By Susan Harman
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa and Michigan State meet Tuesday at 8 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, which seems like a quick turnaround for both teams after victories on Saturday. But perhaps it’s just the holiday interlude that makes it seem like the games are on top of each other.
On Saturday, the Spartans (11-2, 1-1) won on the road at Penn State, 98-87, while Iowa (13-1, 2-0) beat Minnesota 94-71 at home. You might note both teams scored 90+ points in the process, and you would be correct in thinking the two have similar offensive approaches.
In a way they are mirror images. They are the two top scoring teams in the Big Ten and the top two in margin of victory. Both want to run and will push the pace. Both want to shoot 3-pointers and have multiple players who are dangerous behind the arc. MSU leads the conference in threes made (10.5 per game), while Iowa is second (9.5). Both have key players with a lot of experience.
There are differences. Iowa would seem to have the more potent inside game and has a better field-goal percentage and rebound margin as evidence. The Spartans lead the Big Ten in turnover margin at +9.3, whereas Iowa is eighth at less than one. The Spartans will show a press on defense that takes advantage of their quickness.
MSU has a more balanced scoring attack with five players averaging at least 10 points, led by grad student Moira Joiner (16.4 points, 5.1 rebounds), fifth-year forward Julia Ayrault (14.4, 7.2) and junior point guard DeeDee Hageman (14.1). Hageman leads the conference in assists.
The Spartans’ losses came to No. 21 Creighton on a neutral site and at home to Nebraska. Their schedule is otherwise not impressive. They have a new coach, Robyn Fralick, who was successful at Bowling Green. Forward Jocelyn Tate, who migrated to East Lansing with Fralick, starts for MSU.
One other difference, and it’s a big one, is the Hawkeyes have Caitlin Clark. Clark’s talents and her teammates’ experience should tend to neutralize the impact of MSU’s press. Clark is also the nation’s leading scorer (30.9 ppg) and is shooting 40 percent from 3-point range.
The game is being shown on Peacock, a pay subscription service, and is one of seven Iowa games to be aired on that network.
BIG TEN EVALUATION. It’s only two games into the season, so it’s premature to evaluate the women’s basketball teams. But let’s do it anyway.
Michigan’s defeat of Ohio State raised some eyebrows. Probably because Michigan stumbled through the non-conference season. Its 23-point loss at Toledo had some thinking this was going to be a rare down year for the Wolverines under Kim Barnes-Arico. But they pummeled Illinois on the road to open the Big Ten before falling to Florida at a neutral site.
The game against the Buckeyes was in Ann Arbor, and the rivalry is alive and well. So the jury is probably still out on whether Michigan will challenge for the title. And for OSU, it’s a road game. The Bucks will regroup and still be tough at home and against teams who can’t handle their full-court press.
Illinois is one of the oddest 0-2 teams in the league. The Illini were a hair away from upsetting Indiana in Bloomington Sunday. Their other loss was that blowout at home to Michigan. They should dispatch Wisconsin before having to travel to Nebraska.
Iowa and Indiana are doing what was expected. The Hawkeyes will have two road games after Tuesday, at Rutgers and at Purdue. The game at Purdue could be particularly interesting.
Maryland is 9-4, 1-1 and coming off a loss at Nebraska; it was the first time the Terps have lost in Lincoln. They had some big non-conference losses to very good teams like No. 1 South Carolina, UConn and Washington State. Their conference win was home against Northwestern.
The Terps have a lot of work to do after suffering ghastly losses to the transfer portal the last three years.
So far, Nebraska is exceeding expectations after winning at Illinois and beating Maryland for the first time in history in Lincoln. But, a lot of games to play.