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Behind Enemy Lines Q&A: Iowa Basketball

Ben Ross of Black Hearts Gold Pants previews Michigan’s road trip to Iowa City this Friday (7 p.m., FS1).

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan crosses the Mississippi River this Friday to visit No. 25 Iowa (7 p.m. ET, FS1).

It’ll be the first ranked road test for the Wolverines since the third game of the year at eighth-ranked Villanova. While that was a rousing success, Carver-Hawkeye has been an occasional thorn in Michigan’s side.

We spoke with Ben Ross at Black Hearts Gold Pants, SB Nation’s Iowa Hawkeye community. He answered my bafflingly uninformed questions.

Fran McCaffery looked like he had Iowa on the right path, but has missed the tournament the last two years. This year has been a return to form with big wins over Iowa State and a ranked Nebraska team. Are expectations just to return to the tournament, or to go further to the Sweet 16 or beyond?

That Nebraska win doesn’t look so big now, but like football, Iowa State will likely end up being Iowa’s best win this year.

I don’t think anyone, Fran included, expects to make it to the Sweet 16. I think most fans expect to at least make the tourney this year. And the most pessimistic of fans don’t expect Iowa to win another game all year, adding more fodder to the fire Fran fire.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Maryland Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Defense still lags behind, ranking No. 126 in efficiency this year. What’s the problem, since this has also been a multi-year issue?

The problems with the defense are too many to name.

While Iowa has made more than a modest improvement this year, there are too many times where they give up, say, a 25-6 run (it was 24-2) like they did against Michigan State a week ago. The 2-3 is busted. Man is SUPER busted. The 1-3-1 lasts three possessions then crumples because we can’t defend the perimeter worth a shit.

The offense, on the other hand, is top-10 nationally. Who and what makes the Hawkeyes so dangerous?

The offense is great!

Tyler Cook is doing is best to get drafted, Luka Garza is a man against boys on the offensive end, Isaiah Moss is quietly becoming a scorer and Joe Wieskamp is sensational. When he plays.

(Here’s Cook last year versus Michigan in Iowa City.)

So there’s four starters there who can hurt you good. Curiously, I left out Jordan Bohannon, who many pegged to be our leading scorer. Point guard play has been the biggest miss so far, and Bohannon is invisible for stretches. Thought he can still hit threes now and then.

Iowa City is one of the best college towns in America. Friendly people, fantastic food, the list goes on. However, Michigan has lost three of its last four at Carver-Hawkeye. How can a town be so friendly, but so hard to leave with a victory?

That’s a Michigan problem. No other team finds Iowa City so unfriendly. I should be the one asking you, what have you done to leave Iowa City empty-handed so many times?

The answer there is that we’re blinded by your niceness.

Moving on...Iowa dropped two last week at home against MSU and at Minnesota. The Hawkeyes get a week to prepare for the Wolverines. What happened in those two games, and is a week enough to fix the issues?

I think I mentioned above that Michigan State went on like a 24-2 run in the second half. So that’s what happened there.

With the Minnesota game, Iowa’s defense allowed Minnesota to score 55 points in the first half. Minnesota scored 57 points against Michigan the entire game earlier in the week. So yeah. Iowa’s defense is bad, and Jordan Murphy is going to be great in an Italian basketball league.

Score prediction?

Michigan 87, Iowa 79.

Special thanks to Ben Ross of Black Hearts Gold Pants! Head on over and check out Ben, and the rest of the team’s coverage of the Hawkeyes in advance of this weekend’s journey into corn — or should I say maize — country.