When Iowa and GCU match up in Indianapolis on Saturday, it will be a battle of wills and contrasting playing styles.
The second-seeded Hawkeyes, led by National Player of the Year candidate Luka Garza, are one of the most prolific offenses in the country, averaging nearly 84 points per game.
On the flip side, the underdog Lopes are one of the top defensive teams in the country, holding their opponents to 61.2 ponts per contest (top-10 in the nation).
The question is, who is going to break? It’s a topic that Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery addressed when he joined Jordan Hamm on the Brad Cesmat Show this week.
The Hawkeyes have seen just about every defensive scheme that they can in the Big Ten this year, and that should be a plus for Iowa going into the matchup against a stingy Lopes team led by Bryce Drew.
“We really respect how they guard, how they compete, and we know we are going to see that,” McCaffery said. “For us in the Big Ten, you are seeing really good defensive teams. You are seeing more teams talented offensively and some teams are bigger, some teams are smaller or quicker. It’s great preparation for this tournament because we’ve seen just about everything you are going to see.”
Another focal point going into this weekend’s game is the interior presence of Garza, who is one of the best players in the entire country. McCaffery broke down what makes him so special from working with him on a day-to-day basis.
“From the minute he got here, he wasn’t afraid of the moment,” McCaffery said. “He’s on a big stage and he’s performed well, but I think the thing that’s impressed me is he’s never satisfied. He was really good, but he got better as a sophomore, he got better as a junior, and he’s better as a senior. As you progress through your career, you become the focal point of another team’s defense so it makes it harder to consistently produce…I think it’s a testament to his character, his work ethic, and his commitment on a year-round basis to being great.”
GCU will have its hands full when they take on McCaffery’s Hawkeyes this weekend and one of the nation’s best offenses will meet one of the country’s best defenses. It’s set to be a showdown in Indianapolis and Iowa has nothing but respect for its adversary. The Lopes certainly aren’t being overlooked by a higher-ranked opponent.
“They are a very impressive group in a lot of ways,” McCaffery said of GCU. “Obviously I’ve known Bryce a long time and he’s done a terrific job. They run good stuff and have a tremendous point guard in (Jovan) Blacksher. They’ve got really good low post players and low post actions…As I always say, when you look at a team like this, they won the regular season and they won the postseason tournament. They won their way here. They didn’t win the lottery. They’re here because of what they’ve accomplished on the floor consistently.”