2019 NCAA TOURNAMENT

Iowa will play Cincinnati in NCAA tournament in Bearcats' backyard

Hawkeyes set sail for Columbus in NCAA men's basketball tourney

Cincinnati guard Jarron Cumberland during Cincinnati's American Athletic Conference tournament title-game win over the Cougars Sunday at Memphis' FedExForum. (Justin Ford/USA TODAY Sports)
Cincinnati guard Jarron Cumberland during Cincinnati's American Athletic Conference tournament title-game win over the Cougars Sunday at Memphis' FedExForum. (Justin Ford/USA TODAY Sports)

IOWA CITY — Not as high as UCF, VCU or Wofford.

But high enough to be in and not out, and that’s what mattered more.

Iowa’s No. 10-seed in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament South Region wasn’t what was expected by bracketologists near and far. Playing 28-6 Cincinnati a little more than 100 miles from the Bearcats’ campus in Columbus’ Nationwide Arena Friday at 11:15 a.m. (CT) on CBS isn’t ideal, yet the Hawkeyes didn’t seem a bit put off by it Sunday night.

When only one of your players (senior Nicholas Baer) has ever been in an NCAA tourney, it all looks great.

“Just seeing your name up on that screen and hearing ‘the Iowa Hawkeyes’ was pretty special,” said Hawkeyes junior forward Tyler Cook.

Iowa (22-11) will face Cincinnati Friday in downtown Columbus’ Nationwide Arena. That’s the home of the National Hockey League’s Blue Jackets, not the Ohio State Buckeyes. Which probably isn’t a bad thing.

New venue, new opponent, new lease on life after a nasty 74-53 loss to Michigan last Friday in the Big Ten tourney quarterfinals.

Is seeing a different foe a good thing?

“Absolutely,” Cook said. “Absolutely.”

The trouble is, the Bearcats play like a team that comes from Big Ten country.

“They defend like a lot of Big Ten teams,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “They’ve got athleticism like a lot of Big Ten teams. I would say they’re reminiscent of teams we face a lot.”

On Sunday, 6-foot-5 junior guard Jarron Cumberland scored 33 points to lead 24th-ranked Cincinnati to a 69-57 win over No. 9 Houston in the championship game of the American Athletic Conference tournament in Memphis. He was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after being the AAC’s Player of the Year.

Cook used to bump into Cumberland on the AAU circuit when they were high schoolers.

“He’s pretty special,” Cook said.

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“Jarron Cumberland is a tremendous player,” McCaffery said. “Versatile. I think he was good back then (in high school). I think he’s better now, in particular as a scorer.”

Mick Cronin’s 12-year record as the Bearcats’ coach is 296-146. His team is 89-17 over the last three seasons. This is the ninth-straight year they have reached the NCAAs. They won their first-round games the last two years.

“Mick Cronin’s a real good friend of mine,” said McCaffery, “an excellent coach, great guy.

“It’s a tremendous defensive team that prides themselves on defensive effort and intensity. They can score, too. They’ve got good players. Not very many programs win 30 every year, and they’ve been doing that. It’s a challenge that we look forward to.”

The last time the two programs met was in 2005, at the NCAA tourney in Indianapolis. Cincinnati won, 76-64. Iowa will play the Bearcats this Dec. 21 at Chicago’s United Center.

Iowa season ticket holders (including students) and I-Club members can go to hawkeyesports.com and request tickets until 5 p.m. Monday. Fans who request tickets will receive an email on Tuesday with information regarding their request. Tickets are $100 for Iowa’s first-round contest. Fans with tickets for the first game will receive them for the second round, if Iowa advances. Tickets must be picked up at the tournament site with a photo ID. Requests will be filled based on priority points.

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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