By Carter Benson
1:30 P.M. CT, Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City, IA – B1G Network
Spread: Iowa (-9.5)
No. 5 Iowa Hawkeyes (10-2)
Hawkeyes fans and the team alike have been waiting eagerly for this rematch. A chance to harness some inner Shakespeare and play out their final act: revenge. All great tales of revenge start with tragedy. The three point onslaught that junior Marcuss Carr dished out in his last match-up with Iowa could be considered such an event. The Minnesota guard hit six threes to drive the stake further into the belly of the Hawks, and ultimately lead the Golden Gophers to an overtime victory (102-95).
The #5 Iowa Hawkeyes are finally back in Carver Hawkeye Arena for this Sunday afternoon rematch against the #16 Minnesota Golden Gophers. Since their last game against Minnesota, Coach Fran McCaffery and the Hawks have been on a three game win streak. This streak consisting of wins over the likes of #15 Rutgers (77-75) and Northwestern (87-72). Led by National Player of the Year frontrunner Luka Garza, Iowa looks to continue this streak and atone for that loss to the Gophers earlier this season. Garza put forth a valiant effort in their last game against Minnesota with 32 points and 17 boards, but the Hawkeye defense was the chink in their armor. Defense has been the achilles heel of the Hawkeyes all season. The losses to #1 Gonzaga (99-88) and #16 Minnesota were the only games this season in which Iowa allowed for more than 80 points. These losses also consisted of the Hawkeyes shooting less than 34 percent from three. The only other time Iowa had shot so low from beyond the arch was their first game of the season against the North Carolina Central Eagles (97-67) in which they shot 33.8 percent.
The last game against Minnesota did not bode well for the Hawkeyes. Luka Garza and the team will be looking for revenge tonight with the hopes of creating a stronger correlation between Iowa and potential final four teams. The Hawk’s top three scorers in Garza, junior guard Joe Wieskamp, and sophomore guard CJ Fredrick combined for 69 points in their recent loss to the Gophers. Garza is averaging 27.2 points per game, Wieskamp at 13.8, and Fredrick at 10.2. Expect big games out of these three and a chip on the shoulder of this aspiring Hawkeyes’ team today as they seek redemption.
No. 16 Minnesota Golden Gophers (10-3)
To talk about Minnesota basketball, one must first mention junior guard Marcuss Carr. Carr is perhaps one of the most slept on players in the country averaging 21.5 points per game, 5.6 assists, and 3.8 boards. The kid is an all-around hooper who deserves more talk. In the Gopher’s win against the Hawkeyes earlier this season, Carr dropped 30 points with a last second three to send Minnesota to overtime. Carr’s efforts pushed the team to overtime, but senior forward Brandon Johnson sealed the deal. Johnons was shooting 20 percent from three entering this game, but set the school record for three pointers with eight in this win over the Hawkeyes. Four of his eight coming from OT. Junior center Liam Robbins stands as the second leading scorer for Minnesota. The seven footer averages 13.5 points per game, 7.3 boards, and 2.7 blocks. Garza did drop 32 points on his head, but don’t get the story twisted. Robbins is an athletic seven footer that can occasionally step out from three and create problems in the paint for opposing offenses.
Minnesota has been one of the most surprising teams in the Big-Ten as they finished 8-12 in the conference last season with a total record one game under .500. Big wins over Ohio State (77-60), #5 Iowa (102-95), and a blowout over #23 Michigan State (81-56) have solidified the Gophers as one of the better teams in the Big Ten. Their three losses on the season have come from #12 Illinois (92-65), #8 Wisconsin (71-59), and one of the hottest teams in college basketball, Michigan (82-57). Based upon their record, Minnesota looks like a great college basketball team. Their only struggles have come against highly ranked opponents. This game against the Hawkeyes today will either further this notion or break them out of that mold.
Analysis & Best Bet
Today’s game between the #5 Iowa Hawkeyes and the #16 Minnesota Golden Gophers will be one of the most electric Big-Ten games of the season. A revenge tale for the Hawks, and a mold-breaker for the Gophers. As per usual, this game will be decided by defense and three point shooting for the Hawkeyes. These two factors seem to be the decider between a loss and victory. If the 92.4 point per game hawkeyes shoot above 34% and can hold the Gophers to below 80 points, then expect a victory from Iowa. In terms of the over/under, the last game between these two teams had a total game score of 166 before overtime. Marcuss Carr dropped 30, Johnson had 26 (8-9 from three), Garza with 32, and Fredrick with 23.The likeliness of this playing out the same way is slim to none. Records will more than likely not be broken again, and the Iowa offense has been functioning well as of late as they look to continue their win streak. Coach Fran McCaffery and the Hawkeyes only have revenge and redemption in mind heading into this game with a chip on their shoulders. Expect a Hawkeye victory. Take the under at 162.0