The Iowa Hawkeyes have had a full week to stew over what went wrong in the road loss to Penn State. Hawkeyes fans are hoping that the time off will help dispel the program's recent funk. Returning to familiar surroundings may be the cure as the Hawks remain unblemished at Carver-Hawkeye Arena this year.
Let's take a closer look at tonight's games.
Game of the Night: #8 Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Wisconsin Badgers (9 PM ET | BTN)
It's typically not desirable to lose to Penn State in basketball, but in Iowa's defense, the Nittany Lions have done a fair job of protecting their home floor this year. Only Michigan State, Wisconsin, and the mighty Radford Highlanders have escaped State College with wins. In the same vein, no road teams have emerged from Iowa City with victories this season and the Hawkeyes will need that to continue tonight to feel good about their chances of hoisting a Big Ten championship trophy.
Wisconsin is riding a five-game winning streak in this border rivalry, which has produced its fair share of exciting games over the past few years. Senior forward Jarrod Uthoff has not yet been able to secure a victory over his former team and this may be his final shot to do so, though the intrigue of the Uthoff vs. Wisconsin storyline loses a lot of fuel with Bo Ryan out of the picture.
One of the most interesting aspects of Iowa's offense this season has been their success at keeping control of the basketball. At fifth in the country in turnovers committed per possession, they are holding onto the ball like a typical Wisconsin team but still playing at a typical quick Iowa pace. The Badgers would love to pick up another signature win and throw a wrench into Iowa's title chances, but Greg Gard's youthful squad is a clear underdog to the veteran Hawkeyes.
- Michigan Wolverines vs. Northwestern Wildcats (7 PM ET | BTN)
John Beilein and company had a couple of chances to add an impressive road win to the Wolverines' tournament resume over the past week but were unable to capitalize, falling to Ohio State and coming tantalizingly close to a win at Maryland. When you are a team facing NCAA Tournament uncertainty, that type of narrow defeat to a top team really stings this time of year.
Since an early January win over Wisconsin, Northwestern has fallen into a 2-7 slump, and the two home wins over Illinois and Minnesota aren't anything to write home about. They're at the point of the year where the proverbial carrot would be making the NIT, but perhaps the prospect of deflating Michigan's bubble is also enticing for the Wildcats.
In general, I think it's fair to say that people who discuss college basketball tend to be too liberal about calling games "must-win" this time of year. In the spirit of avoiding that hyperbole, I'll refrain from calling this a must-win game for Michigan, but this would be the type of loss that causes you to wind up at the First Four in Dayton.