South Region First Round Prediction & Free Pick: #7 Cincinnati vs. #10 Iowa

Date | AuthorJonathan Willis

Last Updated: 2019-03-19

Cincinnati has one of the longest active NCAA Tournament streaks in the country. The No. 7 seed Bearcats have now made it to the Big Dance for nine straight seasons, but they haven’t had a ton of success there. Despite this being their ninth straight trip, Cincinnati has made it to the Sweet Sixteen only once and is just 5-3 in the First Round. They are favored to beat the No. 10 Iowa Hawkeyes in this South Region First Round game, but not by much.

This game will be the first to tip on the second day of March Madness. Cincinnati and Iowa will square off at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, in what’s sure to be a very pro-Cincinnati environment, on Friday, March 22, at 12:15 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on CBS. Currently, Cincinnati is a 3.5-point favorite and the over/under is 137.5. The winner will likely play Tennessee, provided the Vols don’t spit the bit against Colgate.

Tournament History

Iowa is making its first trip to the NCAA Tournament in the last three years, and this will be their seventh trip to the Big Dance in the last two decades. They have not made it to the Sweet Sixteen in 20 years, and they would love to break that streak. This is a familiar position for the Hawkeyes. This will be the third straight time they are involved in the 7/10 game, and the fifth time in their last seven appearances. Iowa is 3-1 in those games with the lone loss coming to Cincinnati as a No. 10 seed in 2005.

It’s been almost six decades since Cincinnati won back-to-back national championships, and the Bearcats have only made it to the Final Four once since making six straight trips from 1959 to 1963. Last year, the Bearcats were stunned as a No. 2 seed by Nevada in the second round of the tournament, and they are out to return the favor if the play Tennessee.

How They Got Here

The Hawkeyes rode a strong start to end up as an at-large team for the NCAA Tournament. Iowa went 12-0 in non-conference play with wins over Iowa State and Oregon, and the Hawkeyes felt comfortable about their chances after they beat Michigan to move to 17-5. They won three in a row to follow up on that, but they did not end the year on a high note. Iowa lost six of its last eight with its only wins being an overtime victory against Indiana and a comfortable win against a bad Illinois team.

There were a lot of name teams on Cincinnati’s non-conference schedule, but many of those schools had down years. They only beat one tournament team through the first two and a half months of the season (Ole Miss), but they weren’t assured of a spot until the wins became too much to ignore and they were 20-3. The Bearcats punched their ticket to the dance by winning the AAC Tournament, finally beating a Houston team that had beat them twice in the regular season for the conference tournament title on Sunday.


Given their pedigree, you would think that Cincinnati would have the size advantage here, but that’s not the case. Iowa is one of the bigger teams in the country with three players 6’9 are taller that they are constantly using on the court. Tyler Cook and Luke Garza have been the two best players on the team throughout the season, but Ryan Kriener sees a lot of action too. These three players are great at getting to the line (14th in the country) as a consequence of their size, and they don’t get blocked or turn the ball over too often.

However, they do have some issues with their defense. The Hawkeyes do not have great interior defense, and they are allowing opponents to hit 53.4 percent of their two-pointers. That could potentially be a boon for Cincinnati, as the Bearcats have a hard time on offense. They are sinking just 47.3 percent of their two-point attempts.

The Bearcats have one of the best defenses in the nation. They have a very good shot blocker in Nysier Brooks, and they don’t allow easy buckets. Opponents are hitting just 44.7 percent of their two-pointers against Cincinnati this season.

Cincy’s offense is very one-dimensional though. The Bearcats rely heavily on Jarron Cumberland to create for them, and if he has an off night, they aren’t very likely to win. He is hitting 39.1 percent of his threes this season, but he isn’t as good as you might think from inside the arc, hitting just 41.3 percent of two-point attempts.

Pick: Iowa Hawkeyes +3.5

If you look at Cincinnati’s offense, there isn’t much to like. Cumberland is solid, but no one else has really stepped up, and the big thing for the Bearcats is grabbing offensive rebounds. They are fourth in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, but the Hawkeyes size is going to mitigate that advantage significantly. This smells like an upset.

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