116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
You have luxury to look all you want at potential matchups for Iowa in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
Oregon would be a pretty feisty second-round foe, having gone 14-4 to finish in first place in the Pacific-12 Conference's regular-season.
How about Kansas in the Sweet 16? Let the drool start forming for that one.
And who's up for a rematch with unbeaten Gonzaga in the Elite Eight and the chance to wreck the Zags' perfect season?
Stow it, Hawkeyes Coach Fran McCaffery will tell his team this week. It's all Grand Canyon all the time as McCaffery's No. 2-seed in the West Region takes on a team from the West Saturday in the 15th-seed Antelopes. The 5:25 p.m. (CT) game will be at Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis, a 6,500-seat venue that is home to Division I IUPUI basketball and a minor-league hockey team called the Indy Fuel. The arena opened in 1939. The Beatles performed there in 1964.
Grand Canyon is 17-6. It was 9-3 in the Western Athletic Conference regular season, then beat Seattle and New Mexico State by a combined 52 points over the weekend in winning the WAC tournament and securing its first NCAA tournament berth in its eight years as a Division I program.
If you didn't know the Grand Canyon had a basketball team, that's because it doesn't. The Antelopes and their university are located in Phoenix. They're also serious about the sport. The school fired former Phoenix Suns star Dan Majerle as their coach last spring and hired Bryce Drew, who took two Valparaiso teams to the NCAA tourney, and guided Vanderbilt there in 2018.
But his third Vanderbilt club went 0-18 in the Southeastern Conference last season, and Drew was fired. Off he went to Grand Canyon, and this week Drew is taking his team to the state where he was a college player and coach. It was his last-second shot for Valparaiso in the 1998 NCAAs that beat Mississippi and went down in tournament lore.
McCaffery can relate to Grand Canyon, having coached Lehigh and UNC-Greensboro as No. 16 seeds in the big tournament, and leading two 13-seeds and a 9 in the NCAAs when he was at Siena.
'We were a 9 and beat Ohio State,' McCaffery said. 'We were a 13 and beat Vanderbilt; it was a 4. We were a 16 and lost, but I will tell you this: Every team that I've taken to the NCAA tournament has been a really, really good basketball team with terrific players. And that's the message to our guys.
'What they have to do is be respectful. Any team that made this tournament won their way here. This isn't a lottery. You've got to earn it.'
Grand Canyon has played just one ranked team. That was Arizona State, which beat the Antelopes 71-70 when Remy Martin made a jumper with nine seconds left. The Lopes beat Steve Alford's 16-win Nevada team, 87-77.
All that said, the Hawkeyes could find satisfaction Sunday night before their COVID-19 testing with the knowledge they're the first Iowa team to be seeded as high as No. 2 since 1987. That team reached the Elite Eight, by the way.
Since the NCAA tourney expanded to 64 teams in 1988, No. 15-seeds are 8-132 against No. 2-seeds. The most-recent No. 15 to prevail was Middle Tennessee, a 90-81 winner over Michigan State in 2016. No. 16-seed Maryland-Baltimore County shocked No. 1 Virginia 74-54 in 2018.
McCaffery said 'I have as good a sense as anybody' of what Grand Canyon will be feeling this week as a big underdog.
'You're going to face an incredibly motivated, really talented, very well-coached basketball team,' he said, 'and anything short of our best effort, and you have a hard time winning. We've seen that repeatedly. ... I firmly believe there's no such thing as an upset in this tournament.'
Nonetheless, the Hawkeyes could take some satisfaction Sunday in being a No. 2-seed. In four previous NCAA appearances under McCaffery, they've been an 11, 7, 7 and 10.
'I think everyone was really, really excited, especially to see ourselves as a 2-seed this year in the Big Ten. To be able to win the games that we've won and put ourselves in that position is huge.'
Iowa forward Joe Wieskamp said his team's mission this long week of waiting to play is 'just locking in mentally and realizing Grand Canyon's the team that we have to beat to move on, and that should be our only focus right now. We're not worried about who we could play in the second round or so forth.'
Comments: (319) 398-8440; email@example.com