Last season, Michigan (2-0) was just one game away from taking the championship home. They played toe-to-toe with Louisville before losing a six-point game. Gone are players like Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke, and Mitch McGary (due to injury, but he was warming up before the game), but plenty of Wolverines remain intact to keep the team being a national championship contender in a loaded Big Ten conference.
For Iowa State (2-0), this is a game that can finally garner the Cyclones some national attention.
(7)Michigan Wolverines vs Iowa State Cyclones
Hilton Coliseum | Ames, Iowa
Tipoff: Sunday, 4:00 PM CT | TV: ESPN2
Hilton Coliseum is one of the best college basketball atmospheres in the nation, and has been hell for many of the Big 12’s top teams to overcome no matter what kind of team takes the court. Now with one of the potential best teams Iowa State has fielded since the beginning of this millennium, this could be the beginning of getting back to being one of the Big 12’s best.
What to watch for
Melvin Ejim isn’t expected to play in the game, a huge loss as far as matchups go in the frontcourt for the Cyclones (but was warming up before the game, so he potentially could play). He was the Big 12’s leading rebounder last season, but they can overcome it if the combination of DeAndre Kane, Dustin Hogue, and Georges Niang can make up for Ejim.
They’ll need to prevent Michigan from grabbing the offensive boards. The Wolverines are ranked 35th nationally averaging 6.5 offensive rebounds per game.
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Three-point shots will also need to drain at some point for the Cyclones. Michigan’s defense has been stellar so far, holding teams to just 50.5 points per game (second-best nationally), but they haven’t been stretched out because neither of the two teams they faced were good three-point shooting teams.
If Iowa State can avoid a slow start from the perimeter, they could gain a fast start and make things tough for Michigan all day.
Without Ejim, this challenge for Iowa State gets a little tougher, but being at home already gives them an edge in momentum and they can feed off the crowd.
Both teams have had a couple of layup games and they’re still in the stages of players getting settled into the season. But Iowa State has found their groove early from the perimeter, and multiple players that weren’t involved last season are making huge contributions this year, like Naz Long scoring more in the first game of this season than he scored all of last season, and freshmen Matt Thomas and Monte Morris getting extended playing time in blowouts.
There’s enough depth on the Cyclones to overcome missing Ejim. They’re happy that he’s expected to return earlier than what was predicted when he first hyper-extended his knee, but if they can still get the boards and knock down 3’s, that will be enough to overcome a spectacular Wolverine defense.
Expect them team to be much more focused at the start of the game and DeAndre Kane to make a statement in this game. Hilton Coliseum will rock all afternoon long, and the Cyclones will celebrate a hard-fought victory.
IAST 74, MICH 70 (Odds: ISU -1, U144)