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Marble-McRae matchup is one to watch when Iowa faces Tennessee

[ 0 ] March 18, 2014 |

DAYTON, Ohio — At 6-foot-6, he’s a matchup challenge for any guard he faces. He leads his team in scoring and was a first-team all-conference selection as a senior. And he’ll be playing in the NCAA Tournament Wednesday.

His name is Jordan McRae of Tennessee. And Devyn Marble of Iowa. And they’ll be going head-to-head at times when Iowa meets Tennessee in a first-round NCAA Tournament game at 8:10 p.m. Wednesday in Dayton Arena.

“I think our games resemble each other a little bit,” Marble said. “He’s asked to carry a lot of the scoring load for that team. And yes, I will be guarding him.”

Iowa's Roy Marble leads the Hawkeyes in scoring.

Iowa’s Roy Marble leads the Hawkeyes in scoring.

Tennessee players indicated that Josh Richardson, not McRae, will get the defensive assignment on Marble.

“He’s good at creating his own shots, he plays well in transition,” Richardson said. “It’s kind of tough to contain somebody like that that can do so many things with the ball.”

McRae is averaging 18.6 points for Tennessee. Marble is averaging 17.3 points for an Iowa team playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.

“I think his skill level definitely translates to the next level,” Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said.

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery thinks the same thing about McRae.

“He’s explosive, but I think his length presents issues at both ends of the floor that make him a guy that I think will ultimately end up in the NBA,” McCaffery said.

But this is not a one-on-one game, with the winner getting No. 6 seed Massachusetts in a second-round game Friday in Raleigh, N.C. It will be a game between two teams that got here in opposite directions.

Iowa spent 15 weeks in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, including a week at No. 10, but fell into one of four first-round games after losing six of its last seven games.

Asked how Iowa can get the good times back, Aaron White said, “just a couple of wins, man. I like our matchup with Tennessee. We’re not letting the past get into our heads. We have to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Tennessee snuck into the field by winning five of its last six games. Iowa assistant coach Kirk Speraw, who has the scout on the Volunteers, used some previous legwork to prepare for today’s game. He had put together a scouting report heading into the Battle 4 Atlantis. They never played, but he dusted if off for the NCAA opener.

“They’re really athletic,” Speraw said. “Very good defensively. They don’t give up easy baskets. The two guys inside (Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes) are phenomenal offensive rebounders. They’re like offensive guards with the football team out there playing basketball. They’re very athletic and long on the wings. When they’re making shots, they’re as good as anyone in the country.”

Tennessee is 16th nationally in scoring defense, allowing 61.1 points a game. Iowa is ninth nationally in scoring offense, at 82 points a game. The Volunteers haven’t allowed more than 78 points in a game all season. Iowa scored a season-low 62 points in its last game, a 67-62 upset loss to Northwestern in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

“We’re not trying to have an up-and-down battle with them,” McRae said. “We’re trying to sit down on defense the whole game and limit them.”

Rebounding will be another key area. The Volunteers are third nationally in rebounding margin at plus 8.5. Iowa is ninth at plus 7.4, but has been outrebounded in five of its last seven games.

Stokes, a junior forward, is averaging a double-double with 14.7 points and 10.3 rebounds a game. He has 19 double-doubles this season. The entire Iowa team has 15.

Iowa’s depth could be a positive. Five Tennessee players average 25 minutes a game or more. Marble and White are the only Iowa players averaging at least 25 minutes, but 10 players are averaging at least 11.6.

McCaffery’s first Iowa team won 11 games in 2010-11, then snapped four consecutive losing seasons with an 18-17 mark that ended in the second round of the NIT. The team won 25 games and reached the NIT title game last season.

“The next step is you’ve got to get to the tournament,” McCaffery said. “I think that was on their minds every time we took the floor. Maybe it wasn’t helpful at times. But once you’re here then, OK, we all have an equal opportunity to win a national championship. And it starts with the first game.”

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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