At 7:00PM ET this evening the Iowa basketball team will take to the hardwood against Michigan in a battle for positioning atop the Big Ten standings. The 10th ranked Hawkeyes (15-3, 4-1 Big Ten) and no. 21 Wolverines (13-4, 5-0 Big Ten) will meet as ranked foes for the first time since February 4, 2006.
This game is big for a multitude of reasons, most namely that the two teams are trying to stay within striking distance of current conference leader Michigan State (18-1, 7-0 Big Ten). Over the next six days both Michigan and Iowa will have the opportunity to take on the Spartans, so a win tonight would provide both squads with a great deal of momentum heading into their respective match-ups with MSU.
However, before either team can begin looking ahead they must first attend to tonight’s crucial match-up. Here’s a look at five keys for the Hawkeyes to get another road win over a ranked opponent:
Dominate the boards
This is probably Iowa’s most advantageous area heading into tonight’s contest, and one that they must exploit in order to subdue the Wolverines. The Hawkeyes currently boast the 3rd best rebounding numbers in the country, pulling in 44.6 boards per game. Michigan meanwhile has struggled mightily on the glass, especially after the loss of big man Mitch McGary. The maize and blue rank an abysmal 269th nationally in rebounding.
The Hawkeyes should and need to own a large rebounding advantage tonight. Doing so will provide them will multiple scoring opportunities on the offensive end, and also limit second chance points for a very offensively talented Michigan team.
Guard the arc
Michigan is one of the best 3pt shooting teams Iowa will face all season long, and when they get hot things can go south in a hurry for opposing teams. The Wolverines are shooting a blistering 38.8% as a team from behind the arc through their first 17 games.
The Hawkeyes have struggled for stretches this season taking away the 3-ball, something that cannot happen against Michigan. Whether it’s in a zone or man-t0-man, look for Iowa to extend its defense to try and limit open looks from downtown. Constant communication will be also be imperative, as the Wolverines possess multiple players with deep shooting range.
Get a strong homecoming performance from Devyn Marble
Marble, a Southfield, Michigan native and Iowa’s senior leader, is right in the thick of the Big Ten Player of the Year hunt. He has played spectacularly thus far in conference play, and his performance tonight will likely play a huge factor in the game’s outcome.
Playing less than an hour from his hometown, he will face off against an extremely talented group of Michigan guards in Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton Jr., and even Spike Albrecht. This game might very well come down to the wire, and if it does expect to see the ball in Marble’s hands. The play-making ability of the senior could ultimately decide this clash of ranked foes.
Slow down Stauskas
The Michigan sophomore sits right alongside Marble as one of the best players in the Big Ten this year. Known primarily for this shooting prowess a year ago, the Canadian has developed an all-around game rivaled by few other 2-guards in America.
Stauskas can get hot in a hurry, so limiting his open opportunities is a must for the Hawkeyes. If Iowa can hold him at or below his 18ppg season average I think they’ll be in great shape to steal a road win. However, any lapse in focus by Iowa and Stauskas can easily go for 30+.
Remain composed throughout
After some early season blunders the Hawkeyes have done a much better job in recent weeks navigating the ebbs and flows of games, namely on the road against Ohio State. Michigan is the type of team that can go on runs in a hurry, so Iowa’s mettle is likely to be tested at times tonight.
So long as they remain level-headed and continue to trust one another throughout the game, Iowa will have a great opportunity to come out of Ann Arbor with another impressive road victory.