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2/25 Big Ten Preview: Hawkeyes and Spartans

Second place on the line

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

There are five teams tied for second in the Big Ten at 10-6. All five are projected to finish the season at 12-8. Two of those teams play tonight.

Let’s take a look at what’s to come.

Game of the Night:

-Iowa Hawkeyes at Michigan State Spartans

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM EST (ESPN2)
  • KenPom Spread: Michigan State (-6)

This will be the only meeting between these two teams this season. And that’s a shame, because it has a chance to be the most beautiful game of basketball all year.

Both these teams play fast on the offensive end. Michigan State shares the ball more than any team in the country. Iowa is sixth. If the shots go down—and that’s no guarantee given that both these teams are merely shoot OK and not great—the fans have a chance to see a game that reminds us why we love this sport.

But the Spartans are favored tonight, and there are three reasons why:

  • They’re at home
  • They block a lot of shots (and Iowa gets its shot blocked a lot)
  • They grab a lot of offensive rebounds (and Iowa gives up a lot of offensive rebounds)

Those last two are interesting, because they seem to suggest that Tom Izzo’s team will have the advantage down low. Looking at the stats sheet, that appears to be the case. And then you look at the roster. Michigan State will start Xavier Tillman down low. Tillman is really good, but he’ll be going up against Luka Garza. Garza has 15 pounds and 3 inches on Tillman. He’s also the heavy frontrunner for Big Ten Player of the Year, and he’d probably be National Player of the Year if Iowa had 2-3 fewer losses. Can Garza do work down low and carry the load for the Hawkeyes?

Here’s the interesting thing about Iowa this year. With the exception of the Penn State game, Iowa doesn’t lose close games. If they lose, they lose by double-digits. They’ve won close, though, including last weekend’s road win at Minnesota. I’d like to say that game prepared them for tonight, but that was a defensive slugfest, and I’m hoping this one will be a wide-open, high-octane game with both teams trading 8-points-in-1-minute runs.

Sparty is favored statistically, they’re at home, and they’re deeper than Iowa. They’ve also lost the last two home games they’ve played against good Big Ten teams. Iowa is a very good Big Ten team. I think a high scoring games favors the Hawkeyes, and I want to see a high-scoring games. Give me Fran.

  • Pick against the spread: Iowa