Who says important college basketball games aren’t played in December? The Big Ten has continued to make at least the first week of the month relevant with its decision to play two conference games at the start of the month. That has given the conference the opportunity to showcase itself on national television during a relative downtime in the regular season. The Michigan State Spartans will look to capitalize on having the spotlight when they host the Iowa Hawkeyes this Monday night.
Iowa has already announced that guard CJ Fredrick and forward Jack Nunge will be redshirting this year, and it’s unlikely that Fran McCaffery takes off their redshirts barring injuries to other players on the roster. Cordell Pemsl has just elected to have season-ending knee surgery after aggravating an old high school injury, and that will ding the depth in the frontcourt.
Matt McQuaid is doubtful to see the floor for Michigan State. The senior guard was averaging 26.8 minutes per game prior to suffering a thigh injury in Las Vegas, and he has missed the last two games as a result of that injury.
Michigan State is a double-digit favorite in this one. The Spartans are -10 on the CBB betting line, while the over/under is 156.5. On the year, Iowa is 2-5 ATS, while Michigan State is 5-3 ATS.
What’s at Stake?
The Spartans play one of the toughest schedules in the country, and this will be another chance for them to pick up a quality win. To this point, their only good win was against Texas, while they were unable to defeat either Kansas or Louisville away from home.
Iowa is off to a good start this season, but the Hawkeyes lost to Wisconsin on Friday night. They desperately want to avoid getting off to an 0-2 start in conference play, especially after going 4-14 in Big Ten action last year. They have a good win over Oregon to their credit, and wins over Connecticut and Pittsburgh don’t hurt either.
Both teams face quality opponents in their next games after this one, so they will want to continue to improve. Iowa will host state rivals Iowa State and Northern Iowa before rounding out their non-conference schedule with three cupcakes prior to the start of conference play.
As for Michigan State, the Spartans travel to Florida to face the Gators in another big non-conference clash this weekend, and then they will take on Oakland two weeks later in a game that could give them some trouble before kicking off Big Ten play in earnest.
Cassius Winston has taken a big step forward in his third year with the Spartans. With Miles Bridges now in the NBA, this has become Winston’s team, and he has made the most of it. He is one of the nation’s leaders in assists with 7.1 APG, and he leads the team in scoring too. However, the real question for Winston this year has been whether or not he can improve as a defender.
Thus far, the answer has been no. Winston is in better shape than he was last year, but he is still getting torched by quality guards. Kansas was able to have a lot of success against him, and he fouled out in the loss to Louisville, making some poor decisions on his way to five fouls. He is an incredibly talented player on the offensive end and Tom Izzo needs his playmaking ability on that end, but he must stop making the mistakes that have plagued him in defense.
Fortunately for Winston and the Spartans, Iowa really doesn’t have guards that can take advantage. Jordan Bohannon has been awful from the floor this season, hitting just 32.7 percent of his field goals and 30.6 percent of his threes, and Isaiah Moss hasn’t been much better, shooting around the same from the field but 36.4 percent from three.
The Hawkeyes are hitting less than a third of their three-point attempts and have been led by their frontcourt. Tyler Cook, Luka Garza, and Joe Wieskamp are the top three scorers on the team, and they have been largely efficient. However, they are pretty unlikely to handle Michigan State’s size well.
This is a bad match-up for Iowa. The Hawkeyes can’t exploit Michigan State’s weaknesses, and they are likely to be overpowered in the paint. Take the Spartans here.