With Thursday's major matchup between the Iowa Hawkeyes and Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing, it seemed like a good time to bring BTPowerhouse's writers together and get their thoughts heading into the game. It's certainly a huge game for both sides and very well could be the biggest game for each since the two teams faced off in late December.
Check out the discussion below.
1. What Are Your General Thoughts On This Matchup and What Does It Mean Going Forward?
Thomas Beindit: Michigan State has been nearly perfect this season, but that's exactly it, nearly. The Spartans are 16-1 with the lone loss coming to ... Iowa. Of course, that loss was without star player Denzel Valentine. It's hard to say whether Valentine will be at 100 percent on Thursday, but even if he's close, this should be a much different matchup than the first, especially with the game in East Lansing.
On the other side, this is a chance for Iowa to take firm hold of the Big Ten title race. With wins over Michigan State and Purdue already, a season sweep of the Spartans would propel the Hawkeyes to 4-0 in the conference and to a firm hold on an NCAA Tournament bid. There will still be plenty ahead, but it would be hard not to like where Iowa is sitting if the team can grab a win.
Wola Odeniran: The Michigan State Spartans want revenge. They had a tough 83-70 loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes not too long ago with Denzel Valentine not being available and now he is back. We get to see if the Spartans will handle their business at home or if the Hawkeyes prove that the first meeting wasn't an aberration.
For Iowa, a sweep against the Spartans would mean that they are in the discussion for being a top ten team in the entire country. Iowa blew out a 20th ranked Wichita State Shockers team on a neutral court, they beat a 14th ranked Purdue Boilermakers team on the road and they had a number four ranked Iowa State Cyclones team on the ropes on the road earlier this season as well. The Hawkeyes are not intimidated by anybody and forward Jarrod Uthoff has a lot to do with that.
Marco Knudsen: I feel that Denzel Valentine coming back on Sunday for the Penn State game was a perfect way to shake off the rust that accumulated during his injury. With him back in the fold, Iowa not only has to game plan around him, but will have to be cognizant of role players who stepped up during Valentine's absence.
This is an important game for both sides, as the Spartans look to re-establish Valentine and the Hawkeyes look for the sweep to help solidify themselves as a team to be reckoned with not only in the conference, but in the country.
Jerome Scherwin Jr.: I fully expect the Jarrod Uthoff v. Denzel Valentine, mano-a-mano matchup we all want and all so desperately need to be everything we want and more. And honestly, I wouldn't be shocked if the winner of that one-on-one jumps into the driver seat for the Big Ten Player of the Year award.
As far as the game goes, I honestly don't know what to expect. Iowa dominated that last match-up from the opening tip, but we all know that playing amongst the Izzone with Valentine at 80% is a completely different animal. This game in the grand scheme of things probably means more for Iowa in terms of the Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Tournament seeding; a win would give the Hawkeyes the best possible chance to piece together an unprecedented run (a la Michigan State every single year), but that doesn't mean Sparta doesn't want revenge for the Iowa City debacle.
2. What's The Matchup To Watch When Iowa and Michigan State Tip-Off?
Thomas Beindit: Undeniably, the matchup that is going to turn heads is Jarrod Uthoff and Denzel Valentine. Both have been outstanding this season and in serious All-American consideration. However, I think a matchup that might be getting overlooked is Mike Gesell and Tum Tum Nairn. In the last game, Gesell had 25 points while Nairn came away with just four points and three assists in 19 minutes. Nairn has to close that gap this time around.
Wola Odeniran: I want to see Denzel Valentine going up against Jarrod Uthoff. These two guys are in the running for the Big Ten player of the year award and whoever performs better and possibly leads their team over the other has a lot of say in how the Big Ten standings ends up.
Marco Knudsen: They may not guard each other, but Jarrod Uthoff and Denzel Valentine are two of the best players in the conference, so the "individual" match-up is certainly intriguing as they battle for Big Ten Player of the Year.
Jerome Scherwin Jr.: Adam Woodbury against Matt Costello!
It's 1000% Uthoff/Valentine: the 2016 version of Travolta/Cage in Face/Off. Uthoff, you must stop Archer... er... Valentine before he ruins EVERYTHING we've worked so hard to build. Don't let him get under your skin! He must be stopped.
3. Who Wins On Thursday Night?
Thomas Beindit: Iowa has really impressed over the last few weeks and proven the doubters wrong for most of the season. Nonetheless, I think the luck runs out on Thursday and in a big way. My prediction is that Iowa isn't rattled by the road crowd and plays well early, but fades as Bryn Forbes starts connecting on big shots and Valentine gets into a rhythm. KenPom has the Spartans by seven and I think Michigan State covers that score.
Wola Odeniran: I'll go with Michigan State. This team wants to prove that their loss to the Hawkeyes was just a one time situation and with Valentine back in the lineup, I don't think they will be denied.
Marco Knudsen: Iowa's victory against the Spartans last month was impressive, but with Valentine back in action in front of the Izzone, I think Michigan State sends a message with a resounding 74-59 final score.
Jerome Scherwin Jr.: Man, tough crowd here. While I don't doubt that Michigan State is going to have some extra juice for this game, we can't discredit what No.16 Iowa has done to this point. The Hawkeyes three losses (against No. 4 Iowa State, No. 17 Notre Dame and Dayton who was a sixth seed in Sports Illustrated's latest Bracket Watch column) are by a combined 12 points. TWELVE. This is a different Iowa team than we're used to right now; led by a group of veteran players that always seem to hang around, even when you don't expect them to.
I think the Hawkeyes will be out to prove to everyone that their last victory over Sparty wasn't just a "fluke" and that they are nothing less than a contender in the Big Ten. So, Hawkeyes by four.