We have finally reached the end of Round 1. We'll also get into the beginning of Round 2 today, where we'll examine the greatest games of the remaining combatants. Once again, here are the one-on-one rules:
- shoot for first possession
- alternating possessions
- play to 15, must win by 2
- 3s are worth 3 points
C.J. Fredrick def. Duez Henderson 15-7 (78-22)
Anthony Clemmons def. Jake Kelly 16-14 (54-46)
Justin Johnson def. Ahmad Wagner 15-11 (62-38)
GAME ONE: No. 3 Tyler Smith vs. No. 14 Seth Gorney
Smith was only at Iowa for one season, but it was revelatory. The Pulaski, Tennessee native was the last great Alford recruit, and looked a lot like what we expected Glen Worley to look like: A 6'7", 215-pound do-it-all swingman. Smith was second on the team with 15 points per game as a freshman, was second on the team in assists (3.6 apg), and led the team in rebounding (4.9) and steals (1.5 spg). Smith wasn't just on the Big Ten all-freshman team, he made third team all-conference. With Haluska leaving, it would be Smith's team for at least the next couple of years. And then Alford jumped ship, and a player of Smith's caliber had no place in Todd Lickliter's system, and so Smith transferred back home to Tennessee. He was a long-shot SEC player of the year the following season, and averaged double-digit scoring in all four years he played college basketball.
While Smith was lighting up the Big Ten, the seven-foot center Seth Gorney was also having his best season: 5.5 points and 4 rebounds per game, with 17 starts, in his junior year. He put up 4 points and 5 boards in Lickliter's first season, starting 27 of 32 games, and had a pleasant little career. He also had a Marines tattoo, which was odd (it was in honor of his brother, we later learned).
GAME TWO: No. 1 Luka Garza vs. No. 16 Jon Buetjer
I wasn't absolutely in favor of doing this until I figured out that I could rig the bracket for Luka Garza to obliterate Jon Beutjer. And so we end the first round with the sweetest of desserts.
Garza just finished the greatest single season in Iowa basketball history. The Peacock moved himself into a Bosnian gymnasium last summer for some heavy work with Frank, then came back and blew the doors off the Big Ten. He averaged 24 and 10 in the deepest and biggest Big Ten in a generation, facing off with the likes of Daniel Oturu, Jalen Smith, the big Wesson kid at OSU, and a handful of other centers. He scored 20 or more points in all of the last 16 games of the season. He was among the Big Ten's leaders in virtually every stat but assist rate and free throws (though he did lead the conference in fouls drawn). And he developed an effective perimeter game, knocking down 36 percent from three, on top of all of it. It was amazing, more than enough to make him a top seed here.
Jon Beutjer walked on at Iowa and got four starts in 2000. Of course, those starts weren't in basketball. They were as Iowa's quarterback. The Feutjer was arguably Iowa's best quarterback that year, vying for position with Scott Mullen and Kyle McCann. He played in six games for the basketball team in garbage time and did not score a point. During the offseason, he got into a fight over roommate and teammate Sam Aiello over a cable bill and ended up getting knocked the bleep out in a parking lot. Beutjer reportedly demanded that Aiello be thrown off the football team in response. When Kirk Ferentz refused, Beutjer TRANSFERRED TO ILLINOIS. ILLINOIS. HE WENT TO ILLINOIS. AND THAT IS WHY HE GETS TO FACE LUKA GARZA TODAY.
GAME THREE: No. 10 Ryan Kriener vs. No. 2 Luke Recker
Kriener scored in double-digits 19 times in his Iowa career, breaking 20 once in a blowout win over Kennesaw State late in 2019. But Kriener's best game was probably just a few weeks ago, when the big guy dropped in 18 on 7/12 shooting, with 7 rebounds, in a near-miss at Michigan State. Only Garza managed to score more that night in East Lansing, and Kriener did it on half the minutes due to foul trouble. And then he talked to the DMR:
Recker had plenty of great games, but the thing he will always be remembered for was the 2002 Big Ten Tournament. Iowa had struggled down the stretch the year before, losing seven of its last eight going into the Big Tens after Recker broke his kneecap. The Hawkeyes then won four in four days, taking the conference's automatic bid and erasing any doubt that they would be in the field. Recker missed the tournament run due to that injury, and therefore missed beating his former team, Indiana, in the final.
Iowa's much-hyped 2001-02 team went much the same way, with the Hawkeyes opening the season 12-3 before dropping 11 of the last 15 games and limping to a 5-11 conference record. But Recker wasn't missing this Big Ten Tournament, and he had some unfinished business. Iowa, a nine seed, hammered No. 8 Purdue in the first game of the Tournament, setting up a matchup with top-seeded Wisconsin. Enter Recker:
The next day, it was Indiana again. Only this time, Iowa would have the former Hoosier great, and he wouldn't disappoint:
Over the previous two years, Iowa had gone 7-0 in the Big Ten Tournament. Consider this: As good as Fran McCaffery's been, he's only won four Big Ten Tournament games in a decade.
Unfortunately, the Hawks ran out of steam in the fourth day and lost big to Ohio State in the final, ending their long-shot bid to the Big Dance. One week later, they bombed out of the NIT in a first-round loss to LSU, and Recker's career was over. But for that one weekend, it was a hell of a ride.