Iowa men’s basketball No. 2 seed in NCAA Tournament
Hawkeyes will play No. 15 seed Grand Canyon in the first round
By Tyler Devine
The Iowa men’s basketball team has matched its highest NCAA Tournament seed in program history.
The Hawkeyes are a No. 2 seed in the West region and will face off against No. 15 seed Grand Canyon in the first round on Saturday in Indianapolis, Indiana.
“I’m so proud of these guys for the sacrifices they’ve made to remain together and committed to getting to this point,” coach Fran McCaffery said. “We’re thrilled to be here.”
No. 15 seeds are 8-132 against No. 2 seeds in NCAA Tournament history.
Richmond beat Syracuse in 1991, 73-69. And every couple of years, a No. 15 seed shocks the college basketball world with a crazy upset. After a 10-year drought without an opening-round win by a No. 15 seed, they have won four first-round games in the last eight NCAA tournaments.
The most recent No. 2 seed to lost was Michigan State against No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee in 2016.
Iowa also was a No. 2 seed in 1987 and lost to UNLV in the Elite Eight.
If Iowa beats Grand Canyon, it will face the winner of No. 7 seed Oregon and No. 10 seed VCU in the second round.
Grand Canyon became a Division I program in 2013 and is part of the Western Athletic Conference.
The Antelopes are coached by former Valparaiso and Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew and are making the first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history.
Drew, a Valparaiso alum, played six seasons in the NBA for the Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Hornets, but is probably most famous for the shot he made in the 1998 NCAA Tournament to lift No. 13 Valparaiso over No. 4 Ole Miss.
While he was an assistant at Notre Dame in the 1990s, McCaffery said he recruited Drew and knows the rest of the Drew family well.
“I really have a lot of respect for them,” McCaffery said. “I remember when his dad took over – he actually took over Valparaiso after I got to Notre Dame – but I was there when he really built that program. We’re going to play a very well-coached, well-prepared basketball team.”
Grand Canyon is 17-6 on the season and beat New Mexico State in the WAC Tournament final.
The Antelopes average 75.6 points per game and shoot 33.2% from 3-point range. Their leading scorers Asbjorn Midtgaard and Alessandro Lever, who average 14 and 13.3 points per game, respectively.
The 7-foot Midtgaard also averages a team-leading 9.9 rebounds per game and shoots nearly 71% from the field.
Iowa senior center Luka Garza said he has already begun his research on Midtgaard and Grand Canyon.
“His name came up a lot,” Garza said. “It looks like he’s a really efficient guy, a good scorer. I haven’t seen him play yet, but I look forward to diving in to who he is as a player.”