This year’s Big Ten is also an absolute hit for the top teams at the conference. No team is spotless, and in March at least 10 teams should take part in the tournament hunt. Although losses are not the end of the world and so many teams look good, it is easy to get to the bottom of the overall standings.
The Michigan Wolverines are currently 2-3 in the conference game with no break in sight. Road games were astronomically difficult in the Big Ten this year, but a Friday night loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes would be less than ideal. However, the odds are not in their favor.
These two teams faced each other in a blistering affair at the start of the conference game in December. While the Wolverines were ahead with 103 points, the defense still allowed 1.23 points per possession and benefited from a cold Hawkeyes night behind the bow. This level of defense is unlikely to persist in Iowa City.
This team from Michigan will fight without Isaiah Livers. Iowa is 16th in Kenpom, five places higher than the Wolverines, with the fourth best offensive. None of Michigan’s conference street losses was outrageous, but both times the game simply got out of hand. Friday night is a chance for a big statement if the Wolverines find a way to find out.
What to see
Stop Garza: The only real way out of the first match was the explosion of Luka Garza, who scored 44 points in 32 shots. At the time, it looked like one player was just making a career, and the Wolverines decided to give him the way to do it while locking out everyone else. Since then, Xavier Tillman (20 points), Trevion Williams (36) and Daniel Oturu (30) have prevailed against Michigan in the livery and show a systemic problem with the current defense. Whether it’s a double team or some other strategy change, Garza needs to be slowed down.
The emergence of Franz: Without Livers, Michigan really lacks the killer scoring threat teams have shown in the past. Zavier Simpson does everything possible to hold the offensive together – especially since Jon Teske has not yet made the hoped-for jump – but he will never make it alone. Enter Franz Wagner, who feels comfortable on the offensive after his injury in the early season. With 42 points in the last three games and a 9v21 shot from outside, he is exactly the weapon this team needs to stay close to good teams.
Find out the defense: As mentioned above, the Hawkeyes have one of the biggest crimes in the country, and although they can’t be stopped entirely, Michigan has to find a way to at least keep them at bay. In the Big Ten games, the Wolverines did a great job of eliminating the three, scoring the best three and the fifth three percentage points. Unfortunately, the teams chose to hammer them to a low level, and the defense allowed a two-point percentage of 54.3 percent, which is the second worst value at the conference. Teske is not as good as it needs to be, and backup sizes continue to struggle. Iowa will tear Michigan apart, Juwan Howard finds no way to help his players. Talent alone doesn’t make it.
Michigan is still struggling to bring everything together, and without Livers, the Hawkeyes are just too much to overcome. 77-71 Iowa,
Teams: No. 19 Michigan Wolverines (11-5, 2-3) at Iowa Hawkeyes (12-5, 3-3)
Date: Friday 17th January 2020
Place: Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City, IA
Time: 9:00. ET
TV / Streaming: FS1 / Fox Sports Go