For the third straight year, MSU will open the Big Ten Tournament against Iowa.
In fact, since 2008, the teams to eliminate Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament are: Michigan, Michigan, Michigan, Michigan State and Michigan State. I'm sensing a trend.
The Hawkeyes come in as a desperate team still with faint NCAA Tournament hopes. A marquee win would certainly help their cause, so expect the Hawkeyes to be on their best game.
This will be the second time MSU and Iowa meet this season. The Spartans played horribly in Iowa City on Jan. 10, but came away with a three-point win. (Recap). Iowa was without wingman Roy Devyn Marble (14.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 24.8 usage rate) in that game. Branden Dawson led MSU with 17 points, four rebounds and three steals. This was back when Dawson was starting at power forward, so it will be interesting to see how the two-big-men lineup does for MSU.
The Hawkeyes got here after disposing of Northwestern 73-59 in a game that was never really that close. Marble had 19 points on 4-for-12 shooting with five rebounds. Mike Gesell added 13 points and three assists, while Melsahn Basabe had 10 points and 12 rebounding, including seven rebounds in the first four minutes. (#Northwestern'd).
Iowa comes in with with No. 65 adjO, shooting 29.9 percent on 3s (No. 320) and 47.8 percent on 2s (No. 160). This is not a particularly great offensive team. They do have a FTR of 42.5. In conference play, they were No. 2 at getting to the free-throw line and No. 1 at making free throws. So MSU will have to make watch out for foul trouble.
In the preview for the first game, I pointed out that Iowa doesn't turn the ball over much (18.8 percent), but when they do, it's usually a steal (10.6 percent). In the first meeting, MSU had 12 steals out of 18 Iowa turnovers.
Aaron White (13.6 points, 6.2 rebounds) is a versatile big man who can drive to the bucket. Other notable players are Gesell (9.0 points, 2.9 points, 2.9 assists) and Basabe (7.1 points, 4.7 rebounds). Zach McCabe had a career-high 15 in the first meeting. I see 10 players who average at least 10 minutes per game, including nine with more than 17 minutes. So the Hawkeyes like to go deep, and they also like to push the tempo. I don't expect MSU to have too much trouble keeping up with them if that's how the game goes.
Defensively, Iowa is pretty good. No. 23 in adjD (No. 4 in conference play), opponents shoot 29.1 percent on 3s (No. 12) and 43.5 percent on 2s (No. 44). They don't force turnovers, but opponents only have a FTR of 30.4 percent. They also have a block percentage of 12.5.
On the glass, Iowa grabs 36.1 percent of its misses (No. 44) and opponents grab 31 percent of theirs. MSU only grabs about 24 percent of its misses in the first meeting. MSU has actually not been that great of a rebounding team this season (No. 66 in the nation in OR%, No. 5 in conference play).
It's worth noting a team has never won the national championship after losing its first conference tournament game. Here's a good look at conference and national tournament correlation.
KenPom projects a 67-63 MSU win, giving the Spartans a 67 percent chance.
I'm actually going to pick an Iowa upset. I just think the Hawkeyes bring their best with their backs against the wall. Keith Appling has played well in the last two games, and they'll need him to continue. It will be interesting to see how much energy Dawson has in his first postseason game. The Spartans will also have to win the glass against a big Iowa team that feasted on second chances against Northwestern.
Can MSU afford a loss here and still get to Auburn Hills? After Marquette's loss to Notre Dame, it's still likely.
Winner faces the winner of Ohio State-Nebraska on Saturday.