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We have a fascinating battle in the Big Ten tonight. Michigan travels to Iowa for a game I am certain we did not expect to be for these stakes: the 7th seed in the Big Ten tournament. There have been ginormous expectation for Michigan this season and frankly, Iowa too but both have been all over the place. Tonight, Iowa is a 5-point home favorite and the total is 149.5.
Michigan had national title hopes (and still can) but it has taken a long time for them to get into any kind of rhythm and groove and it’s been lately. The Wolverines have won six of nine (only four wins ATS) and have impressive wins against Purdue, Maryland and Indiana and the way they have done that is with their defense and really slowing the game down. That is a must tonight against Iowa that likes to run, likes to get in transition for near and far and likes to get Carver-Hawkeye Arena rocking with a pretty exciting brand of basketball. Iowa scores 84.0 points per game and is 4th in the nation and scored 98 and 110 in their last two games.
Michigan will be Iowa’s best opponent since losing to Purdue on January 27. Also going against Iowa is that Michigan will be more rested than they have been in awhile. The Ohio State game was Michigan’s 4th game in eight days and this is a Wolverines team that isn’t very deep. Michigan also is really effective against teams that aren’t very strong defensively (::cough:: IOWA ::cough::). Those good wins mentioned earlier were against the 173rd (Purdue), 234th (Maryland) and 170th (Indiana) defenses in the nation in terms on points allowed per game. Iowa is 253rd.
Iowa is no slouch. Keegan Murray is dropping 23.3 points per game for the Hawkeyes and will be a 6-foot-8-inch sprinting mismatch for the Wolverines tonight. Caleb Houstan is a decent matchup for Michigan to counter with but he is very hot-and-cold from the field but stays on the court a lot and doesn’t do a lot of damage with fouls. He’ll be tested and need to be an offensive factor for the Wolverines to have a shot. Iowa also has a trio of other starters that are in double-figures scoring, a good trait to have when your opponent looks to key-in on Murray to limit his production.
I’ve given a lot of praise to the Wolverines defense, but they aren’t anywhere near the best. They are just capable of some tremendous outputs at times and their best feature is their three-point defense (31.0%). Iowa shoots 35.2% from there and is 117th in the nation, which is fine, but it’s not their jam. It’s the pace, it’s being smart with the ball (4th best turnover margin in the nation), and it’s the consistent shot-making (46.3%). They do it with speed, volume, tenacity and yes some of that turns around and hurts them in their defensive numbers, but they have been explosive in big chunks this year.
Michigan will need to be able to make a bunch of threes to keep pace tonight. The made twelve in their win versus Purdue and it’ll need to be a factor again tonight. Iowa by the way defends it at a respectable 33.5% allowed threes per. If Michigan can slow the game and make their threes, they’ve got more than a punchers’ shot at it. I love Iowa at home here with some momentum. They’ve rolled off three in a row of their own, all by double digits, and one of those was on the road. Those weren’t great teams, but they handled business. Tonight, Iowa handles a little more business. Iowa -5 tonight.