Most teams would like to have the easiest possible route to the NCAA Tournament Final Four.
Tennessee—which struggled with Colgate in the first round on Friday—is not one of those teams.
“We don’t want anything easy. It hasn’t been easy getting to this point,” junior guard Jordan Bone said. “We worked hard to get to this point. We’d rather have a tough game, it kinda prepares us for the next one. I feel like this game definitely prepared us for Iowa.”
Iowa will look to grant Bone’s wish when the Hawkeyes meet up with the Vols on Sunday afternoon at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
Led by 20 points from sophomore forward Luka Garza and 19 points from freshman guard Joe Wieskamp, Iowa rallied to beat Cincinnati, 79-72, on Friday afternoon. Despite shooting a shade over 36 percent from 3-point land on the season, the Hawkeyes exploded for an 11 of 22 effort in their first round win.
Tennessee—which has given up 15 3-pointers in back-to-back games—will be looking to keep Iowa from a repeat performance.
“Some of those have been unbelievable shots that I don’t think we could defend any other way than we did,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “They are going to make some of them. You get as close as you can and try to contest the shot without fouling.”
The Hawkeyes aren’t scared to play in the paint, either.
Junior forward Tyler Cook leads Iowa with 14.6 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game. Garza adds 13.1 points per game.
“Tyler (Cook) is very athletic,” Tennessee forward Grant Williams said. “He’s dominant in the post. He’s developed his game a lot. (I have) tremendous respect for him.”
Williams isn’t the only Vol familiar with the Hawkeyes’ big man.
Tennessee senior forward Admiral Schofield played with Cook, as they both went through the NBA Draft process over the summer. Both players chose to return to school.
“(Tyler) Cook is a very talented guy,” Schofield said. “I got to compete with him in the NBA process, so I know him just a little bit. Guys like that, they have the talent…I think it will be a great matchup.”
Outside of Cook, Schofield’s grasp of Iowa’s strategy is limited. As Tennessee’s players sat in the stands for a few moments during the Hawkeyes game against the Bearcats, Schofield’s mind was in a different place.
“To be honest, I really wasn’t watching,” Schofield said. “When I go out there, I just try to get a feel for the environment. I don’t pay much attention. The biggest thing I saw is that they are tall, they are long and they are athletic. They have a great point guard who can really shoot the ball.”
That point guard, Jordan Bohannon, is scoring 11.4 points per game and dishing out 3.4 dimes per game.
Tennessee and Iowa are set to tip off at 12:10 p.m. ET on Sunday at Nationwide Arena. The Vols are searching for their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2014.
For Schofield, the mindset is simple.
“It’s March,” Schofield said. “Guys are competing…you gotta respect everybody.”