January 6, 2013

Game Preview: Iowa at Michigan

Iowa Hawkeyes
Record: 11-3 (0-1 Big Ten)
Head Coach: Fran McCaffery (Third season, 40-40)
RPI: 92
Series: Michigan leads series 89-58
Time and Television: Noon, Big Ten Network

After manhandling Northwestern 94-66 in Evanston to open Big Ten play, U-M welcomes a feisty Iowa squad to Crisler Center for its first home clash of the conference slate.

The Hawkeyes finished just 17-17 overall and 8-10 in the Big Ten in 2012 but, with the promising offseason strides made by junior guard Roy Devyn Marble and the infusion of a talented freshman class, may be the most improved team in the Midwest.

In its last contest, UI took highly-touted Indiana to the limit at Carver-Hawkeye Arena despite a 1-of-14 shooting effort by Marble, but ultimately fell 69-65. A bounce back performance by the 6-6 standout, who leads the team with 15.6 points per game, will be critical if Iowa is to stay close, but Fran McCaffery's squad is far from a one man team.

Iowa has consistently reached deep into its bench, playing at least 10 players in 13 of its 14 contests. Sophomore forward Aaron White has been stellar in the paint, averaging 13.7 points per game and a team-best 6.4 boards, and 7-1 freshman center Adam Woodbury, while still adjusting to the game at the college level, has shown the potential to be a force inside - especially on the defensive glass. Freshman guards Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons have both effectively protected and distributed the ball this season, with both averaging more than three assists and less than 2.2 turnovers per contest.

Still, the ability to keep fresh legs on the floor has provided minimal improvement for a defense that finished dead last in the conference a year ago. Iowa ranks 10th in the Big Ten in yielding 61.7 points per game despite holding opponents to a .370 field goal percentage and outrebounding foes 41.4-34.5. The Wolverines, who are averaging 81.1 points per game, should have no trouble finding holes in the Hawkeye defense.

With 11 underclassmen on the roster, inconsistency has predictably been an issue for the Black and Gold, particularly from behind the arc and in ball possession. On the season, Iowa is shooting .308 from three point land, including a 0-17 performance in a 80-50 win over Coppin State Dec. 22, and is also turning the ball over 13.7 times per game. UI has been able to mask these deficiencies by getting to the free throw line 26.4 times per game - good for fifth best in the country. Michigan, on the other hand, leads the nation in committing only 11.6 personal fouls per game.

Prediction: In its three losses, the Hawkeyes were burned by strong guard play from the opposition and the Wolverines possess one of the best 1-2 punches out of the backcourt in college basketball in junior Tim Hardaway, Jr. and sophomore Trey Burke. Iowa is still a growing team, and program, and does not yet employ the horses to run with a team as talented as the Maize and Blue.

Burke should easily continue his early-season tear, and Michigan will exploit the Hawkeye's defensive flaws as the game progresses in an easy win.

Final Score: Michigan 82, Iowa 66

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