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Big Ten Nation Hoops Battles: No. 10 Michigan vs. No. 17 Iowa, No. 9 Michigan State vs.Wisconsin

After the ACC and the Big 12 dominated headlines last weekend, the Big Ten will take over on this Saturday and Sunday. The first game up is No. 10 Michigan (17-5, 9-1) at No. 17 Iowa (17-6, 6-4) on Sat. 2:00 p.m. ET.

Roy Marble

Roy Marble

Many questions are surrounding this game and they start with Iowa. The team’s roster offers a lot of depth and versatility including talented starters Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White as well as bench player Gabriel Olaseni, who has been hitting his stride at the right time. In Tuesday’s 76-69 loss against Ohio State, Olasanti had 14 points (5-of-5 shooting) while averaging 6.9 points but in his last two games, it has jumped to a 14.5 point average.

Iowa’s stats versus win record paints a different picture as the team doesn’t really have any big wins this year other than a January one against a then No. 3 ranked Ohio State. They’ve come close but they just can’t close the deal. In the January meeting between these two teams, a No. 21 Michigan won 75-67.

As for the Wolverines, they entered the season with low expectations and now sit tied as the top conference team against foe Michigan State. Michigan’s sole Big Ten loss came against pesky Indiana last Sunday, 63-52. Michigan will look to Nik Stauskas for points (including 3-pointers) but the renowned team player has only averaged 7.5 points over his two previous games.

The Hawkeyes sit two games behind Michigan in the Big Ten and after winning 20 straight at home, it has lost two consecutive ones there. In a year-plus, Iowa hasn’t lost two straight games; it won’t happen on Saturday as the Hawkeyes get the win (-5.5).

No. 9 Michigan State at Wisconsin, 1 p.m. ET Sunday

Wisconsin (18-5, 5-5) started the season out strong with 16 straight wins including key ones over No. 17 Iowa, No. 3 Florida, West Virginia and No. 20 Virginia, but the season’s second half is a different story: the Badgers have lost their last five of seven games.

For a team that has never ended the season under fourth place in the conference with Bo Ryan as its skipper, currently sits in new territory at the fifth spot. How’d this happen? Wisconsin’s defense has been inconsistent. It currently sits at No. 60 in adjusted defensive efficiency according to hoops guru Ken Pomeroy. This comes after 2013’s first place finish.

Sam Dekker ended his cold shooting versus Illinois on Tuesday with 16 points (four 3-pointers) and will need to bring that play on Sunday.

Adreian Payne

Adreian Payne

Michigan State (20-3, 9-1) has dealt with its own struggles, namely battling the injury bug. Adreian Payne (foot injury) finally returned on Thursday but Keith Appling’s (wrist injury) return is “uncertain.” The Spartans have overcome these absences and keep winning but their Georgetown 64-60 loss was a tough one.

Both teams are well coached and in this one meeting for these two in the regular season, Vegas doesn’t have a winner yet but has Michigan State at 17/2 to win the Big Dance while Wisconsin is 33/1.

No. 23 Gonzaga at No. 24 Memphis, 9 p.m. ET

In a matchup between two top conference teams, No. 23 Gonzaga (21-3, 11-1) and No. 24 Memphis (17-5, 7-3), they are familiar with each other, playing one another six straight seasons (Memphis won five games) but not since 2011. In the Bulldogs’ non-conference play, wins include West Virginia and New Mexico State. A victory over Memphis would be a nice addition.

But good luck as the Tigers have won their last five of six games and will have the support of a loud home crowd; their most recent victory came on Tuesday over Rutgers, 101-69 .

Gonzaga has former Tiger Drew Barham on its roster and in his 24 games for his new team, he has averaged 7.1 points a game with 3-pointers at 48 percent.

Look for a high energy game and the Tigers being challenged by Gonzaga’s size but it won’t matter as home team gets the win (-4.5).



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