There are two questions to be answered today in Big Ten conference play. Yes, those questions are essentially "who will win each game," but let's fancy them up a bit: Greg Gard and his Wisconsin team could really use a signature win, will it come against the Spartans? And can Michigan take out their second ranked team in a week and give Iowa their first loss?
Game of the Day
Few teams in the country are hotter than the Hawkeyes right now, and certainly no one in the Big Ten can match their current momentum (sorry Indiana). Thursday's drubbing of MSU (with Valentine) was extremely impressive and solidifies Iowa as a contender in the Big Ten and nationally. This group is led by Jarrod Uthoff, but the guys around him have proven themselves to be better than anyone gave them credit for. Peter Jok and Mike Gessell are capable of dropping 25 on a given night, while Nicholas Baer and Dom Uhl are able to impact games off the bench. Stopping this team is an unenviable task.
Will Michigan be up to the challenge? They certainly were on Wednesday against Maryland, even without Caris LeVert. Speaking of LeVert, his status for this game is still unknown as I write this. The Wolverines could certainly use him, but this team is not without weapons. Duncan Robinson and Zak Irvin played well against the Terps, while Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (whose parents I kind of hate, and yes I did type his name right on the first try) had a big scoring night at Purdue.
Watch for Iowa to go to Adam Woodbury a bit more than they have recently, as both the Boilermakers and the Terrapins had success inside against Michigan. If the Wolverines get hot from deep they can play with anybody, but on the road in the Big Ten I struggle to see them pulling this one out against a proven team. That said, this season in college basketball has been unpredictable and not many people picked Michigan earlier this week either.
Last season, the Badgers never fell out of the top 10 spots of the polls. This season? Wisconsin may not even be in the top 10 in the conference. There is some great talent on this team, but it just isn't clicking together right now. With that being said, the Kohl Center still strikes fear into the hearts of Big Ten opponents. After four conference losses of six points or less, Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig and the rest of the Badgers seem primed and ready to turn the corner and snag a big win, but they haven't yet.
Meanwhile, Michigan State has just been jarred loose from the top of the Big Ten favorites list. A second smackdown from the Hawkeyes could have Denzel Valentine and company unfocused coming into this game. However, I doubt Tom Izzo would really let that come to pass. There is no reason for this team or their fans to panic, MSU is still a top 10 team in the country and there is a good chance we will see that this afternoon. Expect Wisconsin to keep it close, but they might have to wait for their next chance to get a win over a ranked team, presumably on January 26th against Indiana.