CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Twenty-three wins on the season. Great at home, so-so on the road. An unselfish brand of basketball on offense. Solid defense. One of the last teams left out of the NCAA Tournament.
That sums up Virginia…and Iowa. Two teams that mirror each other square off at 6 p.m. Wednesday in an NIT quarterfinal game at John Paul Jones Arena. The winner gets a trip to Madison Square Garden in New York City and a date in the NIT semifinals April 2.
Virginia, 23-11, has won a school-record 20 games at home this season, and has the nation’s fourth-longest home-court winning streak at 19 games. Iowa, 23-12, was just 2-8 on the road this season.
“We’ve played well on the road, but we haven’t gotten as many wins as we would have liked,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “This is a great opportunity, and obviously a very important game.”
The Hawkeyes also reached the NIT quarterfinals in 1995 and 2003, but lost both times.
“It would be a tremendous step for the program, and give us another opportunity to play two more games in arguably the greatest venue in all of sport,” McCaffery said. “For our maturity, for our growth, for our young guys, it would be a tremendous step.”
Iowa also set a school record for home victories with 19, including NIT wins over Indiana State and Stony Brook before sellout crowds at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Had Wednesday’s game been in Iowa City, the Hawkeyes would be favored against a Virginia team that was just 3-8 on the road.
That road record is the biggest reason Virginia was left out of the NCAA Tournament. The Cavaliers were 9-0 at home in Atlantic Coast Conference play, including a 73-68 victory over No. 3 Duke on Feb.28. Iowa’s road struggles, including a 95-79 loss at Virginia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge Nov. 27, is the biggest reason it missed the NCAAs as well.
The only other time Iowa and Virginia have met was in the first round of the 1997 NCAA Tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah, a game the Hawkeyes won, 73-60.
Both teams have a go-to guy. For the Cavaliers it’s Joe Harris, a first-team all-ACC guard who averages 16.4 points a game. Harris scored a career-high 36 in the Duke victory. Iowa counters with guard Devyn Marble, who has averaged 26 points in two NIT games and 14.8 points for the season.
Marble has replaced Matt Gatens as the Hawkeyes’ go-to guy. During his four-year career, Gatens had 18 games of 20 points or more, with two games in the 30s. Marble, a junior, has 11 games of 20 points or more, with two games in the 30s.
Marble, who has played small forward, second guard and point guard this season, seems most comfortable with the ball in his hands. He’s had a big hand in Iowa’s unselfish play on offense. Of Iowa’s 835 field goals this season, 63.5 percent of them have come directly from an assist. Iowa had 20 assists on 26 field goals against Stony Brook.
“Any time you have a team like that that gives up the ball as easily as we do, they’re a pleasure to coach,” McCaffery said.
WHO: Iowa (23-12) at Virginia (23-11)
WHERE: John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, Va.
TIPOFF: 6 p.m.
RADIO: WHO-AM (1040) and Hawkeye Radio Network.
STAT LEADERS: For Iowa – Devyn Marble 14.8 ppg; Aaron White 6.1 rpg; Anthony Clemmons 2.9 apg; for Virginia – Joe Harris 16.4 ppg; Akil Mitchell 9.0 rpg; Jontel Evans 4.9 apg.
ABOUT THE HAWKEYES: Iowa coach Fran McCaffery got his first coaching job at his alma mater, Penn, in 1982. He was hired by Craig Littlepage, now the athletic director at Virginia. “He gave me my first job, and I’ll always be thankful for that,” McCaffery said.
ABOUT THE CAVALIERS: Harris was a first-team all-ACC selection and averaged 18.4 points in league play. Mitchell, the Cavaliers’ second-leading scorer and leading rebounder, was a third-team all-ACC pick. He has 12 double-doubles this season.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Virginia ranks fourth nationally in scoring defense at 55.0 points a game. Iowa averages 70.4 points a game and has been held under 60 just four times this season.
LIVE CHAT ON WEDNESDAY
Rick Brown of The Des Moines Register will be in Charlottesville, Va., to cover Wednesday night’s game. Join him at HawkCentral.com for a live chat that begins at 12:30 p.m., Iowa time.
TUESDAY, MARCH 26
6:30 – Maryland (24-12) at Alabama (23-12
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 27
6:00 – Iowa (23-12) at Virginia (23-11), 7 p.m.
7:00 – BYU (23-11) at Southern Mississippi (27-9)
8:00 – Providence (19-14) at Baylor (20-14)
TUESDAY, APRIL 2
Semifinals, Madison Sqaure Garden, New York (CDT)
6:00 – First semifinal
8:30 – Second semifinal
THURSDAY, APRIL 4
8:00 – Semifinal winners
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball