You can't tell me that the NCAA basketball selection committee doesn't love a juicy storyline. To the non-trained eye, the Iowa Hawkeyes #8 vs. #9 seed first-round NCAA tournament game against SEC foe Auburn looks like just another first-round pick'em game. A pointless exercise to see who gets the #1 seed Houston next. But this game is about far more than that. This game is about the history of Iowa basketball. This game features Bruce Pearl.

Yes, that Bruce Pearl. The very Bruce Pearl who served as an Iowa assistant coach under Tom Davis some 31 years ago, according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette. In fact, Pearl was on the Iowa staff the last time Iowa made a run as far as the Elite Eight (1987) during the Big Dance. Iowa meets Auburn Thursday evening at 5:50 p.m. in a Midwest Region first-round game. It will be televised by TNT. While Pearl may be familiar with Iowa, the Hawkeyes have an Auburn spy on its staff too.

Iowa assistant coach Matt Gatens, who joined Fran McCaffery's staff in 2022, was also an assistant coach under Bruce Pearl at Auburn from 2017 to 2019, according to the Gazette. Gatens then went to Drake and then eventually back home to Iowa City. When the Gazette asked head coach Fran McCaffery if Gatens would be handling the scouting of the Tigers Fran stated, "that's probably a good guess."

Bruce Pearl has won wherever he has coached. The Gazette reports that Pearl has won 648 games during his time with Southern Indiana, Milwaukee, Tennessee, and Auburn. He led the Auburn Tigers to the Final Four in 2019. Let's hope he doesn't get career win #649 until next season.

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