Close Encounter Expected in Michigan-Iowa Tilt

Jay Pryce

Sunday, January 1, 2017 4:40 PM UTC

Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017 4:40 PM UTC

Michigan travels to Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes in its Big Ten opener on New Year's Day (2:15 p.m. ET). A play on the total is your best bet in this expected close encounter between rivals.

Michigan Wolverines (10-3 SU, 4-6 ATS)

Head coach John Beilein fields a seasoned squad with four upper classmen in the starting lineup, including two seniors first off the bench. Guards Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton Jr. are the engine of the team. They lead the Wolverines in scoring with 14.1 points and 12.4 points per game respectively.

Nearly every possession on offense runs through their hands. It is the starting five’s ability to spread out and shoot from behind the arc that makes Michigan dangerous. Every player can drain 3-pointers.

Defense is where the team shines. It is ranked in the top 20 nationally, allowing 60.8 points per game. Beilein runs man-to-man with a 1-3-1 zone mixed into the equation. The unit is disciplined as well, and rarely sends opponents to the charity stripe. Its 14.1 free-throw attempts gifted per game ranks ninth fewest in the country.  

 Iowa Hawkeyes (8-6 SU, 4-6 ATS)

The Hawkeyes are armed with senior guard Peter Jok. He is one of the top three players in the Big Ten, and can take over a game at any time. He leads the conference in scoring with 21.9 points per game. Outside of the veteran wing player, Iowa is young with two true freshman and second-years making up the starting lineup.

Offensively, Iowa is a motion team, so executing proper movement, spacing, and passes will be key to getting Jok open looks. The 6-foot-6 NBA prospect is 43 of 107 from the 3-point area this season. When Jok isn’t shooting from downtown, expect head coach Fran McCaffery’s men to attack the glass and generate post-up situations every time down the court.

Iowa is so-so defensively. It allows a 48.2 percent effective field goal rate, which is just slightly better than the national average.  The Hawkeyes are particularly vulnerable guarding downtown, allowing teams to fire up 23.8 3-point attempts per game. Opponents make it 35.1 percent of the time.

 Final Analysis

Michigan does not play well at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, going 3-4 SU and 2-5 ATS in is last seven visits. The Wolverines lost by double digits in each of their last three trips. The Hawkeyes were much different then—long, athletic, and with multiple scoring outlets—but are still very talented in their current configuration. It will all come down to slowing Jok, and the Wolverines are blessed with watching Purdue shut him down for only 13 points in Iowa’s last game, a 89-67 loss at Mackey Arena. Look for Michigan to roll out a similar strategy. But will it work? The home crowd will boost Iowa’s youngsters and they will keep it close—win or lose. OVER 147.5 offers the best value in a game likely to be back and forth.

 Free NCAAB Pick: Over 147.5Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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