The Spartans are back at the Breslin Center tonight for the first time since their November 18th win over Tennessee Tech. They take on the Iowa Hawkeyes, the second of the two “early” conference matchups, before resuming non-conference play this weekend.
The game will be MSU’s fifth straight game against a Tier A or B opponent per Kenpom.com.
Let’s see how the visitors stack up.
Iowa comes in ranked 18th in the AP Poll with a record of 6-1 on the season. They won their first six games of the year before falling to Wisconsin at home on Friday. Following the game with MSU, the Hawkeyes will travel back home to take on in-state rival Iowa State on Thursday, and then get a week off before facing Northern Iowa on a neutral court.
The best win on the Iowa resume to date is a neutral site win over Oregon at Madison Square Garden back in mid-November. They went on to beat UConn at the Garden the following day.
The trip to East Lansing will be the first true road game for Iowa.
Iowa comes in at 23rd in adjusted offensive efficiency and 67th in adjusted defense, according to kenpom. They are 37th overall in the kenpom rankings.
One area that stands out for Iowa is their ability to get to the free throw line. The Hawkeyes lead the nation in free throw rate. The number two team in free throw rate, is Louisville, who beat MSU last week.
In that matchup with Louisville, the Cardinals shot 41 free throws in 45 minutes of game time. They made 30 of those 41 free throws and got Cassius Winston to foul out before the end of regulation.
Much like Louisville, Iowa is not only good at getting to the line, they do damage once they are there. The Hawkeyes are shooting 77.3% from the charity stripe, with five players shooting better than 80 percent.
The Hawkeyes have also been a more up-tempo team than we are used to seeing from them, checking in at 63rd overall in adjusted tempo, with an average possession length identical to MSU’s at 15.8. seconds.
Some other numbers that stand out include the team’s shooting. While Iowa is shooting more than five points better than the national average on two pointers, they are below the national average on threes. The Hawkeyes are 210th in three point percentage at just 32.5 percent. The Spartans on the other hand, come in at 41.5% from beyond the arc, good for 18th nationally.
Iowa comes into the game with four players averaging double figures. Tyler Cook, the 6-9 junior, leads the way at 15.4 points per game and 8.1 rebounds. He is shooting better than 58% on two pointers, and draws nearly seven fouls per 40 minutes. He is the team’s leading free throw shooter in terms of attempts, but is also only shooting 69.2% at the line.
Luka Garza is a 6-11 sophomore who is second on the team at almost 14 points per game. He is also a bit of a shooter, at better than 68% from two point range, 40% from beyond the arc, and 85.2% at the free throw line.
Freshman Joe Wieskamp and junior Jordan Bohannon are both averaging over 10 points per game. Wieskamp leads the team in made three pointers and three point percentage.
The Spartans continue to be a top-ten offense and a top-30 defense according to the kenpom rankings. They are above average in all of the four factors, including being in the top-30 in eFG% and offensive rebounding percentage.
MSU managed to get the turnovers under control against Rutgers, coughing it up just seven times, tying a season low from the Louisiana-Monroe game. Before that, MSU had three consecutive games with at least 12 turnovers and have had five double digit turnover games through their first eight contests.
Iowa isn’t a great team at forcing turnovers. They are slightly below average in steal rate and just a tick above average in defensive turnover percentage.
The Spartans may be without Matt McQuaid yet again, as his status for the game is up in the air as of the time this was posted. This ended up being a big issue in the game at Louisville as Winston fouled out and Foster Loyer was thrust into a tough spot on the road. Iowa also draws a lot of fouls, so Winston really needs to be careful with that aspect tonight if McQuaid cannot go.
In the absence of Matty Ice, the Spartans have had two different players step up. Kyle Ahrens had the big game at Louisville, dropping 15 points and going 3-for-6 from downtown.
At Rutgers, it was freshman Aaron Henry playing 17 minutes and scoring five points, grabbing five rebounds, and getting a couple steals in giving the Spartans solid minutes off the bench.
In other important news, Michigan State will be wearing their “Script State” 1979 throwback uniforms for the first time tonight. Hopefully the old adage of “look good, play good” will work in the Spartans favor.