By Carter Benson
6 P.M. CT, Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI – ESPN
Spread: Michigan (-4.5)
No. 3 Michigan Wolverines (16-1)
Head coach and former member of Michigan’s Fab Five, Juwan Howard, could be making his first appearance in the Nation Championship game since 1993. Michigan currently has one loss on the season and is looking like one of the hottest teams in all of college basketball after the best win on their record. Last Sunday, the Wolverines took down #4 Ohio State (92-87) while playing some of their best basketball on the year. The team will take on #9 Iowa at home tonight while looking to strengthen their odds for a #1 seed in March.
The Michigan Wolverines are first in the Big Ten and are absolutely rolling through competition. Their success can be highly attributed to star freshman center Hunter Dickinson. Dickinson is a 7-foot-1 paint beast averaging 15 points, 7.8 boards, and almost 2 blocks a game. Senior guards Eli Brooks and Mike Smith control the back court for the Wolverines. The two could prove to be a daunting foe for Hawkeye guards as the duo combines for almost 19 points and 2 steals a game. Michigan will be inviting one of the most lethal offensive teams in college basketball into their home tonight. The Wolverines have held opponents to an average of 66.4 ppg which could make this game a great sword vs shield battle.
No. 9 Iowa Hawkeyes (17-6)
The Iowa Hawkeyes will take on Michigan tonight in what will be the biggest game of their year and potentially their biggest regular season game in the last 40 years. Iowa basketball seems to be back on the rails with coach Fran McCaffery conducting the Hawks through a current four game win streak. In their victory over #23 Wisconsin (77-62) last Thursday, the Hawkeyes shot 51 percent from the floor and 63.2% from beyond the arch. Live or die by the three has been the ongoing narrative for this team. Iowa has won every game they have shot above 40% from deep this season.
Senior center and Wooden Award Nominee Luka Garza has been a guiding force for the Hawkeyes this year. The Wolverines will have a tough time keeping Garza away from his averages of 24.7 points and 8.5 boards. Junior forward Joe Wieskamp has taken a massive leap from last season and is looking like the future star for the Hawks next year. As of right now, Wieskamp is a 6-foot-6 second option shooting 49.6 percent from deep on 15.3 points per game.
Iowa could be one of the most volatile teams in the top 25. Bad losses plague the Hawkeye’s record but a win over #3 Michigan could have McCaffery and company sitting pretty before the tournament.
Analysis & Best Bet
A victory in tonight’s game between #3 Michigan and #9 Iowa could be monumental for both parties moving forward into tournament season. Michigan is looking to secure a #1 seed, while Iowa looks to stay in the 2-4 range. At the very least, we’ll all get to see a great Big Ten matchup between some very hot ranked teams.
Iowa scores the second most points per game in college basketball at 86.4 but only averages 81 in Big Ten play. The Hawks have played three opponents this year with better defensive numbers than Michigan at 66.4. In their games between Maryland, Purdue, and Wisconsin, Iowa averaged 78.7 points per game. Michigan’s offense is putting up 76.2 ppg in conference games but Iowa has one of the worst defensive ratings in all of college basketball at 72.8. Because of this, expect Michigan to score more than that average.The victor as well as the o/u will come down to Iowa shooting. A hot game like Wisconsin could see the Hawkeyes forging an upset. Live or die by the three. Iowa has been on a hot streak from deep recently and not just from home court. Their wins over #23 Wisconsin and Michigan State both came from away and featured no three point shooting performance lower than 52%. Luka Garza will surely do his thing, but expect the same from Dickinson. Iowa doesn’t have their crucial defensive anchor in the paint. Regardless of the outcome, this will be a fun warm up before March. Who doesn’t love Big Ten basketball? TakeMichigan at (-4.5) and the over at 155.5.
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