NCAA Tournament Odds, Picks, Predictions: Iowa vs. Grand Canyon (Saturday, March 20)
Nic Antaya/Getty Images. Pictured: Luka Garza.
- The Iowa Hawkeyes are a big favorite over Grand Canyon in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
- Iowa boasts one of the most dominant offenses in college basketball, but Grand Canyon's style of play should slow the Hawkeyes down. Iowa will hope to avoid a similar fate as Ohio State, which lost as a No. 2 seed on Friday.
- Get our analysts' Iowa vs. Grand Canyon pick and preview below.
Iowa vs. Grand Canyon vs. Iowa Odds
|Grand Canyon Odds||+14.5|
|Moneyline||-1430 / +850|
|Time||Saturday, 6:25 p.m. ET|
These two are completely opposite teams.
Iowa loves to push the pace, shoot a lot of 3s, score a lot of points and play very questionable defense.
Meanwhile, Grand Canyon is one of the best defensive teams in the country (via eFG%), plays at an absurdly low pace and never shoots the 3.
Usually, these games are impossible to cap. However, this game is the exception because the Antelopes’ style of play is Iowa’s biggest weakness.
BJ Cunningham: Iowa enters the NCAA Tournament as one of the most offensively dominant teams in the entire country.
The Hawkeyes have beaten teams from all over the court, as they lead the Big Ten in efficiency, averaging 1.15 points per possession. Likewise, they are second in the country behind Gonzaga in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom.
The reason they can beat teams from anywhere on the court is because of their fantastic ball movement. Even though they have maybe the best player in college basketball in Luka Garza, the Hawks hardly do any isolation ball, as evidenced by their 64.3% assist rate on made field-goal attempts, the fourth-highest rate in the country.
Sure, Garza gets all of the attention and rightly so since he’s averaging 23.7 points per game, but the unsung hero of this Iowa team is Joe Wieskamp. Wieskamp is a silent assassin from behind the arc, hitting 47.3% of his 3-point attempts, 15th best in the nation. If Iowa goes deep in the tournament, it will be directly correlated to how effective Wieskamp is offensively.
Behind Wieskamp’s stellar 3-point percentage, the Hawks shot 38.6% from deep this season. They also dominated opponents down low, making 62.3% of their shots at the rim, per Hoop-Math.
Iowa was terrible defensively early in the season, but the Hawks have made great improvements over the last two months and ended up with the 50th-ranked defense in the country in efficiency.
The proof is in the numbers, too, because they held their opponents to fewer than one point per possession in five of their last eight games. In fact, they’ve held their opponents under 70 points in eight of their last 11 games.
They match up well with Grand Canyon because the Hawkeyes’ one main weakness is defending the perimeter, where they’re allowing almost 35% from 3-point range.
They defend the paint at an elite level, allowing only 45.8% from 2-point range and 54% on shot attempts at the rim, per Hoop-Math. The Hawks do not have a very high defensive rebounding rate, which will be a problem since Grand Canyon is 35th in offensive rebounding rate.
Grand Canyon Antelopes
Shane McNichol: In the first year of the Bryce Drew era, the Antelopes are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since making the leap to the Division I level. The selection committee made life tough on Grand Canyon for its first trip to the Big Dance, slotting the Antelopes as the final No. 15 seed on the S-curve.
According to predictive measures, that’s a knock on the WAC champions, who finished higher ranked in KenPom than every other 15-seed and two of the 14-seeds.
Some of that is due to Grand Canyon’s performance against the best teams on its schedule. The Antelopes played single-digit games deep into the second half against Colorado, Arizona State, and San Francisco, but failed to add a win better than Nevada to their resume.
Drew’s team loves to play a slow, plodding style, centered around leading scorer Asbjorn Midtgaard.
The 7-foot Danish import, who previously contributed at Wichita State, is a bruiser in the paint and frequent screener in the Lopes offense. He’s joined in the starting lineup by 6-foot-11 Italian Alessandro Lever, who can step beyond the 3-point line and hit open shots.
Point guard Jovan Blackshear initiates the offense, leading the Antelopes in usage rate by creating off screens from his big men. Grand Canyon’s offense can be clogged in the lane without shooters on the perimeter to suck defenders away from the post or pick-and-roll action.
Defensively, Grand Canyon put the clamps on its WAC opponents, allowing under 0.93 points per possession. Some of that is due to great 3-point luck in conference play. Grand Canyon’s conference foes shot just 28.3% from outside the arc, a number screaming for some regression toward the mean.
Matchup & Betting Analysis
Tanner McGrath: The way teams beat Iowa is by slowing it down and making it play a grind-it-out game. That’s exactly what Drew and the Antelopes are going to do today.
Grand Canyon ranks 314th in the country in adjusted tempo this season, and its defensive eFG% is just 44.7%. Due to its slow tempo and suffocating defense, the Antelopes are predictably 14-6 to the under this season.
Iowa’s offense is as explosive as ever. But its defense — as mentioned above — has really improved on that end. I can see this game staying low-scoring enough to keep Grand Canyon within the 15-point spread.
Iowa can cover this number if Garza goes crazy on the interior. However, between 7-foot, 270-pound Asbjorn Midtgaard and 6-foot-10, 235-pound Alessandro Lever, I think Grand Canyon will contain him to some degree.
I love Grand Canyon to cover a large spread in a grind-it-out, low-scoring game.
Pick: Grand Canyon +15.