The Minnesota Golden Gophers (12-11, 6-7 Big 10) host the No. 21 Iowa Hawkeyes (17-8, 8-6 Big 10) in a Sunday showdown inside Williams Arena in Minneapolis. The Gophers hope to avenge a 20-point blowout (72-52) early in the season in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes, reeling from a loss at Indiana on Thursday, look to bounce back and sweep the season series against Minnesota and position themselves in the top half of the Big 10 standings. Minnesota opened as a -3 point favorite.
What to Know – Iowa
After a five-game winning streak through January, the Hawkeyes have dropped three of their last five contests. All three of those losses have come on the road to conference opponents. Like a majority of Big 10 teams, Iowa is just 1-5 in road conference contests.
Already short-handed, the Hawkeyes were dealt a major blow Thursday night when one of its offensive weapons, guard CJ Fredricks (10.7 ppg), suffered an ankle injury.
Without one of its most efficient shooters, look for Iowa’s to continue to lean on the conference’s leading scorer, Luka Garza (23.7 ppg, 9.8 rpg). In the loss Thursday, Garza scored 38 points and with eight rebounds and four blocked shots.
Behind Garza, sophomore guard Joe Wieskamp (15.4 ppg) adds an additional element to a Hawkeyes offense that ranks 19th in the nation in scoring.
While the Hawkeyes feature one of the top-scoring offenses in the league, its 72.4 points per game allowed on defense is the second-most in the conference. One of the keys to Iowa’s efficient offense is its positive assist-to-turnover ratio (1.43), which ranks top in the Big 10 and sixth in the country.
KenPom has the Hawkeyes ranked 21st while its NET rank is a little lower at 30th.
What to Know – Minnesota
Each game for the Gophers is pivotal for its chances of securing a bid in the NCAA Tournament. The Gophers are in a similar position as the Hawkeyes, having dropped four of its last six games and falling to the bottom half of the conference standings.
A win at home against Iowa would be a much-needed quad one victory for its tournament resume. Minnesota is 10-2 this season inside “The Barn.”
Sophomore forward Daniel Oturu is right behind Garza in the league scoring, averaging 20.1 points per game on 58% shooting from the field. Guards Marcus Carr (15.7) and Gabe Kalscheur (11.7 ppg) add additional offensive scoring options to a Gophers lineup that averages 70.5 points per game.
Minnesota ranks near the bottom of the conference in offensive statistics, but fair much better at home than on the road.
Defensively, the Gophers allow 66.2 points per game, which ranks 8th in the league. Unlike its opponent, Minnesota has been able to successfully avoid the injury bug. Minnesota’s 52 points scored in its last outing against the Hawkeyes was its second-lowest scoring output of the season.
The Pick is In
It has been nearly impossible to win on the road this season in Big Ten conference play. Both of these teams are trying to stop the recent bleeding with the home team needing a marque victory down the stretch to impress the selection committee. The additional loss of Iowa’s third-leading scorer leads us to side with Minnesota -3.