This Thursday, the 23rd ranked Michigan State Spartans (12-3, 1-1) will travel on the road to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes (11-4, 0-2).
Iowa is coming off of a pair of games against the B1G’s top two teams, losing both a heartbreaker to Indiana and suffering a beating at the hands of Michigan a few days later.
For Michigan State, the Spartans are coming in off a big win against Purdue where freshman guard Gary Harris went off for 22 points while they also come in having taken the last four matchups against Iowa, including both of last years’ games, which both ended up as blowout wins for Michigan State.
However, despite Iowa’s disappointing start in conference play, and Michigan State’s recent success against Iowa lately, as they travel to take on the Hawkeyes on Thursday it shouldn’t be as easy to get a win this time around.
One of the biggest reasons for this is that Iowa is simply a lot better team this year. Led by 6’6” junior guard Roy Devyn Marble (15.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg), since last year’s’ mediocre season, Iowa has evolved into one of the deeper teams in the B1G. The Hawkeyes feature ten players that play about ten minutes a game or more, including four former starters that now come off the bench, speaking volumes of their depth.
“They’re playing a lot of players,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said. “And they’re bringing veterans off the bench which makes their team a lot better. I thought Iowa would be one of the more improved teams in the league and I think they’ve answered that and more.”
A big help to the Hawkeye’s improved depth this year is in large part due to a very talented freshman class. A class that was highlighted much by 7’1” freshman Adam Woodbury, Iowa also gives a lot of minutes to other freshmen such as guards Mike Gesell and Lansing Sexton product Anthony Clemens.
That last one, Clemens, is a former high school teammate of Michigan State freshman guard Denzel Valentine. Together, the two led Sexton High School to back-to-back state championships. For Valentine though, playing against an old friend is nothing new.
“I got asked a question on a conference call about what it would be like for Valentine to go against a former teammate,” Izzo said. “I said he one upped that. He went against his own brother at Oakland.”
Needless to say, Iowa definitely has a clear advantage in the depth category. Michigan State really only goes seven deep ever since the departure of Brandan Kearney. It will be interesting to see though if Alex Gauna, Matt Costello, or Russell Byrd will be able to compete for some extra minutes.
However, even with a much improved Hawkeye squad this, Michigan State should be able to come out on top in this one. It’s one of those road games that the Spartans should be able to get, and one that they will want to get with such a hard schedule ahead of them. Nevertheless though, it won’t come easy as every road game in the B1G is a challenge.
Follow Ryan Squanda on Twitter @squandarunner