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Home Cookin’: Iowa Hawkeyes Reopen Conference Play Against Michigan Wolverines

Someone’s five game winning streak will come to an end tonight.

NCAA Basketball: Northern Illinois at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

After the Iowa Hawkeyes (9-6, 0-2) close the non-conference season on a five-game winning streak, they face the Michigan Wolverines (12-3, 1-1) who are on an identical tear. Theirs is a more impressive run: an overtime home win against UCLA, a close road victory against Texas, and three sub-300 teams.

John Beilein’s bunch is the best team Iowa has faced since losing to Virginia Tech, and are arguably better than the Hokies. They return Moritz Wagner after a brief dalliance with the NBA Draft. So far this season, he’s averaged 14.9 points and 7.5 rebounds in 26.9 minutes. Though Wagner can stretch it to the three, he’s made his mark inside the arc in Beilein’s wide open scheme. His 64.4% shooting is better than anyone on the Hawkeyes.

His strong play is indicative of a slight shift in Beilein’s normally 3-point happy scheme. 50.8% of their points are scored from two, which is the highest its been since 2013. Though their 37.1% of points from three still rank highly across college basketball, it’s a dip for Beilein. Closing the loop are free throws, where the Wolverines do not typically go, as they rate in the bottom 20 for FTA/FGA.

Supporting Wagner in his 2-point endeavors are transfer sophomore Charles Matthews and eight-year seniors Duncan Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman. Matthews has been another go-to guy for Beilein as he’s averaging 16.1 points, 3.2 assists, and 5.1 boards. Like Wagner, Matthews makes his hay from two, as he shoots nearly 30 percentage points higher from there than three (64.3% vs. 34.8%). He’ll be a force for Isaiah Moss to contain. It is worth noting that he struggles from the free throw line with an average of 52.5%.

Rahkman and Robinson are gonna do what they’ve done throughout their whole time in Ann Arbor: shoot it if they’re open, move it if they’re not, and not turn it over. Joining these four in the starting lineup is freshman Eli Brooks. With so many playmakers on the team, he’s not called upon to do much and his limited minutes (and stats) back that up.

It’s hard to overstate how important of a game it is for Iowa to restart conference play on the correct foot. Shortly after the tussle with Michigan, Iowa will face Ohio State and Maryland before the week ends. What do they need to do to ensure the good times continue to roll?

Keep the offense going. Michigan’s defense is more highly rated, in terms of efficiency, than all but one team (Penn State) the Hawkeyes have faced this season. Expecting Iowa to maintain the 34:8 assist-to-turnover ratio they had against Northern Illinois would be a fool’s errand. But I’d still like to see them be aesthetically pleasing, in terms of ball and player movement, like they were on Friday.

Pound the glass. Michigan is as good as anybody in the country, in terms of locking down the defensive boards. Yet, in two of their three losses, they allowed opponents to rebound their missed shots at a 35%+ clip. Iowa should be able to replicate that gameplan with the girth down low of Tyler Cook and others. They’ll be at the advantage down low on offense but need to keep up with Duncan Robinson on the defensive side of the floor.

Limit easy shots. John Beilein is a gifted offensive mind and regularly finds players who fit his system. So the Wolverines will be have plethora of open shots. What Iowa can do is hustle back in transition defense and force them to move the ball on offense.

With the Hawkeyes riding a five-game winning streak in the series, hopefully they can turn two five game winning streaks into six.