The Big Ten Conference men’s basketball race is heating up, and there is a big game on the schedule Friday night. The Michigan Wolverines will travel to Iowa City to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes in what should be a terrific game. Michigan currently sits atop the Big Ten Standings, but a lot can change in a hurry in the absolutely loaded conference.
Michigan comes into this game as the fifth-ranked team in college basketball. The Wolverines have just one loss on the season, a close road loss at Wisconsin. Michigan is 9-1 so far in Big Ten Conference play, and they look like the team to beat. Iowa has gone just 5-5 in their first 10 Big Ten Conference games, and they have fallen out of the rankings. The Hawkeyes are in 7th place in the conference and could use a resume-building victory. Michigan is a 3.5 point favorite over Iowa on Friday night.
Michigan Does Everything Well
Michigan advanced to the National Championship Game a season ago, but not much was expected of them this season. People must have forgotten that John Beilein is one of the best coaches in college basketball, and he has his team playing great again this season. The Wolverines have bought in on the defensive end, and are allowing just over 56 points per game this season, making them the second-best defensive team in the country. Beilein’s team is averaging less than 10 turnovers per game, and they have been crisp on offense all season long. Michigan doesn’t have a true weakness, and they are a title contender again this season.
Point guard Zavier Simpson has been the catalyst for the Michigan offense this season. Simpson recorded his second triple-double of the season in the win over Ohio State and is averaging 8.9 points and 5.9 assists per game. Freshman Ignas Brazdeikis has burst onto the scene in Ann Arbor and leads the team with 15.1 points per game. Not to mention, the Wolverines have NBA talent on the wings in Jordan Poole and Charles Matthews. Michigan did struggle to score in their lone loss of the season, but they should thrive against a very weak Iowa defense.
Iowa Must Find Ways to Defend
The Iowa Hawkeyes have very little trouble putting the ball in the basket, but they have been horrendous on defense for much of the season. Iowa is giving up 73.6 points per game this season, which is in the bottom third of all division 1 basketball teams. The Hawkeyes have given up 82 and 92 points in their previous two losses, and they must figure out how they get stops in this game if they want to upset Michigan. Iowa plays extremely fast on offense which is fine, but it might be killing their defense.
Iowa has five different players averaging double-figures this season, and they have plenty of offensive talent. Forward Tyler Cook has been the best player so far this season, leading the team with 16.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Luka Garza has backed up Cook with 14.1 points per game and is tough to stop down low. To make matters worse for opponents, Iowa has two players shooting better than 43 percent from deep in Joe Wieskamp and Isaiah Moss. Now the Hawkeyes just need their defense to catch up to the offense.
Michigan Gets it Done on the Road
Winning on the road in the Big Ten Conference is incredibly difficult, but Michigan isn’t some ordinary team. If Iowa could play any defense at all then I would consider picking them, but they haven’t proven they can get stops at all. This Michigan team looks like one of the best teams in the country, and they should roll through Iowa City. Bet the Michigan Wolverines -3.5 over the Iowa Hawkeyes.