MSU will begin its Big Ten Tournament title defense at 9 tonight (Big Ten Network) when it takes on Iowa in a quarterfinal at the United Center.
It will be the first meeting between the teams since early January when the Spartans escaped Iowa City with a 62-59 victory.
Iowa is now one of the hottest teams in the conference with wins in seven of their last nine games. That includes a 73-59 win over Northwestern in a tournament first-round game Thursday night.
“They have played awfully well and have won as many as anyone else it seems like in the conference,” MSU coach Tom Izzo said of the 21-11 Hawkeyes.
Iowa is the No. 6 seed for the tournament – the same seed they were in 2001 when they won the tournament with four wins in four days. They are also a desperate team fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives. That’s why some like our columnist Graham Couch believe the Spartans are in a prime spot for an upset.
Roy Devyn Marble has keyed Iowa’s hot play down the stretch. He averaged 17.6 points in Iowa’s final seven regular season games and led the Hawkeyes with 19 points in their win over Northwestern on Thursday.
While Iowa is desperate, MSU is trying to earn the championship it wasn’t able to secure during the regular season. Izzo also believes confidence will also be an important factor for his team and believes doing well in a conference tournament that features four teams ranked in the top 10 of the national rankings can provide a boost heading into the NCAA Tournament.
“You can argue that whoever does win this thing is gonna feel like it has as good of chance asÂ anybody of winning the NCAA Tournament just in ranked teams alone unless there’s a bunch of upsets early and someones not playing those kind of teams to win it,” Izzo said.
“… It would be prestigious to win this tournament this year with the number of teams in it that are so good.”
Here is the tipoff for the Iowa matchup. What are your thoughts and predictions for tonight’s game?