On Saturday, the Iowa Hawkeyes traveled to Ann Arbor to close out the regular season and take on a Michigan Wolverines team desperate to score another quality win before Selection Sunday. Although Iowa had less on the line, the Hawkeyes were looking to get back on track after losing five of its last six games.
Early in the first half, Iowa jumped out to a nice 15-5 lead. Jarrod Uthoff was on fire and was the big reason that the Hawkeyes jumped ahead. Following that, Michigan was able to keep things pretty competitive, but at the break, Iowa held a 36-30 lead. In the second half, one team would make a run and the other would respond. Michigan actually got it down pretty close later on, but the Hawkeyes were able to hold the Wolverines off for a 71-61 win.
With that, let's see what we learned from the game.
What We Learned
1. Iowa Still Has What It Takes To Go Deep In March.
During Iowa's recent skid, many starting to question this Iowa team. After all, when a team loses five of its last six including two at home and a game to Penn State, many are going to be concerned. In just a matter of weeks, Iowa seemed to drop from a national title contender to a middle of the road Big Ten team.
Well, on Saturday night, Iowa showed why people were so excited about this team in January and February. The Hawkeyes have legitimate stars in Peter Jok and Jarrod Uthoff and a supporting cast that can make plays when the team needs it. Whether it's Mike Gesell in transition, Adam Woodbury on the boards, or some of the bench contributors stepping up when needed, this is a deep team that has the pieces to go deep in March.
Now, a win over Michigan certainly isn't going to compare to some of the teams Iowa is hoping to beat in the coming weeks, but when it's put in context, this is a big win. Obviously, Iowa ending the four game skid is pretty significant by itself, but this was a win on the road against a desperate NCAA bubble team. Regardless of what you think of Michigan, this is a win that deserves some credit and shows what this Iowa team is capable of when it plays well.
2. Jarrod Uthoff Is Still An All-American
Like the perception of the team, Uthoff's reputation has taken a big hit the last few weeks. Admittedly, he was still generally producing, but his play really did take a step back over the last few games. In fact, he had an offensive rating below 100 in four of his previous five games and failed to score 20 points in any of his previous four games.
Iowa needed him to get back on track and on Saturday, he did just that.
From the opening tip, Uthoff was a machine. He would hit shot after shot and was the single most important player for Iowa in getting this win. In particular, his ability to slow down or end Michigan's runs with big shots was vital in the outcome. All told, he ended with an impressive 29 points, seven rebounds, and three blocks.
If this is the Uthoff that Iowa is going to get in March, look out.
3. The Pressure Is On For Michigan.
The fact that Michigan is on the bubble isn't any secret at this point. For the last few weeks, the Wolverines have been up and down on many of the NCAA Tournament bracket projections. Heading into Saturday's game, most bracketologists projected Michigan as one of the last four teams in the field and in need of a big win. As such, Michigan was preparing for this game against Iowa as if it as a tournament game.
Unfortunately, with the loss, Michigan now finds itself in an uncomfortable position. The Wolverines will now have to head to the Big Ten Tournament in need of at least one or two wins. Considering that Michigan is locked into the No. 8 seed for Indianapolis, the team absolutely must win its Thursday game to have any NCAA Tournament hopes.
It might be a big disappointing, but given the fact that Michigan only has one quality win since mid-January, it's not hard to see why the Wolverines will likely have a stressful Selection Sunday.
4. Michigan Might Need To Reassess Its Wing Group Before Next Week.
There were plenty of disappointing moments for the Wolverines on Saturday night, but perhaps the most significant was the play of the wing group. With Jok and Uthoff on the other side, most expected that it would be a big challenge on the defensive end, but it was a bit surprising to see this group come up so small on the offensive side as well.
All told, Zak Irvin and Duncan Robinson combined for an underwhelming nine points and Kameron Chatman and Aubrey Dawkins provided just five points off the bench. It's unrealistic to expect every player from this group to tear it up, but for none of the players to have a good night was a big hit to Michigan's chances to come out on top.
Obviously, Beilein is putting guys out there for a reason, but when players like Dawkins and Robinson are having off nights offensively, it's a big hit to the team's chances. After all, neither are great defenders, so if they aren't really providing a boost on either end of the floor, it's not good news for Michigan.
It was an exciting game and a tough battle on Saturday night. As a result, Iowa will head into the Big Ten Tournament with plenty of momentum and Michigan will be searching for answers in the coming days.