John Beilein has never lost his first game of the Big Ten Tournament and that streak began with three consecutive wins over Iowa.
The Wolverines and Hawkeyes haven’t met in the conference tournament since, but Michigan will be looking for its third win over Iowa this season. The Wolverines won in Iowa City back in January and followed that up with a routine 15-point home victory two weeks back.
Iowa was picked to finish 8th in the league this season and was pegged by many as a potential breakout team given how much young talent returned on the roster. Fran McCaffery’s team lost games to Louisiana Lafayette and South Dakota State in the Cayman Islands before Thanksgiving — he signed a contract extension days later — and the season never got back on track. The Hawkeyes started the year 4-6 and lost 6 games in a row in February before a late-season win against Northwestern.
Iowa’s defense has been nothing short of a disaster this season. The Hawkeyes allowed 1.19 points per possession in league games and came close to fielding the worst Big Ten defense of the KenPom era. Iowa held a Big Ten opponent below a point per possession in one game (home against Wisconsin). Michigan’s offensive performances against the Hawkeyes (1.10 PPP, 1.14 PPP) actually qualified as above average defensive showings.
Big Ten teams are shooting 53.4% on twos (13th) and 42.9% on threes (14th) for a 57.4 eFG% (14th) against the Hawkeyes. Iowa ranks second to last in forced turnover rate and 10th in defensive rebounding rate, but does an above average job of not fouling.
While Iowa’s defense has been terrible this season, the offense has been pretty good. Iowa finished the year ranked 5th in the Big Ten in offensive efficiency, scoring 1.09 points per possession. The Hawkeyes don’t attempt many threes (just 31.7% of shot attempts), but they make the ones they do (37.4%). Iowa is also the best offensive rebounding team in the Big Ten, grabbing 33.8% of their misses on the year.
Iowa has two of the more promising young big men in the conference in sophomore Tyler Cook and freshman Luka Garza. Cook leads the Hawkeyes in possessions used out of post-ups and grades out at an effective 78th percentile. Garza is even more skilled, grading out on the 93rd percentile, and he can also stretch the floor a bit with his jumpshot. Both players are great offensive rebounders while Garza is one of Iowa’s better shot blockers.
Sophomore point guard Jordan Bohannon is an elite perimeter shooter. Bohannon makes 43% of his triples and attempts two out of every three shots from beyond the arc. He can shoot on the move, off the catch or off the bounce and he’s a good passer to boot. Zavier Simpson did a great job against him in the last meeting, holding him to just 7 points on 5 shot attempts.
Isaiah Moss is in the Peter Jok role as Iowa’s primary wing option to fly around off of screens and get up 3-point attempts. Moss is shooting 40% from 3-point range on the season and recently went for 32 points on 12-of-18 shooting at Minnesota.
Cook, Garza, Moss and Bohannon are the four most important cogs in the Hawkeye rotation, but there are plenty of others. Iowa plays four or five other forwards in that 6-foot-7 to 6-foot-11 range and who plays more minutes on any given day is tough to project.
6-foot-7 glue guy Nicholas Baer is a do-it-all option off the bench. Baer started the season slowly after missing time due to injury and hasn’t regained his form from earlier in his career.
- Contain the post: Iowa throws the ball into the post aggressively and has two scorers that should have some sort of matchup advantages. Tyler Cook had a huge game in the first meeting while Luka Garza had a high scoring (but turnover filled) performance in the second. Michigan will need to get creative in defending these matchups once again, but Wagner and Robinson fared much better in the second meeting.
- Defensive rebounding: Iowa is the best offensive rebounding team in the Big Ten, Michigan is the second-best defensive rebounding team in the Big Ten. Iowa’s first two games against Michigan were two of its three worst offensive rebounding games of the season. The Wolverines will need to keep up that effort on the defensive glass in round three.
- Transition offense: Iowa can play fast and loose and loves to crash the offensive glass, there should be ample opportunities for Michigan to run off of turnovers and clean rebounds. Those easy offensive buckets could push this game out of hand in a hurry if the opportunities present themselve.s
KenPom likes Michigan in this one by a final score of 80-71, giving the Wolverine a 79% percent chance at advancing to face Nebraska on Friday.