The 13-3 Iowa Hawkeyes will resume Big Ten play on Sunday when they host Michigan inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The contest with the Wolverines has already been announced as a sellout. Fran McCaffery's squad will try to improve to 5-0 in conference play.
Iowa has won their first four Big Ten games by sweeping Michigan State, defeating Purdue in Mackey Arena, and taking down Nebraska at home. Their last win over the Spartans was the school's first win over Michigan State in the Breslin Center since 1993.
The success of the Hawkeyes has definitely caught the eye of Michigan's head coach John Beilein.
"As anybody who whatched the game (against Michigan State), this team has a lot of weapons," Beilein said of Fran McCaffery's Hawkeyes. "You guys that figure out numbers and things like that, I've been trying to go through my head for how many seniors that we had that actually played. They have four that are starting, and a junior. They've built a program over that time. They're a tremendous basketball team right now. You go over college basketball and where else are their four seniors that all have been starting for years, playing for years, and they've earned that. And then Peter Jok was tremendous (against Michigan State)."
It'll be a souped up matchup when the two sides battle on Sunday. Michigan enters the game with a 13-4 record overall and 3-1 in the Big Ten. Like Iowa, The Wolverines are coming off a signature conference win as well, defeating Maryland by three at home. However, John Beilein's squad hasn't had much luck going into Iowa City lately.
"It'll be a challenge," Beilein noted of playing in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. "We have not played well in Iowa the last couple years whether we had a final two team or a Big Ten Championship team. We had a couple wins early in my tenure here but those games haven't been close lately."
One of his stars is athlete Caris LeVert, a player that passed up entering the NBA Draft after last season. He would have likely been a first round pick but chose to return to Ann Arbor for his final year in school. His status for the game is questionable at best.
"Caris will go through a series of tests to see where he is," Beilein revealed. "If he tests no pain, he'll begin the process of practicing. If he does not test without pain, he'll be doing some things that will help his healing."
If Michigan is without Caris LeVert, they'll be offensively challenged in this one, especially playing on the road in front of a hostile crowd in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes' defense has been more than up to the task in their previous few games and if the Wolverines do not have their usual firepower on offense it could be tough sledding in terms of the score. Michigan lives and dies by the three-point ball this season, especially when LeVert is not in the game. They're awfully one-dimensional without him. When he's not on the court, they lose their playmaking skills on offense and struggle to move the ball and get penetration. He allows them to open up the offense more because he is their best at getting to the basket.
Defensively, Michigan could pose a threat inside for Iowa. The Hawkeyes do not have a ton of size and physicality underneath without Adam Woodbury. The Wolverines do not have any huge guys down low but they have a few bulky bodies they can throw at Iowa in Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle. I think the Hawkeyes will be able to overcome this, though.
The biggest discrepancy between the two teams has been the play off the bench. Iowa has gotten significant contributions from their reserves in the last few games, specifically Nicholas Baer, Dom Uhl, and Ahmad Wagner. At times they'll get some shooting from Brady Ellingson, too. This is even without Dale Jones who was one of the more impact back-ups for Fran McCaffery.
Michigan doesn't have this type of bench play, at least right now. In the win over Maryland, the Wolverines only got 23 mintues total from their reserves. For comparison sake, Iowa got 52 minutes from their bench in the win over Michigan State.
Iowa has the depth that Michigan does not have. They play better defense. Thet Hawkeyes are also shooting the lights out recently and can beat you in multiple ways on offense, and Michigan does not have that. It would be a surprise if the Wolverines went into Iowa City and escaped with a victory.