The Mercer Bears are set to take on Iowa Hawkeyes in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
- Time: 2:00 p.m. EST
- How to watch: ESPN2 or the ESPN app
- How to listen: To listen to the Voice of the Bears, Rick Cameron tune into The Creek radio station or the Sports Mic Radio app
- Iowa finished the season 26-6
- Mercer finished the season 25-7
- The Hawkeyes are 5-2 all time in the NCAA tournament when slotted a 2 seed.
- The Bears are 0-1 in the NCAA tournament all time with their lone appearance being last season against Georgia.
- Iowa is 13-7 all time when playing at home in the NCAA tournament.
- This will be the first meeting between these two teams.
- The Hawkeyes are ranked number 8 in the country.
- Mercer won the Southern Conference title while Iowa grabbed the Big 10 title.
Since the Bears have never faced off against the Hawkeyes, fans of the team may not be familiar with what the Big 10 champs bring to the table. Here are five fast facts about Iowa to get you ready for the game.
1. Megan Gustafson is good…really good
The senior is averaging 28 points and 13 rebounds but that doesn’t tell the whole story of her impact. There are games like the conference title game where she picked up the scoring load with 45 points over Maryland.
She is also a model of consistency when it comes to rebounding. She has just two games under 10 rebounds this season and not a single game under eight.
Gustafson is a different level from almost every other player in the country as she was the only one to average over 25 points and shot over 67 percent from the field.
The Bears will have the task of trying to stop just one of two players in the last 10 years to average 24 points and 12 rebounds. If Gustafson gets going, it could be tough to stop the Hawkeyes.
2. The Hawkeyes are playing in their second straight NCAA tournament, too
A season ago, Iowa was knocked out in the first round just like Mercer. The Hawkeyes came into their matchup as the number 6 seed and favored to win. They would go on to lose 76-70 against Creighton.
Gustafson actually was the clear cut player of the game with 29 points and 17 rebounds but failed to get much help around her. Only two other players scored in double figures and just one other player accounted for more than 4 rebounds outside of her efforts.
Something of note though: the team was relatively young a season ago, so for some it was their first taste of the NCAA tournament. They had just one senior at the time. This year they will bring experience to the tournament.
Of course, Mercer will also have that experience to fall back on as well as 4 of their starting 5 started in their first round loss to UGA last season.
3. Current projections give Iowa a similar chance of making it to the final as it gives Mercer of beating Iowa
538 released the odds of Mercer knocking off Iowa — only around 3 percent. Iowa has a 2 percent chance of making it to the Final Four. This shows the gap pretty well in terms of expectations between these two teams. Anything less than a Sweet 16 berth will feel like a major disappointment for the Hawkeyes.
This could add a layer of pressure for Iowa as their expectations far exceed that of Mercer who will have nothing to lose in the first round matchup. It could lead to one team playing loose while the other plays tight.
One thing that Mercer has going for them as that they are top 10 in the entire country in terms of turnovers and have a pair of lights out 3-point shooters in KeKe Calloway and Linnea Rosendal. This tends to be the recipe for an upset.
4. Iowa City provides a big time advantage
Eight teams in Division 1 went a perfect 15-0 at home in the regular season this year. Iowa was one of them. The team also outscored opponents by double digits in almost every single one of those games.
On the road, Iowa went 7-5 and was clearly not nearly the team they were in Iowa City. Lucky for them they get to play the first (and potentially the second) round at home.
Three teams will have to travel to Iowa for the site of their first games.
Drake: 116 miles from Iowa City
Missouri: 234 miles from Iowa City
Mercer: 897 miles from Iowa City.
Mercer is at a clear disadvantage compared to the other teams’ matchup at this location. The additional travel and having to play in the opponents’ hometown in the first round could make a possible upset by the Bears even tougher.
5. The two teams share a common opponent
Mercer and Iowa both dropped a game to Florida State University. Mercer lost to the Seminoles by a score of 57-56 at home in Macon, even though the Bears actually led over the Seminoles for much of the game.
The Hawkeyes lost by four at a neutral site game in the Bahamas.
This was one of the games that Gustafson struggled as she didn’t score 20 points or record 10 rebounds. Peach County standout Niasia Woolfolk was the key player for Florida State as she scored a game high 25 points.
While it doesn’t mean that Mercer will win because of these results, it does mean that each played similar against their common opponent.