|Michigan vs Iowa
Saturday, March 5 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 8 p.m. ET | Big Ten Network
|Line: Iowa -1
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|Caris LeVert (16.5), Derrick Walton (12.2)
||Jarrod Uthoff (18.4), Peter Jok (16.0)
|Derick Walton (5.7), Caris LeVert (5.3)
||Adam Woodbury (8.4), Jarrod Uthoff (6.4)
The regular season isn’t the only thing that comes to a close tonight when Michigan host the 16th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes. So too do the careers of Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert. The only two seniors on the team will be honored for their contributions to the program the last four years, but despite all they have accomplished they’ll be in street clothes rather than tying up the laces one last time in the Crisler Center.
Albrecht’s senior season came to an end in December when hip injuries — for which he had surgery last offseason — became too much to bear. LeVert injured his left foot — which has nagged him since his sophomore season — during the first Big Ten game on Dec. 30, and although he tried to return against Purdue on Feb. 13, he played just 11 minutes and ultimately decided to hang them up.
Without their two senior leaders, Michigan has struggled with consistency during Big Ten play. On one night they beat Maryland or Purdue. The next night they lose by double digits. At 20-10 overall and 10-7 in the Big Ten, they desperately need a win over Iowa to make the NCAA Tournament.
Iowa has had its own struggles as of late, dropping four straight and five of their last six since starting the season 19-4 overall and 10-1 in conference. After the first week of February the Hawkeyes looked to be the clear-cut Big Ten title favorite. But the losses have piled up, first at Indiana, who will win the Big Ten, and then Penn State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Indiana again. The only win since Valentines Day was a four-point home win over bottom-feeder Minnesota.
Senior forward Jarrod Uthoff (6-foot-9, 221), a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate, leads Iowa and ranks second in the conference, with 18.4 points per game. He’s also the team’s second-leading rebounder, averaging 6.4 per game, and leads the team and conference with 2.7 blocks per game. He scored 23 in the season’s first meeting on 9-of-20 shooting.
Junior guard Peter Jok (6-foot-6, 205) is the only other Hawkeye averaging double figures with 16.0 points per game. He has taken (166) and made (69) the most three-pointers on the team, shooting at a 41.6 percent clip. Since scoring 16 in the first meeting, he has six games of 20 or more points and is averaging 18.8 points in that 12 game span.
Senior guard Anthony Clemmons (6-foot-2, 200) averages 9.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. He managed just five points in the first meeting, but followed it up with a season-high 20 against Rutgers four days later.
Senior guard Mike Gesell (6-foot-2, 190) averages 8.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, and a team-high 6.0 assists per game. He’s not a big-time scorer with just five games in double figures during Big Ten play, but he can when needed as he did with 25 points in a Dec. 29 win over Michigan State.
The fifth and final starter is senior center Adam Woodbury (7-foot-1, 250), who averages 7.9 points and leads the team with 8.4 rebounds per game. He scored 12 against Michigan the first time around, but hasn’t scored more than six points in any of the last five games.
Sophomore forward Dom Uhl is the only other player who has started a game for Iowa’s veteran squad this season. He averages 6.4 points and 3.8 assists per contest and leads the team with a 47.1 percent three-point rate.
Fran McCaffrey doesn’t rely much on his bench, but aside from Uhl, redshirt freshman Nicholas Baer (6-foot-7, 200), freshman forward Ahmad Wagner (6-foot-7, 225), and freshman guard Christian Williams (6-foot-6, 200) get the minutes. Baer scored seven against Michigan in the first meeting, the second most he’s scored in Big Ten play, while Wagner scored five.
Iowa is the Big Ten’s third-best scoring team at 78.8 points per game. The Hawkeyes rank seventh in shooting (45.2 percent), fourth in three-point shooting (38.6 percent), and seventh in free throw percentage (71.8 percent). Defensively, Iowa gives up the ninth-most fewest points per game (69.0). They rank sixth in field goal percentage defense (41.5 percent) and second against the three (31.0 percent).
Iowa is favored by one point, and although they’re squarely in the Big Dance, they would like to gain some momentum heading into it. Michigan, meanwhile, is playing for its postseason life. A win would likely give Michigan enough of a resume to earn an at-large bid, especially if the Wolverines win their first Big Ten Tournament game. A loss, however, would leave Michigan with considerable work to do in Indianapolis next week. And that’s not an enviable position to be in.