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The Big Ten is one of the most unknown conferences in the country, on a skill level at least. With the amount of upsets that take place every week, it's a question how good each team is. Most of that can be summed up in this game between Michigan State and Iowa.
The Spartans looked like one of the best teams in the country starting with an 18-1 record, but injuries have derailed them in 2014. Last weekend everything was supposed to start coming together as they got Branden Dawson back from his broken hand. However, they ended up losing at home to an Illinois squad that they already dismantled earlier in the year. At this point, there's no telling what MSU will do even at home against Iowa, a team they already beat without Adreian Payne and Dawson.
On the other end, the Hawkeyes haven't played much better either. While they did break a three-game losing streak on Sunday, it was still in a non-covering effort at home against Purdue. Iowa once had a shot of getting the Big Ten title, but are now sitting with seven losses in the conference.
So with those things said, the main question for this game may just be who wants it more?
Michigan State has lost its last two home games to Nebraska and Illinois, so that advantage doesn't look like much here. Iowa has some nice road wins, but again played zero defense in road losses at Minnesota and Indiana, allowing 188 points in two games.
In the first meeting between these teams, the Spartans won a crazy overtime thriller in what was probably their best game of the past month. MSU's leading scorer Gary Harris didn't do much with nine points, but four other players reached double digits including Keith Appling. Roy Devyn Marble found shots in that first game and scored a game-high 21 points, but it wasn't enough as he missed key buckets down the stretch. It won't be easier for him as the athletic Dawson is back for MSU and he'll likely draw that matchup.
Michigan State's problem lately has been Appling, who is still struggling with his shot due to wrist issues. He took 14 shots and scored 16 points in that Iowa game, but only has 14 points in his last four games total. His shooting woes hurt the offense as defenders don't really have to worry about him doing anything other than driving. Still, the Hawkeyes have to find a way to stop Payne and Harris. Payne struggled mightily last game, but has been solid for the past two weeks. If the Spartans are held to 46 points in back-to-back games, Tom Izzo might explode.
The Hawkeyes need to find some consistency on the offensive end outside of Marble, especially if Dawson can limit his opportunities. Aaron White is inconsistent and will draw Payne, while next leading scorers Mike Gesell and Josh Oglesby will get Appling and Harris on the outside.
Iowa has a deep squad, but due to ineffective defense and no killer instinct to close out games, it's a wonder how they'll win this one.
Of course, if the Spartans continue their lackluster play, anything can happen. Iowa is a good team, but even with both teams struggling, an Izzo-led MSU team still gets the edge despite their latest results.
The predicted score using full season data is Michigan State 79 Iowa 75. However, when only usng the last 7 games as a parameter, it becomes Iowa 81 Michigan 80.
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