MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – It’s safe to say that Wednesday’s night’s match-up between Iowa and Minnesota is not going to be drawing in huge viewing numbers for the Big Ten Network.
Two teams coming towards the end of very disappointing seasons will meet at Williams Arena for an 8PM tip. Iowa has lost five straight, with their last win being against the Gophers in Iowa City three weeks ago. Minnesota is 2-12 since the turn of the calendar and has not tasted victory in over a month.
The last time these two met, Iowa put together their best half of basketball of the entire season, scoring 57 points in the second half in a 14-point win that could have been by more. But since then, the Hawkeyes have cratered both offensively and defensively. In the three road games since then, they’ve failed to eclipse 64 points in a single game.
In last year’s matchup against the Gophers in Minneapolis, Iowa had a victory stolen away from them due to poor refereeing at the end of regulation. A win there likely would have helped send Iowa to the NCAA tournament. This time around, two teams that high expectations and will both be (barring a miracle) missing the NCAA tournament will meet at The Barn. It is always a difficult place to play, regardless of the quality of the Minnesota team. Besides blowout losses to top-15 Purdue and top-10 Michigan State, Minnesota has been competitive in every game at home.
The Gophers have been struggling with injury and suspension all season, and that won’t change for Wednesday’s matchup. Talented but troubled forward Reggie Lynch didn’t play against Iowa the last time out, and has since been expelled from the university. Crafty sophomore guard Amir Coffey missed the last game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena with a shoulder injury that he has since had season-ending surgery on. The Gophers are ailing.
The last time around, Iowa was able to take advantage of the ailing roster by working the ball around and shooting a bunch of threes – the Gophers are, like Iowa, very bad at defending the three point line. Iowa got 4 threes apiece from Isaiah Moss and Jordan Bohannon in that victory. Neither player has been playing their best basketball recently, so a return to form will be necessary.
Iowa could also use a big game inside from Tyler Cook, who was really good against Indiana on Saturday. He was very good in the first game against the Gophers, but was outclassed by Jordan Murphy, who dropped 21 points and had 17 rebounds in the Gophers’ loss. Cook will need to defend better inside.
Prediction: Iowa wins, 88-84. It seems crazy to pick Iowa to win a game right now, especially on the road, where they’ve played so poorly, but Minnesota has somehow been even worse in their recent stretch, and has a lot of off-court issues they’re tangling with.