As the regular season concludes in Ann Arbor on Saturday, the Iowa Hawkeyes (20-9, Big Ten 11-6) will square up with the Michigan Wolverines (20-10, Big Ten 10-7) at 8:00 PM on BTN. It is senior night in the Crisler Arena, but with Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht sidelined with season ending injuries, this junior-led team will play in their biggest game of the season, with even bigger consequences. Currently sitting on the bubble, the Wolverines will need a win to make the NCAA Tournament. Should they lose, they can kiss those Tournament dreams goodbye, and begin their NIT preparation. “To say that we aren’t aware of it would be lying,” said Derrick Walton Jr. about the magnitude of this matchup.
After letting the Big Ten Conference Championship slip away, the slumping Hawkeyes will try to end its season on a high note. The 15th ranked Iowa squad is looking to avoid their first five game losing streak since the 2010-2011 season, and improve its seeding for the B1G Tournament.
Iowa Player to Watch:
Once a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate, Senior Forward Jarrod Uthoff has been one of the only consistent components in Iowa’s offense. The 6-9, 210 pounder is one of the most prolific scorers in the conference, averaging 18.4 points per game and shooting 44 percent from the field. He is the second leading rebounder for Iowa, averaging 6.4 boards per game. Given space, Uthoff can make a lot of plays happen, and U-M will have to keep him in check from the tip-off.
Michigan Player to Watch:
With the absence of Senior Captain Caris LeVert, junior point guard Derrick Walton Jr. has stepped into the leadership role the second half of this season. “You don’t want to look back,” Derrick said to his team, “take the moment for what it’s worth. Buy into it.” Walton averages 32 minutes per game with 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. Look for this leader to have a big outing going into a must-win scenario.
This game factors heavily into whether or not Michigan will make the NCAA Tournament or not, and with the stakes on the line on Senior night, Michigan should have all of the motivation in the world to play their hearts out. The opening minutes of this ball game will be crucial in establishing momentum. If Michigan can get off to an early lead, the Hawkeyes might find it easy to give up and focus their energy on the Big Ten Tournament.