Pick with Analysis
Conference play hasn’t been going on for that long, but these teams will already face off for the second time this week. It was only a couple weeks ago that Iowa ‘upset’ the No. 1 team in the country. It wasn’t a true upset because the Hawkeyes actually closed as favorites against a Michigan State team without one of the best players in the nation, Denzel Valentine.
The bad news for Iowa is that Valentine returned last Game for the Spartans and played 23 minutes off the bench. Valentine is everything for this MSU team as he’s averaging 17.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.8 assists per Game. Without him, the offense (and defense) was a step below in the road Game at Iowa. Earlier in the season, Valentine dropped a triple-double on the now No. 1 Kansas if you had any doubts of his ability in big Games.
Despite that loss, the Spartans are coming off huge back-to-back wins against bottom-tier Big Ten wins and will be primed to get revenge against the Hawkeyes in East LAnsing.
But Iowa won’t be a pushover, that’s for sure. Iowa may have three losses in non-Conference play, but in addition to beating MSU, they recently came back against Purdue and took down the Boilermakers on the road. That’s a huge feat against a ranked team. Even with Valentine back, the Hawkeyes should be able to compete in this Game as they have already showed they can play well on the road multiple times this year.
The obvious area of concern will be defending Valentine. Last time out, the Hawkeyes set out to stop shooter Bryn Forbes from scoring and they did that, which was a main reason they won. However, with Valentine out there (and more of Gavin SChilling), things will be a little different. Eron Harris dropped 21 points in 22 minutes in the first meeting and he was the basic replacement for Valentine.
It’s likely Iowa’s leading scorer Jarrod Uthoff will matchup with Valentine and the edge goes to Valentine. The addition of forward Gavin SChilling is also relevant because Peter Jok was a problem in the first matchup and SChilling is a guy that can defend anywhere on the cOurt, which is uncommonat his size. Jok won’t be getting as many open looks behind the arc.
The one thing Michigan State will be focusing on is stopping point guard Mike Gesell from penetrating the paint as much as he did last Game. Gesell scored 25 points in the first meeting and did whatever he wanted.
Without Valentine and only three points from Forbes, it’s easy to see why the Spartans lost in the first Game. But with the way they have been rolling as of late, it’s hard to see Iowa putting together another effort that will thwart MSU on its home cOurt.
Iowa is good, but the addition of Valentine changes everything in this matchup, and now Eron Harris will be coming off the bench, which will create problems of its own for Iowa.
The Spartans are cruising and with a healthy Valentine, should be ready to roll in this Game, especially after watching Iowa fans rush the cOurt after their last loss.
PREDICTED Score- MICH ST 77 IOWA 72