Iowa basketball: Hawks ready to take on Michigan State Spartans

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 15: Ryan Kriener #15 of the Iowa Hawkeyes reacts during the second half of the game against Oregon Ducks during the 2k Empire Classic at Madison Square Garden on November 15, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 15: Ryan Kriener #15 of the Iowa Hawkeyes reacts during the second half of the game against Oregon Ducks during the 2k Empire Classic at Madison Square Garden on November 15, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

The men’s Iowa basketball team needs to have short memories as they get ready to take on the Michigan State Spartans in Lansing tomorrow evening.

Friday evening the #14 ranked Iowa basketball team fell to the #22 ranked Wisconsin Badgers, but there is no time to look in the past as the Hawks have another tough Big Ten battle less than 72 hours later. Tomorrow evening, the Iowa basketball team heads to Lansing, Michigan to take on the #9 ranked Michigan State Spartans who are fresh off a Big Ten opening win over Rutgers.

This will be the toughest test the men have had to face so far this season. Sure, they have had a few tough battles like taking on the ranked Oregon Ducks at a neutral site and taking on a solid UConn squad in what was essentially a home game for the Huskies and squaring off against Wisconsin is always difficult. Tomorrow night, however, will undoubtedly be the biggest game of the season so far for the Hawkeyes.

The 6-1 Iowa basketball team heads to a tough environment in Lansing to play the 6-2 Michigan State Spartans who, in the preseason, were one of the favorites to win the conference and potentially make a run at the Final Four. In a relatively short season thus far though, Tom Izzo’s squad has already been tested starting with their opening season loss to the top-ranked team in the nation, Kansas and followed by a tougher than expected game against Louisville in the Big Ten/ACC challenge. Izzo’s team lost both of those games, but that doesn’t mean expectations aren’t supremely high for this team.

If anything, it means they have a small chip on their shoulder as they begin their Big Ten slate of games. For an Iowa basketball team coming off a tough loss to Wisconsin at home, it will be important that they have short memories and can back to playing outstanding basketball.

Iowa basketball head coach Fran McCaffrey had this to say in his post-game press conference Friday night about turning things around quickly.

"I thought we did some really good things. I don’t think we played that well in the first half and fought to a tie. So you treat it like any other situation: You review the film. You make your teaching points. You move on to Michigan State."

How do the Hawks match up?

Like the Hawks, Michigan state’s lineup is filled with experienced players, and there is only one true freshman playing more than ten minutes per game (three-star forward Aaron Henry). Unlike the Hawks, the Spartans rely on their guard duo of juniors Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford to carry the team.

Winston is currently averaging 17.9 points per game on 45% shooting from the field and 43% shooting from three-point while leading the team in minutes with 31.1 minutes per game. He is also leading the team in assists dishing out 7.1 per game. Langford, meanwhile is scoring just a tick below Winston at 17.5 points per game on 47% shooting from the field and 45% shooting from three-point while averaging 29.8 minutes per contest.

The third in command for the Spartans is forward Nick Ward who is comparable to Iowa’s star forward Tyler Cook in size. Ward stands 6’8” and 250 pounds and is averaging 14.6 points per game in 21.1 minutes per game. He, however, is not the leading rebounder. That belongs to senior forward Kenny Groins who is getting ten rebounds a game at just 6’6”.

The three keys to this game will be how well Iowa’s perimeter players defend Winston and Langford, if Cook and Luke Garza can use their size advantage relative to Michigan State’s smaller lineup to put up points and create a rebound advantage, and how much foul trouble can the Hawks force the Spartans into.

It’s well-known at this point in the season that the Iowa basketball team is adept at putting teams in foul trouble and getting to the line (they are averaging the second-most free throws per game in the nation). Against Michigan State, this couldn’t be a more perfect storm as Izzo’s squad is relatively undisciplined this season. They currently average 20.4 fouls per game which is 275th in the nation.

In just 24 hours, we will find out if the Iowa basketball team is up to the challenge. They didn’t perform their best against Wisconsin and still almost managed to win. If they can win the three battles above and improve on their three-point shooting (which is expected to be a strength of this team, yet they are shooting 32%), then there could be an upset brewing. According to Vegas, Michigan State is favored by ten points.

Tip off is set for 530 PM CST and the game will be aired on FS1. As always, you can find us on twitter (@DearOldGold) live tweeting thoughts and analysis of the game as it’s taking place, and we will have a full recap post game.

Go Hawks!