The Spartans (10-8, 5-2 conference) can extend their winning streak to three with a win tonight. Michigan State finds themselves just a half game behind Big Ten leader Wisconsin.
The Spartans have rode the outstanding play of sophomore forward Paul Davis who was named Big Ten player of the week for his 32 point performance in a win against Indiana and 19 points in a win against Minnesota.
The Hawkeyes are coming into East Lansing for the only meeting between the two schools after a 77-58 blowout win over Penn State.
"The guys really were eager to get this game going," Alford said after suffering a disappointing loss to Michigan. "I really appreciate their efforts. Any time that you can shoot 71 percent in a half in Big Ten play, you've done something."
Still, Alford knows the Hawkeyes are going into a pivotal stretch of their schedule.
"The schedule is always tough, and it's going to get tougher here down the stretch. We know that. We're playing two teams (Michigan State and Indiana) this week that are ahead of us (in the Big Ten standings). We've put distance between ourselves and Penn State and Minnesota and Ohio State, so we've done some good things there," said the Iowa coach.
"We've got to play Northwestern yet again. Michigan, who beat us, now is one game behind us. We've got to play them again. We're tied with Illinois. We've got to play them again. There are some great games coming up. But this is a pivotal week for us because it's the only one, looking at the way the standings are now, where both opponents are ahead of us. The guys will be ready," said Alford.
Alford missed the team's preparatory practice to attend the funeral of his grandmother in Indiana but is expected to be on the sidelines for tonight's contest.
Meanwhile coach Izzo is warming up to his team after being extremely critical earlier, questioning their toughness.
"I like the way we're starting to play," Izzo said Monday. "We still have our moments where we seem to go into a little bit of a tailspin," said Izzo, but he likes where the Spartans are at this point. "I don't think there is any question we're in the thick of the race," he said.
"A win Wednesday would definitely give us a respectable midway record. God, it'd be great to get another win and be 6-2 in the conference."
The game is expected to be a matchup between Davis and Iowa forward Glen Worley who has carried the slack in the absence of injured 6-11 center Jared Reiner and forward Sean Sonderleiter who left the team to deal with family issues.
The game will be televised on ESPN Plus beginning at 8:00pm EST.