Let's get ready to rumble. A quick reminder of the rules:
- shoot for first possession
- alternating possessions
- play to 15, must win by 2
- 3s are worth 3 points
GAME ONE: No. 6 Adam Woodbury vs. No. 11 Erek Hansen
We figured we'd start with this clash of lane-filling seven-footers, mostly because it could take weeks for either player to get to 15 points. Woodbury started a staggering 137 games as a Hawkeye and never averaged more than 8 points per game. While his statistics weren't eye-popping, the big guy had a real acumen for blocking shots and poking the ball away from driving guards. He also had surprising court vision that doesn't really translate to a one-on-one game, but we're blindly stabbing for compliments here.
Hansen didn't play nearly as much as Woodbury -- he only started for two seasons -- but he became the linchpin of an Iowa defense that ranked first nationally in defensive efficiency. Hansen blocked 2.6 shots per game in both his junior and senior seasons, leading the Big Ten in both campaigns. That, along with a solid rebound rate, led to one of the more stunning stats of the mid-aughts Hawkeyes: Hansen was fourth in the conference in win shares in 2005-06, despite scoring about 6 points per game.
GAME TWO: No. 3 Matt Gatens vs. No. 14 J.R. Angle
Gatens was recruited by Steve Alford, played through the entire Todd Lickliter era, and finally blossomed in his senior season with Fran McCaffery. We could talk about his 37% career three-point percentage, his 128 starts, or his fourth-all-time free throw percentage, but it's his run in February 2012 that locked him as a program legend. Gatens went on one of the most superhuman runs in program history that year:
- Feb. 16: 21 points on 5/7 from three at Penn State
- Feb. 19: 30 points on 7/10 from three in an upset win over Indiana
- Feb. 23: 33 points on 7/10 from three in an upset win over Wisconsin
- Feb. 26: 22 points on 5/6 from three at Illinois
When it was over, Gatens had finally led Iowa back to the postseason. Sure, it was the NIT, but after a half-decade in the wilderness, an NIT berth felt monumental.
One of Alford's numerous Indiana projects, Angle played in 62 games over four seasons, grabbing four starts. He scored 10 points against Southeast Louisiana State as a junior. That's all I've got to say about that.
GAME THREE: No. 1 Jarrod Uthoff vs. No. 16 Dom Uhl
Uthoff transferred to Iowa from Wisconsin, part of a sordid saga that painted Bo Ryan as public enemy no. 1 among Iowa hoops fans. By his senior season, he was setting the Big Ten on fire: Uthoff averaged 25 and 8 for a McCaffery squad that rose to No. 2 nationally in January before plummeting to earth through late February. In 2015-16, Uthoff led the conference in both scoring and blocked shots, and was third in the B1G in usage rate and win shares. It was one of the truly monumental seasons in program history, obscured by the implosion.
Dom Uhl, a German import by way of New Jersey, looked like a garage sale bargain after a sophomore year where he averaged 6 points and 4 rebounds a game off the bench. It never got any better, though, as Iowa added more talented recruits and Uhl's development plateaued. By his senior season, Uhl was only getting into 16 games, averaging less than five minutes per contest, and scoring five total points.