Minnesota was just 15 of 28 from the line, including missing several free throws during the game's final minute of play, but Michigan chose to shoot three pointers each time down and not always coming from the players you would want to see shooting the ball. Michigan was also in a zone defense during the last couple of minutes, not a conventional move by any stretch, when you are trailing in the waning moments. It's coaching decisions like that that led me to pick Minnesota to beat Michigan.
The question before this game, from an Iowa fan's perspective, was who did you want to see Iowa play today at 5:40. Michigan or Minnesota?
My preference was Minnesota, because even though Michigan plays as though they are not being coached, if they do turn it on, they have talent that can beat a lot of teams. Minnesota is playing very hard, but they lost their final three games to end the Big Ten regular season and they have one or two players that can get going and take over a game in Vincent Grier and Adam Boone.
Yes, Minnesota recently beat Iowa in Minneapolis and it took Iowa three overtimes to beat Minnesota in Iowa City.
The one thing the Gophers can do to you, and have done in their two meetings against Iowa, is to make you play ugly basketball. They like to slow the game down a bit and limit the number of possessions that you get, so taking good care of the ball becomes a premium.
During the regular season, Minnesota was 10th in points per game, 11th in field goal percentage, 11th in three-point percentage and 11th in three-point shots made.
I am not a coach, but I would think that Iowa might want to mix in some of their 1-2-2 zone at times against Minnesota, since this game is not going to be played in their friendly confines of the barn; Minnesota was just 2-10 from three against Michigan. They also committed 18 turnovers on Thursday.
Outside of Northwestern, Minnesota might play the ugliest brand of basketball in the Big Ten, yet they should not be taken lightly; I doubt the Iowa coaches or players will do that.
If you do play zone, you have to really attack the backboards, because Minnesota leads the Big Ten in offensive rebounds per game, getting nearly 12 a contest.
All of this being said, I really like Iowa in this game and I don't envision a nail-biter. Should Iowa win this game, they would face the winner of the Michigan State-Illinois game at 12:40 on Saturday.
WEBER UNHAPPY WITH TIME SLOT
Illini head coach Bruce Weber does not like the draw that his team has in this year's tournament, and that has nothing to do with the teams that Illinois might face.
Illinois and Michigan State will tip off 25 minutes after the Iowa-Minnesota game, making their starting time somewhere around 8:10pm central. Weber told a Chicago radio station that if his team wins, they would not get back to their hotels until after midnight, and then they would have to eat something and that its hard to get to sleep after playing an important game.
The chances are good that the Iowa or Minnesota players will be back in their hotels eating their dinners, watching the Illinois-Michigan State game. Their bed-check will likely be a few minutes after the end of the MSU-Illini game, so the Iowa-Minnesota winner will certainly be better rested…or at least Iowa would if it wins, as Minnesota would be facing its third game in three days.
BRUNNER READY TO GO
Steve Deace of 1460 KXNO interviewed Iowa assistant coach Greg Lansing on Wednesday and it aired on his program yesterday. When asked about the status of Greg Brunner's sprained ankle, Lansing said that Brunner was just fine.
Here are a few bones to chew on…
Should there be post season conference tournaments? With all due apologies to the 2001 Iowa Hawkeyes, winning the regular season title is far more valuable and impressive than winning the post season tournament. Yet without the tournament, Iowa would not have made it to the NCAA's that year.
Since I think we can all agree that winning the regular season title is of highest value in terms of what kind of team you have, shouldn't the results of your regular season be most important when you look at the bubble teams as opposed to what someone does over a two or three day span in mid-March? If teams can punch their card in these tournaments with strong showings, then I think a Gonzaga should lose ‘points' for squeaking by in the last two games of the WCC Tournament that was played on its own home floor.
I like these tournaments as they are compelling, exciting and dramatic. The power leagues like them for the money and the weaker leagues like them for the ticket to the dance. But I think too much weight gets placed on them, or at least, that is my opinion.
You can say this anytime Iowa plays an important game; the players that need to step up and play well for Iowa to win are Mike Henderson and Adam Haluska. Henderson had a great Big Ten Tourney last year and was the key in Iowa's beating Michigan State one year ago. Haluska can take over a game with his offense, but he has not been as consistent down the stretch as he was one year ago. If these two make contributions night in and night out, there is no reason why Iowa shouldn't cut down the nets on Sunday. But if they fail to show, Iowa could be one and done.
IOWA GETS DEFENSIVE: During the regular season Iowa allowed opponents just 58.8 points per game and held opponents to 38..3% field goal shooting. The points allowed are the fewest for an Iowa team since the 1985 Hawkeyes held opponents to 58.8 points per game. The field goal defense is the best for Iowa since 1961-62 when Hawkeye opponents shot 38.9% from the field.
IOWA HAS STRONG FINISH: With a home win over Wisconsin to close the regular season, Iowa accomplished the following:
• Earned win No. 22 on the season, matching the 1995-96 team as the most recent to earn 22 regular season victories.
• Earned Big Ten win No. 11, the most for an Iowa team since the 1996-97 team won 12 conference games. Iowa's 11 Big Ten wins are the most for Iowa since the Big Ten went to a 16-game league schedule in 1998.
• Clinched the No. two seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Iowa's previous best seed in the event was fourth in 2004.
• Earned its ninth win over a top 25 opponent and defeated its seventh ranked opponent in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa and Connecticut are the only two teams in the nation with nine regular season wins over top 25 teams. Iowa set school records for home wins and total wins over ranked opponents this season.
• Improved its overall home winning streak to 18 games, a streak that ranks longest in the Big Ten and fourth best in the nation.
IOWA IN THE BIG TEN TOURNAMENT: Iowa has posted a 10-7 record while playing 17 games in the eight Big Ten Tournaments. Iowa has played nine different teams in the event, having met each team except Illinois at least once. Four of the 10 wins came on the way to the tournament title in 2001 and Iowa won three games while earning a return trip to the title game in 2002. The 10 wins rank as the second highest total among league teams, trailing Illinois' 16 wins. Iowa's .588 winning percentage trails only that of Illinois (.727).
Iowa lost in the first round in both 1998 and 1999 before winning its first game in the event in 2000. Iowa has been eliminated by the tournament champion in three of the eight previous tournaments, including Michigan in the 1998 quarter-finals, Michigan State in the 2000 quarter-finals and Ohio State in the 2002 title game. The Hawkeyes are one of five teams, along with Illinois (5), Michigan State (2), Ohio State (2) and Wisconsin (2), to appear in more than one championship game.
Iowa Coach Steve Alford, with a 10-5 record, ranks second among all Big Ten coaches in tournament wins. His .667 winning percentage is best among current coaches and ranks second for all league coaches in the tournament.
IOWA BY SEEDING IN THE TOURNAMENT: Iowa was the fourth seed in 2004, the fifth seed in 1998 and 1999, the sixth seed in 2001, the seventh seed in 2000 and 2005 and the ninth seed in 2002 and 2003. Following is Iowa's record in the event, by seeding.
IOWA AT CONSECO FIELDHOUSE: Iowa is 4-2 in Conseco Fieldhouse, including a 3-2 record while taking part in Both Big Ten Tournaments held at the venue. Iowa, in the 2002 Big Ten Tournament, defeated Purdue, Wisconsin and Indiana in three straight days to advance to the title game for the second straight season before falling to Ohio State. Iowa defeated Louisville 70-69 in overtime as part of the John Wooden Tradition early in the 2003-04 season and the Hawkeyes lost to Michigan 79-70 in the quarterfinals of the 2004 Big Ten Tournament.
TOURNAMENT NOTES: The second-seeded team is 14-4 in the tournament. The second seed has gone 3-0 to win the Big Ten Tournament four times (2000, 2002, 2003, 2004) and has recorded a 1-1 record twice (1998, 1999). Michigan State is the only team who lost its opening round game as the second seed, falling to Iowa, 71-69 in the 2005 event.
The top-seeded team in the tournament has lost four times (1998, 2000, 2002, 2003) in the quarter-finals and holds a 9-6 record in the tournament. Michigan State in 1999 and Illinois in 2005 are the only top-seeded teams to win the event. The Big Ten Tournament returns to Chicago in 2006.