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Michigan State vs. Iowa Basketball Preview

TUESDAY, JANUARY 10th, 2012, 7:00 PM EST
ONLINE RADIO FEED: Spartan Sports Network

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a team there was a basketball team in Iowa City few thought would be any good. The fans thought that the 2011-2012 Hawkeye basketball team would be long again, especially after losses to Creighton (understandable) and Campbell (by 16 points at home, signaling WTFCON Level 4). The Big Ten season started with Iowa losing close to Purdue in Iowa City, a moral victory. The ingredients were there for a good team -- solid play at the guard from Roy Devyn Marble, leadership with Matt Gatens, and interior scoring and defense with Melsahn Basabe. To beat Wisconsin however, Iowa would need a little extra zest, or spice if you will. They'd need some...ginger.


Now that I've made the worst joke in TOC history, find out more about Iowa beat Wisconsin and the season since then after the jump.

The previous picture was of freshman forward Aaron White, easily the most notable ginger in the Big Ten since Drew Naymick. He was the high scorer in Iowa's upset of the Badgers, making both his threes and going 6-7 from the field for 18 points in the 72-65 win. He's been one of the best freshmen in the Big Ten for a few reasons -- he's accurate around the basket (53.8 2PT %), collects a good number of rebounds, and draws a little over five fouls per forty minutes. I have no idea if he'll be that effective against the Payne/Nix/Green trio, but he's one to watch out for, along with Melsahn Basabe. Basabe's essentially the same player he was last year except in one critical category -- fouls called on. Basabe averages 3.3 fouls per 40 minutes, down from 4.4 last season.

In the Hawkeyes' next win, a 64-62 victory at Minnesota, Iowa benefited from some shaky interior defense by the Golden Gophers. How do I know it was shaky? When Matt Gatens is penetrating to the rim at will, that demonstrates either a lack of knowledge or effort on guarding inside. They won despite making one-third of their threes, about on par for them.

I can hear you say, "Pete, 'despite' and 'on par' seem like two strange words/terms to group together". Well, yeah, but I just trying to segue into the three ways Iowa has been winning so far this year; shooting has not consistently been one of them.

- HOLDING ONTO THE GIT DARN BALL. Iowa loses the ball on only 17.3% of their possessions, 16th best in Division One. MSU's defense is around the NCAA average in TO%, sporting a 21.4% to the national average of 20.9%.

- NOT ALLOWING THEIR ENEMIES TO REBOUND THE GIT DARN BALL. The Hawkeyes only give up offensive rebounds 29.8% of the time. This is a vintage Izzo team however. MSU's collecting 39% of their misses, 18th best in D1. While the Spartans will face a challenge inside, it shouldn't slow them down too much.

- PLAYING CLEAN DEFENSE, KEEPING THE GIT DARN BALL FROM GOING IN FROM THE FOUL STRIPE. For every 10 field goals Hawkeye opponents attempt, they get three shots from the foul line. MSU averages about four free throws for every 10 shots taken. Don't expect much of a difference here.

So what weaknesses can the Spartans exploit? Iowa opponents are making 50.3% of their twos. I expect there to be room to score inside, and I hope MSU can do it often. While this year's Hawkeye team is better than last year's (yes, even though last year's beat MSU by 20+ once, but extenuating circumstances and what not), I think MSU will be ready to play after a week off. It'll be a typical Big Ten game -- fairly close in the first half, but the Spartans will use a couple of 6-0/7-0 runs to win.