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com, and having a friendly crowd behind them will make that unit feel even more deadly.
Cumberland is averaging 18.8 points per game and needs to have a strong tournament for Cincinnati to make a run. The Bearcats lack offense in general, but Cumberland is their only proven scorer. Can Cincinnati get production from Keith Williams or Tre Scott?
The Bearcats knocked off Ole Miss in the non-conference schedule, but lost to tournament-bound Ohio State and Mississippi State. A run through the AAC conference tournament, including a victory over a 31-win Houston team, will give Cincinnati some additional confidence heading into the dance.
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No. 10 seed Iowa
Coach: Fran McCaffery
Record: 22-11 (10-10)
Conference tournament finish: Lost in quarterfinals
Player to Watch: Tyler Cook
The Hawkeyes have the nation’s 15th best offense, according to kenpom.com. Cook is averaging 14.9 points per game on the season, but he was also dealing with a knee injury for much of the season. He should be healthy going into the game against Cincinnati.
Iowa has four rotation players shooting 38 percent or better from behind the arc and they will need to be firing to keep Cincinnati’s defense off balance. Iowa is one of the worst defensive teams in the country, so it needs to be able to score consistently against the Bearcats.
The Hawkeyes have wins in their non-conference schedule over Iowa State and Oregon, but their recent stretch is concerning.
Iowa was 20-5 entering a Feb. 19 game against Maryland. The Hawkeyes lost by one and then proceeded to drop four of their next five regular season games, including 20-point losses to Wisconsin and Ohio State and a 14-point setback against Rutgers. Iowa will need to get out of its recent funk to make a run in March.