Iowa’s size takes on Davidson’s shooting

As Iowa and Davidson prepare for their matchup in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, both teams prepare for a battle of contrasting styles. 

SEATTLE — Few teams compare with Davidson. So when Iowa players were asked to select a similar team they had played this season, the options were limited.

There’s Michigan, which shoots lots of 3s and plays with three-guard lineups on occasion. And there’s Indiana, which shot more 3-point attempts than anyone in the Big Ten by nearly 100.

That’s about it. Other than Wisconsin, which plays similarly but has the advantage of the nation’s best player in 7-footer Frank Kaminsky.

The common trait among these three teams is shooting. Lots of it.

But Iowa has yet to play Davidson. Meaning it has yet to play one of the deadliest 3-point shooting teams in the nation. A team that is never shy to shoot it, which is likely because when the players shoot the trey, they often make it.

“They can really shoot it,” Mike Gesell said. “They can get on runs quickly if you give up open shots. They’re probably the best catch-and-shoot 3-point shooting team in the country, so we can’t give them any rhythm shots.”

In most cases, opposing players praising a team they’re about to play is an exaggeration. In this case, it’s not.

Davidson enters the NCAA Tournament ranked third in the nation in 3-points made, fourth in attempts, and 13th in 3-point percentage. All this is culminated in the Wildcats having the sixth-highest scoring offense in the country (79.9 points per game).

Most of this success can be attributed to Davidson playing upwards of four guards on the court at once. Its four double-digit scorers are all guards, and its starting lineup consists of two players under 6-feet and just one player over 6-5.

This has allowed Davidson to play with a relatively fast pace — Kenpom has Davidson ranked as the 71st quickest-paced team in the nation with 64.3 possessions per 40 minutes.

It’s also allowed the Wildcats to keep at least four shooters on the floor at all times. Of the players who play significant minutes, four of them shoot better than 40 percent from deep and just one player shoots worse than 35 percent from 3.

“Whenever you’re going against a team that has four, five shooters on the court at one time, that has to get your attention,” Hawkeye guard Anthony Clemmons said. “All you can do is try to run them off their line, because they all have quick triggers.

“You have to be ready to defend in a different way than you would defend a lot of other driving teams.”

Davidson isn’t just a 3-point-shooting team. Although, 3-pointers do account for 40.8 percent of its points this season.

The Wildcats are also a good passing team — they led the Atlantic 10 and were 12th in the nation in assists. And they’ve turned the ball over just 297 times this season, which is third-best in the country.

“The way they move the ball, I think, has been very impressive,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “Obviously, I’ve coached against Bob McKillop before. They move the ball down the floor quickly. They share the ball. They have a bunch of willing passers.”

But just as Davidson’s shooting and pace could be a strength for the Wildcats, Iowa’s size could dominate this game.

Freshman Peyton Aldridge is Davidson’s tallest starting player at 6-7. Iowa’s starting lineup boasts three players taller than that in Jarrod Uthoff, Aaron White, and Adam Woodbury.

It’ll be a battle of size and shooting as Iowa opts for points in the paint rather than from beyond the arc — the Hawkeyes ranked near the bottom of the NCAA in makes and attempts from 3-point range.

“You have to play to your strengths,” White said. “If you’ve got size down low, you go to it … It’s really contrasting styles, contrasting personnel. I think it’ll be a good matchup.”

Iowa doesn’t plan on changing much in terms of style or personnel. Some teams would try to go small to counter a quicker style of play, but Iowa believes it has enough versatility for its wings to handle Davidson’s combo-guards.

With Uthoff and White likely to be matched up on smaller players on defense, Iowa is hoping that their length can disrupt not just the rebounding game but getting out on Davidson’s shooters as well.

“Jarrod and I are both 6-9, but we don’t play like true posts,” White said. “We’re pretty athletic, pretty versatile defenders, so I think that’ll help us.”

Whatever team plays closer to its style of play will likely advance to the next round.

If Davidson looks for points inside, don’t bet on it. And likewise, if Iowa gets into a shooting contest with the Wildcats, the Hawkeyes will likely head home with the program’s fourth-straight loss in the NCAA Tournament.

“We know that tough games come down to one or two possessions,” Clemmons said. “… Execution is going to be critical down the stretch. We’re just going to have to execute.”


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