Iowa’s chances of winning the Big Ten are long gone, but it can still get a decent seeding come Tournament time if it adds a win like this on its resume. Winning this Game would be huge because only a week ago, the Hawkeyes had Michigan State on the ropes before giving way to a 21-2 run that all but ended the Game. Michigan is fighting MSU not only for the Conference crown, but also for a possible No. 1 seed in March.
This is the only time these teams play this season so that adds to the importance. The Wolverines hit a rough patch when they lost at Wisconsin a couple weeks ago, but they’ve figured things out with back-to-back huge wins over Indiana and Ohio State. However, this is the hardest matchup since that lone loss.
Iowa’s defense has been its main issue and the reason it already has five losses in Conference play. In fact, the Hawkeyes have the least efficient defense in the Big Ten and are allowing a terrible 56.1% from inside the arc. That’s not a good number and likely one Michigan will use to its advantage since it’s still a pretty efficient offense. The one way for Iowa to win is by scoring since it does a little bit of everything well. The problem is that Michigan’s defense not only rates better than MSU’s, but better than everyone as the most efficient defense in the country. The way to beat Michigan has been through defense and that’s not something Iowa excels in.
Still, Iowa’s balanced attack could be a problem with five guys averaging at least 10 points per Game. Michigan doesn’t have one specific weakness, but the Hawkeyes usually give teams trouble with so many options. The best of them are big men Tyler Cook (16.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and LUka Garza (14.8 ppg). When on their Game, not many can stop those two and that’ll be the most important matchup. Garza could have some trouble with the bigger Jon Teske, but Cook will likely attack freshman Ignas Brazdeikis as much as possible. If he can consistently win that matchup, it could be huge. Otherwise, it’ll be up to everyone else to make shots, including Jordan Bohannon (10.4 ppg), Isaiah Moss (10.2 ppg) and Joe Wieskamp (11.2 ppg). All three of those guys can get hot from deep, but against this defense, they could have some trouble.
The problem for Iowa is that Michigan also has a balanced offense with five guys that can Scorewhenever they’re asked. Only three players average more than nine points per Game, but Zavier Simpson is coming off a triple-double and has a quickness edge over Bohannon, while Teske has scored double-digits in five of the last six Games. Throw in Jordan Poole and Isaiah Livers, who both shoot over 40 percent from deep, as well as NBA-talent Charles Matthews and Iowa has its hands full. again on this end, Cook and Garza have to win the battle on the boards, but also limit Brazdeikis and Teske. Even then, the Wolverines will still have an advantage with Simpson and Matthews because Iowa doesn’t really have anyone that can mark them up, which is why there could be some zone played.
The biggest advantage for Iowa is that this Game comes at home and while it already lost two contests at Hawkeye Arena, that doesn’t take away the advantage. The Hawkeyes have a little more to play for, as a loss would give them a losing record in Conference play. Then again, the Wolverines have been one of the best teams in the country all season and are still playing to win the conference.
Our Pick – Iowa +5