|Who: Michigan (16-11) at Iowa (10-16)|
|Where: Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City, IA|
|When: Saturday, February 19th, 4:30 PM ET|
|Radio: MGoBlue / WTKA 1050 AM|
|Last Game: Michigan 87, Iowa 73|
It’s all or nothing time for Michigan. The next four games, along with the Big Ten Tournament, will determine Michigan’s post season fate. Win all four and the NCAA Tournament is a reality. Lose all four and it’s time to start looking at NIT bracketology charts. Michigan looked a bit like a team allowing the pressure to affect them on Wednesday night. Every shot was just a little bit off and every pass and cut looked slightly contrived. It’s time to let everything go and just play. First up, a road trip to Iowa City.
The last time these teams met, Michigan shredded the Iowa defense and played its best offensive game of the season against any team not named Bryant. The Wolverines scored 87 points in 64 possessions while shooting 68% on twos and 50% on threes. Darius Morris even added a triple for good measure. If there’s one thing the last couple years have taught us, it’s that things won’t be quite as easy in Iowa City. Michigan’s last two games at Carver Hawkeye Arena have been back and forth rollercoaster rides that featured a healthy dose of scoring runs, droughts, buzzer beaters, and inexplicable benchings. Buckle up.
In the three games after their loss to Michigan, Iowa appeared to have things figured out. The Hawkeyes routed Michigan State at home, knocked off Indiana at Assembly Hall, and took Wisconsin to overtime. Then Minnesota blew the top off Carver-Hawkeye Arena, routing the Hawkeyes by 18 points, and a road upset attempt at Northwestern fell just short.
Melsahn Basabe was not only the Hawkeyes most impressive player in the first match-up, he’s been their most impressive player all season. The freshman is averaging 12 points and eight rebounds per game in conference play. Junior college transfer Bryce Cartwright continues to improve and averages 12 points and 7 assists in conference games while Matt Gatens provides a scorer on the wing, pouring in 13 per game in conference play. Roy Marble, a Michigan native, had a big game in Ann Arbor as he scored 12 points on nine shots. Eric May and Zach Mccabe provide relatively athletic but inefficient options on the wing while Jarryd Cole is a solid but unspectacular option on the block.
Iowa has the worst offense in the Big Ten, averaging just .98 points per trip in conference games. The Hawkeyes aren’t a great shooting team and shoot 49% on two and 33% on threes for a 9th best 49% effective field goal percentage. Iowa doesn’t do a great job getting to the free throw line either (FTR: 28%, 9th), but they do manage to rebound 32% of their missed shots, fourth best in the league. The Hawkeyes routinely turn the ball over far too often, coughing it up on a Big Ten worst 22% of their trips down the court.
The Hawkeyes are a bit better defensively, surrendering 1.09 points per trip. Iowa doesn’t foul, allowing a free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of just 27% and forces turnovers on 22% of their opponents’ possessions. Despite their offensive rebounding prowess, the Hawkeyes are dreadful on the defensive glass and allow their opponents to grab 37% of their misses. Iowa’s interior defense leaves a bit to be desired as well, opponents are connecting on 53% of their twos.
Michigan played a near-perfect game last time around and the Wolverines will certainly look to emulate many of the things they did well in that game. Morris’ penetration gave the Hawkeyes fits all game and he did a great job of finding open shooters inside and out. If Michigan manages to run patient offense and hold onto the ball, there will be open looks. Defensively, it all comes down to defensive rebounding. Offensive rebounds are the lifeblood of this Iowa offense and limiting second chances will dramatically decrease the Hawkeyes’ offensive production.
Michigan’s tenuous NCAA tournament resume can’t afford another bad loss. A loss at Iowa, the league’s (better than average) doormat, would all but eliminate Michigan’s NCAA tournament chances barring a miraculous run. Pomeroy lists this one as a toss up, giving Michigan a 48% chance at the win and projecting a 64-63 Iowa win. It’s tough to judge Michigan’s psyche after a deflating loss at Illinois, but Iowa will be playing on short rest with a late road game Thursday followed by a Saturday afternoon tip.