The Iowa basketball team is taking on #6 Michigan State Thursday and this win, more so than most, would mean a lot for Fran McCaffery and the program.
In the history of the men’s Iowa basketball program, the Hawks have played 249 different opponents. Of those 249 opponents, the Hawks winning percentage against the Michigan State Spartans is 217th out of those 249 teams. In fact, Iowa’s .424 winning percentage against Michigan State is actually the second worst winning percentage in the history of Iowa basketball vs any team that they have played more than eight games. The only team that has beaten Iowa more is Michigan.
While Michigan State’s overall success is daunting, what’s worse is their recent success against the Iowa basketball program. Not only did the Spartans smack around Fran McCafery’s team earlier in this season beating them 90-68, but they’ve been slapping the Hawkeyes around for the better part of the last decade. In the last twenty games, the Spartans own a 17-3 record against Iowa. Against a Fran McCaffery-coached team, the Spartans own a 12-3 record.
Fran’s first win against the Spartans came in his first game against the Spartans while the other two both came during the Iowa basketball team’s somewhat magical 2016 season that saw them rise to as high as 3rd in the nation before struggling down the stretch.
This game though, is more important that most. From a short-term point of view, the Iowa basketball team has 16 wins but no true marquee wins against a team of Michigan State’s stature. Moreover, the Hawks were embarrassed in East Lansing in December. This is a fantastic opportunity for Iowa to put enact revenge against the Spartans.
Long-term, however, this game would signify a turning of the tide. The Spartans top three scorers are all juniors, where as the Iowa basketball team is led by a junior (Tyler Cook), a sophomore (Luka Garza), and a freshman (Joe Wieskamp). This team isn’t built for just one year like the 2016 Iowa basketball team; they are built to compete for the next couple of years. Moreover, Fran is bringing in some strong prospects including his other son Patrick McCaffery, a top-100 player out of Iowa City West.
While the Hawks are certainly not going to be favored Thursday, despite playing at Carver Hawkeye Arena, they have a strong chance of changing the fortunes of a program that is looking to put itself back on the map in the Fran McCaffery era after two disappointing seasons.
Beating Michigan State is that gigantic leap that is needed to move from pretender to contender.