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Hoops Preview: Michigan vs. Iowa

Wednesday night Michigan will welcome the high flying Hawkeyes to the Crisler Center in hopes of notching a second straight win over a ranked opponent .

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Wednesday January 22
Time: 7:00pm
Place: Crisler Center; Ann Arbor, MI

Iowa Hawkeyes (15-3, 4-1)

Season So Far: This is the season many Iowa fans have been waiting for. After a couple years of promising outlooks and disappointing finishes, Fran McCaffery seems to have put together an Iowa squad capable of competing at the top of the Big Ten.

The Hawkeyes had a pretty successful non-conference season notching wins against Kenpom top 100 teams like Xavier and Notre Dame, but falling short against Villinova (a neutral site game Iowa lost in overtime) and at Iowa State. Neither loss is particularly bad, and Iowa scored plenty of points in both (88 and 85).

That was the story of the rest of the non-conference schedule as Iowa really didn't have much trouble with anyone it shouldn't have. Nine of the Hawkeye's 11 wins in the non-conference were by 10+ points (all but the aforementioned Xavier and Notre Dame games).

So far in Big Ten play Iowa has dispatched Nebraska, Northwestern and Minnesota at home while picking up a huge road win at Ohio State. The lone Big Ten loss came in Madison when Iowa wasn't able to bounce back from a rough stretch to begin the second half.

Kenpom Vitals:

#4 Ovr ORtg eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA
Off. 121.3 (#3) 52.6 (#58) 15.9 (#44) 38.6 (#15) 50.0 (#30)
Def. 94.5 (#28) 42.5 (#7) 19.4 (#115) 29.0 (#71) 33.4 (#46)

Iowa is fast. The Hawkeye's average 73.0 possessions per game which is good for the 12th fastest team in the nation. By comparison, Michigan is averaging just 64.3 possessions per game, which puts the Wolverines at 310th fastest. Michigan has had success moving the ball in transition this year, but that is one area where Iowa thrives. This is partly because the Hawkeyes can get out and run on ample opportunities, as the TO% defense and defensive OR% numbers are both above average.

It is also very much built into the fabric of Iowa's team. The Hawkeyes have 10 players getting between 38 and 68% of available minutes. Fran McCaffery will go to his bench a lot, and the Hawkeyes have plenty of talent to draw from.


Michigan will need to know where Roy Devyn Marble (6'6, Sr.) is every second he is on the court. He is by far Iowa's highest usage player taking over 30% of available shots, while also sporting a 22.7 assist rate. His shooting is split pretty evenly in thirds between shots at the rim, 2pt jump shots, and 3pt shots, but if Michigan can force him to rely on this 2pt jump shooting (33% on those shots) it will bode will for the defense.

Iowa's most efficient offensive player is Aaron White (6'9, Jr.), who currently has the 19th best ORtg in the country (132.6) thanks in part to a best nationally 73.2 true shooting percentage. He isn't much from outside (4/12 on 3PA) but he is deadly inside, taking two-thirds of his shots at the rim and hitting 73.8% of them. His aggressiveness helps put him at the line quite a bit as he has a 70.5 FT rate and has capitalized by shooting 86% from the stripe.

Mike Gesell (6'1, So) runs the point for Iowa and is playing the role well, racking up an assist rate of 28.4 and shooting well from outside (34% on 44 3PA). Gesell's weaknesses are 2pt shooting (he hits just half his shots at the rim and only 1 of 8 are assisted) and free throws, which he hits at 64%. His steal rate (3.2) is in the top-200 nationally and second only to Marble on the team.

Iowa gets a bigger inside presence from Melsahn Basabe (6'7, Sr.), who leads the team in DR% and is second in OR%. Basabe's shooting splits are even between shots at the rim and 2pt jumpers. Michigan obviously wants to force more of the latter (42% vs. 68%).

It is becoming clear why Bo Ryan didn't want to lose Jared Uthoff (6'9, So.) who is just behind Aaron White in terms of offensive rating. His shooting splits are 57/52/85 and he is second on the team in block rate while providing a formidable rebounding presence.

Iowa also relies on the big man combo of Adam Woodbury (7'1 So.) and Gabe Olaseni (6'10 Jr.), both are active big men that bring solid rebounding, shot blocking, and inside scoring presences.

Keys For Michigan:

Slow the game down. Iowa is going to look to get out and run, and the Hawkeyes are at their best in a fast paced game. Michigan is capable of playing in transition in spurts, but if the game turns into a track meet it could wear down Michigan's top players (Robinson, LeVert, and Stauskas all average between 76 and 81% of Michigan's available minutes) while putting a lot of pressure on Michigan's short bench (Michigan only has an eight man rotation.

Generate good shot opportunities. Twenty percent of Iowa's initial shot attempts come within ten seconds after a rebound, and another seven percent come within ten seconds of a steal. If Michigan can continue to limit turnovers and make its shots, it will hamper Iowa's ability to push the ball. Eleven percent of Iowa's shots after a score come in the first ten seconds of the possession, while 28 percent come in the rest of the shot clock. Michigan's offense can keep Iowa's offense from getting into the rhythm it wants to.

Come out strong after halftime. Iowa has lost all three of its games after the opposing team came out strong in the second half and put together a run. This isn't necessarily a case of this Hawkeye team being too young or not used to success, but it is comforting to know that even after a strong first half, Iowa could still be susceptible to a late comeback. Michigan's offense is certainly good enough, and John Beilein has shown a knack for making the right adjustments after halftime. The first ten minutes of the second half could be the most important in this game.


Michigan can't rest on its laurels. The last team to upset Wisconsin — the Indiana Hoosiers — proceeded to squander that momentum in a loss to Northwestern. Michigan wasn't being given much of a chance to come out of its three game stretch of UW/Iowa/MSU with a winning record, but now that is a distinct possibility. Michigan needs to play within itself and not get spooked into running against an Iowa team that excels at the higher pace.

Fortunately, Michigan's offense has looked like a controlled, efficient monster as of late, and it isn't just one player but Michigan's trio of talented win players all contributing in some ways. The Wolverines have all settled into their roles and this offense looks to be capable of scoring with anyone.

The issue will be defense, where Michigan hasn't played well in transition this year and could run into problems against Iowa. Keeping the pace slow and playing efficient should help in this regard.

All in all, winning on the road in the Big Ten is hard, and Michigan gets to come home to comfortable surroundings for this one. That should be the difference in a close game.