So, it turns out size matters. Gonzaga may be about to find out just how much.
Tall as harvest-time corn, the seventh-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes didn’t defeat the diminutive Davidson Wildcats on Friday in an NCAA tournament South region round of 64 game as much as they overwhelmed them.
Aaron White, 6 feet 9 with the touch of an oil painter, drained jumpers for 26 points. Peter Jok, a 6-6 nightmare of a matchup at wing, made consecutive 3-pointers for half of his 12 points. And Jarrod Uthoff, 6-9, smothered Davidson’s star guard with a decisive five-inch height advantage in an 83-52 runaway at jazzed KeyArena.
The seventh-seeded Hawkeyes (22-11) won an NCAA tournament game for the first time since March 15, 2001, and this was their largest tourney margin of victory ever. They had four NCAA losses in a row until running past the 10-seed Wildcats.
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“We’re really long. Our length really worked,” Jok said in a business-as-usual locker room for the third-place team in the thudding Big Ten. “That really bothered them.”
How much will it bother second-seeded Gonzaga in Sunday’s 4:10 p.m. match for a place in the Sweet 16?
Iowa’s starting five goes 7-foot-1, 6-foot-9, 6-foot-9, and 6-foot-6. Point guard Mike Gesell is 6-foot-2, and he looks like he stumbled into the wrong lineup.
“We use the strength to our advantage,” said 7-foot-1 Adam Woodbury, who had eight points and eight rebounds. “That’s the strength of our team.”
Sure, Gonzaga starts 6-foot-10 Kyle Wiltjer and 7-foot-1 Przemek Karnowski. But those two aren’t going to be going outside to guard Iowa’s wings. Or if they are, Sunday’s going to be worse for the Zags than Friday was for Davidson.
Gonzaga’s backcourt? Yes, Kentridge alum Gary Bell Jr. is the West Coast Conference defensive player of the year. But he’s 6-foot-2. Byron Wesley is 6-foot-4.
But if Kevin Pangos is his listed 6-foot-2, Zags coach Mark Few is 7 feet tall.
The Hawkeyes also have a 6-foot-10 senior sixth man, Gabriel Olaseni. Six-foot-five guard Josh Oglesby also gets significant minutes off Iowa’s bench. Eight Hawkeyes — none shorter than Gesell — played at least 15 minutes.
White is their All-Big Ten leading scorer, averaging more than 16 points and seven rebounds per game. Though he is 6-foot-9, he spent much of Friday on the wing, feeding entry passes to Woodbury.
White had just three baskets over the game’s first 26 minutes, yet Iowa led by double digits. That was after Uthoff and swarms of Hawkeyes came after Davidson’s Atlantic 10 Conference player of the year, Tyler Kalinoski, who took three fouls in just 8 minutes.
Kalinoski averaged 17 points this season. Iowa held him to five.
Iowa has played Gonzaga twice, in 1984 in Iowa City and ’85 in Spokane. The Hawkeyes won each, by 22 and 20 points. The first was in the Zags’ last season with the forgotten Jay Hillock as coach; the second was in turnaround-starter Dan Fitzgerald’s first season.
Gonzaga is now 33-2 after its unimpressive slog past 15-seed North Dakota State. The Zags are now at their usual tournament crossroads, the round of 32.
Can Few’s shorter men find the answer for Iowa’s size and extend their program’s 17th consecutive NCAA tournament to a second weekend?