The Michigan Wolverines come to town to take on your Iowa Hawkeyes, and folks, let’s get down to the nitty gritty - this is going to be a pretty dang important series moving forward for Big Ten Tournament implications. Only eight teams make the tournament, and right now, the Hawks sit in eighth place, just a half game ahead of Rutgers. While Iowa has nine games left, six of which are against Northwestern and Penn State (both of whom are 1-14 in Big Ten play heading into the weekend), it’s important to take a game - or hopefully two or three! - against the Wolverines as to not become dependent on being an eight seed come tourney time.
The only thing that stands between Iowa and a couple victories this weekend is, well, the Wolverines. The Wolverines who have won 20 straight games and are 11-0 in conference play.
No big deal.
Friday: 6:05 p.m. CT
Probables: LHP Nick Allgeyer (4-3, 2.27 ERA) vs. LHP Tommy Henry (7-0, 2.49 ERA)
Saturday: 2:05 p.m. CT
Probables: RHP Brady Schanuel (5-5, 4.89 ERA) vs. LHP Ben Dragani (4-0, 1.98 ERA)
Sunday: 11:05 a.m. CT
Probables: RHP Cole McDonald (3-1, 2.89 ERA) vs. RHP Karl Kauffman (5-2, 2.76 ERA)
Previewing the Wolverines
Alright, so as I previously hinted at up top, Michigan has been red hot for about a month or so now, with their last loss coming on March 14th to something called Lawrence Tech. They’re 24-11 overall, 11-0 in conference play, and on that previously mentioned 20-game winning streak, which is incredible any way you slice it. To win 20 straight games against any competition shows a certain amount of dominance and consistency that’s hard to find.
On the other hand, you might’ve done the math and noticed that before this epic winning streak, they started the season out 4-11! Despite being first in the Big Ten standings, their RPI is 50th in the country, which is only good for fifth in the conference. This is because they haven’t exactly played a murderer’s row of teams thus far in 2018 - they’ve swept Michigan State, who’s just barely ahead of Iowa in the standings at seventh, and they’ve also swept Maryland, Northwestern, and Penn State, all of whom occupy the bottom three spots in the Big Ten and have a combined five wins in conference play. The best team they’ve played this season is Stanford, who is actually first in the country in RPI, and they dropped three of four to the Cardinal to begin March.
All of this is to say that Michigan is potentially elite and also very average, all at once! I’d place my money somewhere in the middle, probably closer to average than elite, until proven otherwise. Now, if they come into Iowa City and curb stomp the Hawkeyes this weekend? Yeah, I’ll believe that they’re as good as they have been. But I think this is a beatable team that hasn’t faced very strong competition in quite some time. After all, Iowa hasn’t been a pushover all season despite their relatively low spot in the standings.
You can find Michigan’s stats here. Their rotation is actually pretty impressive, particularly Tommy Henry and Ben Dragani. They have a few really solid guys in their bullpen, although if things go awry for the starters this weekend, they don’t have a lot of depth back there. Could be something to look out for if things shake out well for the Hawks. Blake Beers has a 99.00 ERA in two appearances, but his name is also Blake Beers so yeah that guy is probably pretty good.
On the offensive side of things, they have six guys hitting over .300 and are led by Jonathan Engelmann, who hits a robust .360 and also leads the team in hits, runs, RBI, and stolen bases. Something to note is that Michigan doesn’t have all that high of a team batting average - they’re hitting .276 as a team, which isn’t bad, but Iowa’s faced much better hitting teams in recent weeks when they’ve played Minnesota and Ohio State.
How to Watch
All three games will be streamable on BTN Plus ($$$) and you can listen to them wherever the Hawkeye Radio Network is available. You can, of course, also attend the games this weekend if you’re in town, and it might not be such a bad idea - there’s a high of 72 in Iowa City on Friday (and also a low of 37 but whatever) and a high of 65 on Sunday. Good baseball weather in the forecast, for once!