by Ian Mumm
The Spartans and Hawkeyes will square off in Iowa City Thursday night for the second time of the year. A 90-68 drubbing by the Spartans in East Lansing was not the result many of the Iowa faithful had hoped for, but a chance at revenge is at hand in tonight’s matchup. Michigan State has had a stellar season only dropping 2 games thus far. In fact, the Spartans have not lost since Thanksgiving winning their last 12 outings.
On the other side, the Hawkeyes seemed to be able to ‘piggy-back’ off the Spartan’s momentum after their first meeting with Tom Izzo’s squad. Iowa lost their first 2 conference games (Michigan St being the 2nd) and have gone 5-1 in conference play since then. Additionally, the Hawkeyes have managed to win 10 of their last 11 games.
The Spartans are immune to road trips
Michigan State has played 6 true road games this season resulting in a 5-1 SU and 5-1 ATS record. Tom Izzo’s teams are particularly hard-nosed and tough, this year being no exception. Travelling into hostile environments is nothing new for this team and won’t even faze them. Half of the Spartans road wins have come by single digits, but each was against a top-80 defensive team (Florida #32 – 4 points, Ohio St. #77 – 9 points, Nebraska #12 – 6 points).
Since Josh Langford injured his ankle, the Spartans have not skipped a beat. Multiple players, specifically Kyle Ahrens, Xavier Tillman and Matt McQuaid, have stepped up big time for this team. Michigan St. boasts top 10 marks in overall shooting % (9th) and total assists (1st) leading to the 6th best offensive in the nation. On the flip side of the ball, Tom Izzo’s philosophies have carried the Spartans to top ranks in defensive and total rebounding (2nd/6th), blocks (6th), and opponent 2-pt and overall shooting % (1st/3rd).
Iowa has been on a roll of their own
The Hawkeyes have steamrolled through their recent stretch of conference games, a much different narrative than their first Big 10 outings of the season. In their 3 conference losses, Iowa has managed a pedestrian 68.3 PPG on the offensive end. However, they have managed to put up 83.0 PPG in the 10 wins since then and 84.4 PPG in 5 conference wins.
The increased offensive production is all the more impressive when noting that both leading scorers Tyler Cook (16.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG) and Luke Garza (13.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG) have missed some time. A big part of the Hawkeye offense has been staying aggressive and getting to the free throw line. Iowa is 1st in the nation in free throws made, 6th in attempts and 24th in conversion. It may be their best friend in hoping to defeat the Spartans tonight.
Spartans: 8-0 ATS last 8 vs. Big Ten
Spartans: 14-2 ATS last 16 games
Spartans: 5-0 ATS last 5 road games
Spartans: 13-3 ATS following ATS win
Hawkeyes: 4-1 ATS last 5 home games
Hawkeyes: 5-0 ATS vs. Big Ten
Hawkeyes: 5-0 ATS last 5 overall
The Hawkeyes have shown strong resilience after going into the conference doghouse 0-3 and winning their next 5. However, I think their momentum stops tonight. Michigan State’s juggernaut is going to be too much to handle and the Spartans are playing too well to be bothered by a hostile road environment. Tom Izzo’s squad notched single-digit wins against squads that held their opponents to under 65.1 PPG. Iowa is giving the Spartans a free 7 points in that regard (72.2 PPG allowed). It may not be a 22-point blowout again, but the Spartans should be somewhat comfortable in this one.
4* Michigan State -5