Iowa vs. Michigan NCAA Basketball Preview

Hunter Dickinson #1 of the Michigan Wolverines puts up two points over the defense. Jamie Sabau/Getty Images/AFP
Hunter Dickinson #1 of the Michigan Wolverines puts up two points over the defense. Jamie Sabau/Getty Images/AFP

There are eight ranked teams in action on Thursday’s college basketball odds card, but just one game pitting top 25 squads and the matchup between the Iowa Hawkeyes and Michigan Wolverines definitely grabs the top line on the marquee.


Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Michigan Wolverines

at Crisler Center

Michigan comes in ranked No. 3 in the land while Iowa holds down the 9/12 slots in the AP and coaches rankings, respectively. The Wolverines are atop the Big Ten standings, clinging to a 1-game entering play on Thursday. Just two games behind are the Hawkeyes who face one of the toughest schedule draws in the country with consecutive road games against top 5 teams, a trip to Columbus to meet the Ohio State Buckeyes following this one on Saturday.

Hawkeyes Games on a 5-Game ‘Under’ Run

As one would expect with a game of this magnitude, it will be carried nationally by ESPN with a very sparse crowd allowed inside the Ann Arbor arena. The contest opened with Michigan favored by 3½ and 157½ for the total, but early action shifted those numbers to -5/156 at Bet365.

Fran McCaffrey guided his Hawkeyes out of a rough patch that saw them drop four out of five from late-January into early-February. Iowa has since won four in a row, covering the lines at USA betting sites in three of the victories. Known more for having an offense that ranks third in the nation averaging better than 86 points a game, the Hawkeyes have stiffened on defense during the current win streak, holding opponents to 63.5 PPG compared to a season average that is nearly 10 point higher. The result has been the last five falling short of the totals.

Included in the stretch were spread winners at Michigan State and Wisconsin, but the latest triumph took place last weekend in Iowa City where the Hawkeyes scored a 74-68 decision against Penn State. Looking ahead to this week’s schedule perhaps, Iowa found itself in a dogfight early and trailed the Nittany Lions by 5 at halftime. The Hawkeyes clamped down on defense in the second half, holding Penn State to a couple of prolonged scoring droughts that totaled nearly nine minutes. Luka Garza moved atop Iowa’s all-time scoring chart with 23 to lead all scorers, adding 11 boards for his 10th double-double of the season.

UM 7th in Country Shooting 50.2%

While Garza is among the top candidates for Player of the Year honors, Juwan Howard is in the running for top coach hardware with the job he’s done in just his second season at Michigan. The Wolverines still have just the one loss, and survived a long spell of postponements dealing with the virus. They’ve come out of that by winning three in a row, including tough ones on the road at Wisconsin and Ohio State.

Howard described last Sunday’s 92-87 win over the Buckeyes as “a boxing match,” the physical contest featuring one lead change after another and Ohio State’s valiant effort to catch the Wolverines at the end. Michigan closed as slight 1½-point chalk on the sports betting front, and the final easily got past a 144½-point total thanks to the two sides each shooting better than 53%. Hitting their shots has been the Wolverines’ calling card, Michigan 7th in the country netting 50.2% of its field goals, and 16th from 3-point range (38.7%).

Home Teams 5-1 SU & ATS Last 6 Matchups

Thursday’s tilt is the only scheduled clash between the two teams this season, though it’s easy to imagine another taking place in the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan has a commanding 96-65 lead in the rivalry after the splitting a pair with Iowa last season. Each side won and covered on their homecourts, which has been the norm in the series recently with home teams going 5-1 straight-up and against the spread the last six meetings.

The matchup at Crisler last season was an offensive show, Michigan prevailing 101-93 as 7-point chalk. It was the conference opener for both teams, and they came ready to score while the refs came ready to blow their whistles. Garza was a beast with 44 points, but got little help from the rest of his teammates while six Wolverines scored in double figures.

Can Iowa get tough and trade blows with Michigan in a physical game and, if so, will the referees allow it? It’s liable to get testy between these two heavyweights, and I’m counting on the Wolverines to deliver the knockout punch with my free NCAA basketball pick.

Free NCAAB Pick: Michigan -5 (-110) at Bet365