After muscling its way to a Big Ten title, the Iowa Hawkeyes are gearing up for what they hope will be a deep run in this year’s NCAA Tournament. First up for the Hawkeyes is a showdown with the surprising Atlantic-10 champion, the Richmond Spiders.
Both teams were slight surprises coming out of their respective conference tournaments, but Richmond may have been the bigger surprise out of the A-10 Tournament. Wins against VCU, Dayton, and Davidson capped a four-game winning streak in four days to capture the conference crown, and now the Spiders look to pull off an upset as a No. 12 seed.
Will Richmond pull off a big upset in their first NCAA Tournament game since their run to the Sweet 16 in 2011? Or will the Big Ten champs begin their own run with a dominant win? Here’s what you need to know about this first-round matchup.
Midwest Region: No. 12 Richmond Spiders (23-12) vs. No. 5 Iowa Hawkeyes (26-9)
Time: Thursday, March 17at 3:10 p.m. ET
Where: KeyBank Center (Buffalo, N.Y.)
Spread: Iowa -10.5
Keys for Richmond
This is the time of the year when a team full of experience can really play a factor in any matchup. If Richmond is going to thrive against the Big Ten champions, then that will be what the Spiders rely on. Richmond’s roster is full of experience with players that have been playing together and know how to move the ball in sync with one another. Tyler Burton will have to be the difference-maker though if the Spiders are going to pull the first-round upset of the Hawkeyes. Burton averages 16.3 ppg and 7.7 rebounds per game.
Keys for Iowa
Iowa’s run to a Big Ten title was impressive as the Hawkeyes appeared to be the only team in the Big Ten Tournament capable of simply taking over a game at will. And the first-round matchup is a favorable draw for the Hawkeyes, who are battle-tested and more powerful than Richmond. Iowa’s Keegan Murray will be a force Richmond will struggle to contain, and the size of the Hawkeyes will help overpower the Spiders at times.
Iowa’s overall strengths outweigh Richmonds’s when it comes down to talent, and that will be enough to skate by in the first round. Richmond will hang tight for a while in the first half but Murray will take things to a new gear that the Spiders will struggle to keep up with. Iowa’s defense will allow Richmond a chance to keep things competitive in the second half, but Iowa pulls away in the end to advance to the second round.