Iowa (10-21) vs. Michigan (14-16)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 11th, 2:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Conseco Fieldhouse (18,345) -- Indianapolis, Indiana. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Iowa 9-9, Michigan 10-6. Away Record: Iowa 1-10, Michigan 3-8. Neutral Record: Iowa 0-2, Michigan 1-2. Conference Record: Iowa 4-14, Michigan 7-11. Series Record: Michigan leads, 86-57.
GAME NOTES: The opening game of the 2010 Big Ten Conference Tournament pits the ninth-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes against the eighth-seeded Michigan Wolverines. This is the third straight year that Iowa and Michigan have met in the first round of this event, and the winner will advance to the quarterfinals on Friday to challenge top-seeded Ohio State.
Iowa, which has a pair of Big Ten Tournament titles to its credit (2001, 2006), is 13-10 all-time in the gathering. The Hawkeyes (10-21, 4-14) have had a season they would rather forget, and they have won just once in 13 games outside of Iowa City. UI comes into the postseason having lost its last two games, and five of its last six overall.
Michigan, which has a 5-10 mark all-time in this event, won the inaugural Big Ten Tournament in 1998 by defeating Purdue in a 76-67 final. Unfortunately, that victory was vacated due to NCAA sanctions, and the team has not appeared in the title tilt since. This year, the Wolverines (14-16, 7-11) limp into the postseason having lost four of their last five games, and they have performed poorly outside of Ann Arbor all season, going just 3-8 in true road games and 4-10 when you factor in a 1-2 mark in neutral-site affairs.
Michigan won both games against Iowa during the regular season to take an 86-57 lead in the all-time series.
Struggles at both ends of the court hurt the Hawkeyes this season, as they average a league-low 60.8 ppg while surrendering 66.2 ppg to rank ninth. Additionally, Iowa ranks last in the Big Ten in turnover margin (-2.74) and doesn't have a player ranked in the top-15 on the league's scoring chart. Matt Gatens (12.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.3 apg) and Aaron Fuller (9.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg) both received All-Big Ten Honorable Mention honors, but neither is capable of carrying a team. A 35-point loss at Minnesota in the regular-season finale was anything but a confidence-booster, but it wasn't for a lack of effort on Fuller's part as he went 6-of-11 from the field to net 16 points. Gatens and Eric May also finished in double figures with 10 points apiece, but a 4-of-17 showing from three-point range coupled with the fact that the Golden Gophers dropped 58.5 percent of their total shots, including a 12-of-19 effort from downtown, led to the lopsided defeat.
Michigan boasts two double-digit scorers in the form of Manny Harris (17.7 ppg, 4.1 apg) and DeShawn Sims (16.9 ppg, 7.7 rpg), both All-Big Ten performers who finished the regular season ranked in the top-five on the league's scoring list. The team as a whole is netting just 64.4 ppg and shooting a mere 41.5 percent from the floor to rank 10th in the conference in both categories. Foes are also doing a number on the Maize and Blue on the glass, outrebounding the club by 4.0 caroms per contest. Michigan does a good job protecting the ball, turning it over just 10.2 times per game. The Wolverines were outclassed in their regular-season finale at hated rival Michigan State last weekend, falling to the Spartans in a 64-48 final. Zack Gibson came off the bench to score a team-high 10 points, as UM shot just 34.9 percent from the field, a mere 19.0 percent from beyond the arc and committed 19 turnovers while being outrebounded by a 36-24 margin. The Spartans scored 38 points in the paint, compared to just 18 for the Wolverines.
Neither team is capable of making a deep run in this tournament, but the Hawkeyes are clearly the inferior group and will succumb to the Wolverines in this one. Expect Harris and Sims to load the team on their backs and lead Michigan into the quarterfinals where it will take on No. 1 seed Ohio State.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan 69, Iowa 60
03/11 10:28:21 ET