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When you have multiple top teams in the nation in the same conference, you get these kinds of games more often than you'd think. Last week it was Michigan against Iowa and Michigan State, and this week we get Michigan State at Iowa. With those three teams being at the top of the Big Ten, these games are huge if they want any chance of winning the regular season title.
Last week's No. 3 team, Michigan State, is in a bit of trouble at the moment. Not only did the Spartans just lose at home to rival Michigan, but now they have to go on the road to face Iowa, a team that hasn't lost a home game yet. The reason for the trouble is that Adreian Payne is still dealing with a foot injury (missed five straight games) and Branden Dawson (missed one game) is out for at least four more weeks. In addition, point guard Keith Appling said he couldn't shoot the ball after Saturday's loss. Appling has been dealing with a wrist injury for a while now, but it has only gotten worse as his shooting suffers, 5-for-21 FG (8-for-15 FT) in the last two games.
The Hawkeyes know this will be one of their best opportunities in recent history to get a chance to take down MSU. Not only that, but a win would give Iowa second place in the Big Ten as well.
Iowa is the good team no one is talking about. Yes, they have four losses, but three of them are on the road against Top 25 teams and one of them was on a neutral court against a Top 15 team. They have one of the deepest squads around with 10 players averaging at least 5.6 points per game. That's almost unheard of for most teams. Comparing that to MSU, the Spartans only have seven guys that average that much even while dealing with injuries.
Veterans Roy Devyn Marble (16.1 PPG) and Aaron White (13.7 PPG, 6.5 RPG) lead the team and are enjoying finally having an above average squad. From there, players like Jarrod Uthoff, Melsahn Basabe and Mike Gesell are a few others that make one of the highest scoring teams in the nation tick.
Going against Michigan State, expect plenty of points because both of these teams like to run. Much like Nik Stauskas (of Michigan) in Saturday's game, Devyn Marble is going to have an edge going against a depleted MSU squad. Without Dawson to guard an array of positions, there will be an opening for Devyn Marble to have a big game. Without Payne (which will likely happen), White will also have an easier time going against Matt Costello and company down low.
The Spartans advantage, in pretty much every game, will come in the back court. While Appling is nursing an injury, Gary Harris has been close to unstoppable lately, putting in 74 points in the last three games. Unfortunately for MSU, that's where the advantages end. Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice both need to step up, as the two combined for only five points against the Wolverines. To make matters worse without Dawson and Payne, Iowa could dominate the boards, as the Hawkeyes are third in the nation in rebounding.
MSU's role players stepped up against Michigan and it wasn't enough because players like Valentine and Trice didn't do what was needed. If that's the case in this game, the Hawkeyes could put this game away more easily than expected.
But then again, Michigan State is coming off a loss and will be coming into this game with a chip on their shoulders. That may not matter in the end against one of the best scoring and rebounding teams in the country. The Hawkeyes know they have to wrap this one up.
Our Model's predicted score - Iowa 78 Michigan State 76
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