The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.
This is one of the more memorable lines from Star Wars for me, not because it's particularly riveting or important, but because the script for the original movie was so laughably campy and downright bad that Carrie Fisher had trouble delivering this line without laughing. And yet, here I am, about to try to make a parallel between this quote and Michigan basketball. If you needed your ammo to call me a dork, now's your chance, and oh - welcome to blogs.
Michigan is not the evil empire here, but in the case of Michigan v. Iowa, we're certainly the heavy favorites. This would normally bode well if we were playing a team like St. Thomas' Monastery and Military Academy for Maladjusted Boys, but Iowa's actually won a previous battle. Combine this with the fact that Michigan is also playing defense in terms of NCAA position, and Butler just lost (meaning one at-large bid is gone thanks to Cleveland State winning the Horizon League and Butler getting in anyways), and I think all of the sudden this game has become every bit as dire and "must-win" as the Minnesota game.
And Michigan knows it.
That's what I'm most worried about. Michigan's been playing pretty good ball recently, and if they play the game they're capable of, Iowa shouldn't be able to hang. Yet, sometimes when something is in your grasp, in this case the delicate flower of an NCAA bid, you grip it so tightly for fear of losing it that it ends up crushed in your hand. The star systems start slipping. Can Michigan forget the loss at Iowa earlier this season and block out the tournament implications long enough to play fast and loose in Indy? I certainly hope so, because a loss to Iowa tomorrow means we're firmly at the mercy of the selection committee, whereas a win puts us into "shocker" territory should we not make it in on Sunday.
This is Iowa for the season:
There is nothing in these statistics that stands out and screams "we're good." Unlike Minnesota, Iowa does not block 20% of their opponent's shots to lead the nation, or anything like that. What we see here is a firmly pedestrian stat line. Their TO's outnumber their assists, and while they're FG% is actually not bad, they're 60.7 points per game doesn't exactly suggest an offensive juggernaut. In the overtime loss, Michigan only shot 32% from the field (a full 10% lower than their season average) in what I remember being a snail-paced game and still held a four point lead with just over a minute to go in regulation.
What does Michigan have to do to win this game? They simply need to be the team they are. They need to hit around 45% from the field, 35% from behind the arc, and play solid defense. That is all it will take to beat Iowa. Over the past three games which included a win over Purdue, a loss at Wisconsin, and a win at Minny, Michigan has shot 51.3% from the field, 40% from behind the arc, and scored an average of 69.6 points per game. A team with these stats beats Iowa 9 times out of 10. HOWEVA, basketball is a fluky and streaky sport, and Iowa's playing with house money. They've literally got nothing to lose while Michigan stands to lose everything. Add on to that the fact that Iowa has already climbed this mountain and beaten Michigan, and well, this is baaaad juji.
All we can hope for is that Michigan plays their game, and doesn't come out all freaked and tweaked and tight. If I were to offer an prediction (and I will!), Michigan wins this one. It's a big game, sure, but we've already had one do-or-die away game against a far better team and came out on top. We are better than Iowa, and it's going to take some weird underperformance combined with an Iowa over-achieve to lose this one