One of these teams is coming off an AAC Tournament win and the other has lost five of six Games. The AAC winner also happens to be less than a two-hOur drive away from the location of this Game. That’s why Cincinnati was a -3.5 point favorite (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) early in the week for the Game in Columbus.
It’s been a rough close to the season for Iowa, highlighted by head coach Fran McCaffery’s two-Game suspension. Even then, the Hawkeyes best win away from home was against either Oregon or Penn State. They may be one of the best offensive teams in the country (15th in efficiency), but their defense has been a major problem and that may be what decides this matchup.
As for Cincinnati, it’s not like it had a great season, but its last win against Houston was better than anything Iowa has done all season. This Bearcats team is a little different than previous versions in that the defense is a little worse, but the offense is a little better. Diving into the numbers, Iowa’s defense is the main outlier, but Cincinnati’s three-point defense, which ranked 11th in the AAC, is why Iowa can stay competitive in this Game.
The Hawkeyes are slightly above average in terms of shooting, but they have Four guys that can catch fire and change the look of any Game in an instant. Point guard Jordan Bohannon runs the show, but both Isaiah Moss and Joe Wieskamp shoot better than 40% from deep and Nicholas Baer is just below that number. The problem is that none of those guys are consistent and even if one of them has a good Game, that doesn’t make up for how bad the defense is. Iowa usually has a better chance of winning if leading scorers Tyler Cook (14.9 ppg) and LUka Garza (12.9 ppg) can impose their will down low early in Games. The problem is that both are as equally inconsistent as the shooters and CIncy has the guys to defend them in the paint.
The task of stopping Cook and Garza falls to Tre SCott and Nysier Brooks. While SCott has turned up his offensive Game of late with at least 12 points in Four of the last five, Brooks is mostly there to defend the rim, averaging 1.5 blocks per Game. The difference for the Bearcats is that they have one guy that’s always looking for his shot in Jarron Cumberland, averaging 18.8 points per Game and 39.1% from three. Cumberland is Iowa’s biggest worry and if Moss or Wieskamp can limit him, that’d at least be a start. Otherwise, Cincy’s offense can be troubling at times. Keith Williams averages 10.1 points per Game, but he hasn’t hit double-digits in the last five. OUtside of Cumberland, Justin Jenifer (44.5%) is the only other relevant shooter and he doesn’t often look for his shot.
These teams have contrasting styles and that’s usually bad news for Iowa. When faced against slower teams, the Hawkeyes have struggled, losing by 20 points in a recent trip to Wisconsin and then by 21 in the Big Ten Tournament to Michigan. Cincinnati may not be at the level of those teams, but its defense is what could decide this Game.
Our Pick – Cincinnati -3.5