The 2014 NCAA Tournament is here for the Iowa Hawkeyes (20-12) and Tennessee Volunteers (21-12), kind of. Yes, both teams have technically qualified for the best tournament in sports. However, that wouldn’t have been the case five years ago. Iowa and Tennessee are set to duke it out on Wednesday in a fabulous play-in game. That’s right, the two teams will fight for the right to enter the ‘real’ field of 64 as the No. 11 seed in the Midwest Region.
Let’s be honest — no fan wants their team to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament via the play-in game. However, it’s certainly better than the alternative.
At this point, fans of both teams have calmed down from the shocking news of being included in a play-in game, and they’ve moved on to the task at hand. In this case, the winner will earn a chance to face the No. 6 seed, UMass. For both Iowa and Tennessee, UMass provides a beatable opponent in the second round game.
When you look at the overall records for both squads, they tell a story of two pretty evenly matched teams. But if you look closer at the stretch run of the season, it’s clear that Tennessee is a much better team right now. The Vols won five out of their last seven contests, while Iowa dropped six of seven.
To cap Iowa’s slide, they lost to Northwestern in the B1G tournament — the same team they beat by 26 points, twice, earlier in the year.
Tennessee will be lead by Jordan McRae (18.7 PPG) and Iowa will be led by Roy Devyn Marble (17.3 PPG). These two playmakers should effectively cancel each other out in terms of production, so it will be up to the supporting casts to determine the outcome of this one.
Aaron White is the only other Iowa player to average double figures in scoring, but he’s played lost as of late. The Vols, meanwhile, have two more capable scorers in Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon. However, Iowa is arguably the deepest team in the nation, with five to six players capable of having a big night.
The safe pick here is the Vols. They’re playing better right now and have more momentum coming into this first round contest. The Hawkeyes are more talented top-to-bottom, but they haven’t been on their A-game since mid-February.