For the first time in program history, the GCU basketball program is going to the big dance. After winning the WAC Championship on Saturday night against New Mexico State, the Lopes were announced as the 15-seed on Selection Sunday in the West Region and will take on the two-seed Iowa in their first-ever game in March Madness.
The Lopes will get the winner of No. 7 Oregon and No. 10 VCU if they pull off the massive upset. Iowa finished 21-8 coming out of the Big Ten and are led by Player of the Year candidate Luka Garza, who is one of the best big men in the country.
Garza is averaging nearly 24 points per game to go along with 8.8 rebounds. He’s going to be a lot to handle for GCU, but the Lopes will be ready for the daunting task. Iowa is averaging around 84 points per contest as a high-scoring offense.
“Our guys are all familiar with Iowa and they are all familiar with Garza. He’s the best big man in the country,” said head coach Bryce Drew. “He could be Player of the Year and it’s not like he’s not getting schemed against every night. The Big Ten, some of the best defenses in the country, and maybe the best conferences in the country, has schemed against him all year…You’re going to have to score points against them because they are so potent offensively and you aren’t just going to shut them down.”
— Grand Canyon Men's Basketball (@GCU_MBB) March 14, 2021
Over the next couple days, GCU will have to quarantine in Indianapolis before getting back to practice in preparation for the game. Right after the announcement and opponent was announced, Drew was already uploading game film of the Hawkeyes to his laptop.
Lopes assistant coaches Jamall Walker and Ed Schilling, who previously served as coaches in the conference, will all have their hands full with watching video over the next couple of days in quarantine in preparation of trying to pull off a big upset in the best time of year for college basketball.
Drew is no stranger to upsets and the magic of March, and he’ll look to carry that aura into Saturday’s showdown.
“We have quite a few days to prepare and go through things. We want them to enjoy the excitement of this moment and hearing their name called,” Drew said of his team. “…After we get out of quarantine, we will really start diving into Iowa and game planning, and trying to get their mind at a good place to be ready to play.”
The Lopes and Hawkeyes are set to meet this Saturday, March 20. An official tip-off time has not yet been announced. March Madness begins this Thursday, March 18.