Two Key Questions for Iowa at Michigan State TonightPosted by Jonathan Batuello on March 6th, 2014
Michigan may have clinched the Big Ten, but Iowa‘s trip to Michigan State tonight has plenty of importance for Big Ten Tournament and NCAA seeding. The Hawkeyes are in a battle with Nebraska and Ohio State for their first top-four finish in conference play since they tied for fourth during the 2006-07 season. Michigan State, on the other hand, is trying to get some confidence with its entire lineup finally healthy. For both teams, it is an important contest in terms of momentum, so with that in mind, here are two key questions heading into tonight’s game:
1. Both Iowa and Michigan State have had skids recently (losing three of four with each winning versus Purdue), so which team needs this win more for confidence and NCAA Tournament seeding purposes?
Realistically both teams need this win, but Iowa probably needs it more than Sparty. The Hawkeyes ended their losing streak against Purdue, but it nearly blew a double-figure second half lead against the Boilermakers. Iowa is also on the verge of losing a first round bye in the Big Ten Tournament as well as seeding for the NCAA Tournament. Most prognosticators have Fran McCaffery’s group sitting in the #6-#7 range (RTC’s Daniel Evans has them as a #7 seed), so a win likely helps them avoid a fall to the challenging #8-#9 seed line and a potential second-round match-up with a #1 seed. It also gives them the confidence of another marquee win, something they have lacked with only one win against a current Top 25 team. Michigan State needs the win too, as it is battling for a top four protected seed in the NCAA Tournament, but with its lineup only recently becoming healthy, regaining chemistry for tournament play is of paramount importance. Everyone knows what a full Spartans squad can do and seed placement won’t really deter that potential if they start firing on all cylinders.
2. Michigan State struggled defensively before Branden Dawson’s return and Iowa’s fastbreak defense is just dismal. Can one team’s defense limit the opponent or is first to 90 going to win this game?
Dawson’s return certainly helped solidify Michigan State’s defense against Illinois, despite the loss, as Adreian Payne really struggled when he was forced to switch on screens. Dawson helps the Spartans have a lockdown wing defender, which against the talents of Roy Devyn Marble tonight will be important. Iowa, on the other hand, has proven that it doesn’t have a top level defense. The Hawkeyes are rated #78 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency and they haven’t held an opponent under 70 points since beating Michigan at home a month ago. With the Spartans and Hawkeyes both seeking to get out on the break, don’t be surprised to see a high-scoring game. Michigan State has a better chance to limit the Hawkeyes’ scoring effectiveness, but both teams could easily score more than 80 points in this one.