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Big Ten Thursday Preview: Iowa Hawkeyes Look to Upset Iowa State

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There's only two matchups tonight, but the one between Iowa and Iowa State should be an interesting one.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes less is more. It remains to be seen if that is true about tonight’s Big Ten slate which only features two games, but hopefully that will be the case. The main event tonight is taking place in Ames where the Iowa Hawkeyes are facing fourth-ranked Iowa State on the road. Meanwhile, Penn State has a somewhat less intriguing contest against Canisius. It may not be the most jam-packed evening of hoops, but there could still be some good action.

Game of the Night: Iowa Hawkeyes vs. No. 4 Iowa State (7:30 PM ET | ESPN 2)

The Hawkeyes have played well lately, winning their last four games, three of which in blowout fashion. Now however comes the biggest test of their non-conference schedule. The Cyclones are 7-0 and are currently winning by an average of 21 points per game. Obviously they haven’t faced top competition yet, but the Cyclones look like a legit contender and seem to be in the way to a fifth-straight 20+ win season.

What will the Hawkeyes need to do to pull off the upset? Finding a way to slow down preseason All-American forward Georges Niang should be at the top of coach Fran McCaffery’s list. The 6’8" senior is averaging 18.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game and is one of the most unique and dangerous players in college basketball, someone capable of scoring with his back to the basket, hitting jumpers and creating shots for teammates. We’ll see if McCaffery sticks his own star forward Jarrod Uthoff on Niang or tries something different to try and contain him.

Iowa will have a number of other players to try and contain, including Monte Morris (14.9 points per game), Abdel Nader (14.6 points per game) and Jameel McKay (13.9 points per game).

If the Hawkeyes are going to pull off the upset, they’re going to need to get balanced scoring and hit their threes (40 percent this season) as they have been lately.  Uthoff has played up to expectations so far (18.2 points, 6.4 rebounds), but Iowa will still need its deep supporting cast (Peter Jok, Adam Woodbury, Dom Uhl, ect.) to do its part. This one could be fun.

The Rest

- Canisius vs. Penn State Nittany Lions (7:00 PM ET | BTN Plus)

This game will (rightfully) get next to no national attention. Still, it’ll be a cool night for the Nittany Lions and their fans, as it is one of two games Penn State is playing this season at its former home court, Rec Hall. Pat Chambers likely wants to forget the last time the Lions played at Rec Hall and his players will be motivated to give their fans a better result than that terrible day.

As far as the game goes, the 5-3 Lions can’t really afford to overlook any opponent right now. Canisius enters the game at 3-4 and relying on Malcolm McMillan (21.3 points per game) for the bulk of its scoring. Penn State is coming off of a 76-66 loss to George Washington and has so far been leaning on Brandon Taylor, Payton Banks and Shep Garner. The Nittany Lions cannot afford another non-conference loss, so look for Chambers squad to take care of business tonight.