It’s pretty simple. Either Iowa plays a whale of a game Monday night, or it drops to 0-2 in the Big Ten men’s basketball standings.
The 19th-ranked Hawkeyes (6-1 overall) will almost surely need their best game of the season to defeat No. 10 Michigan State. The Spartans are still the Spartans, and Breslin Center still is Breslin Center.
Michigan State is 6-2. Tom Izzo’s team has run its usual nonconference gauntlet, having beaten UCLA and Texas, and lost to Kansas in Indianapolis and Louisville in overtime in Louisville.
The Spartans started their Big Ten season with a 78-67 win at Rutgers Friday night. Iowa’s opener didn’t go so well, a 72-66 home loss to No. 22 Wisconsin. Now the Hawkeyes enter the home of the conference’s defending regular-season champions, and an eight-time league champ under Tom Izzo.
“It’s a quick turnaround,” Iowa forward Tyler Cook said after the Wisconsin game. “That’s the beautiful thing about basketball. You get another day, and you go back out there on the court to compete. We’re looking forward to it.”
Izzo lost sophomore Miles Bridges and freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. to the NBA Draft lottery last spring. Jackson scored 36 points for the Memphis Grizzlies Friday night. Typically, the Spartans have adjusted.
It’s still a great rebounding club, but it’s more of a guards’ team this season. Junior point guard Cassius Winston has asserted himself, averaging 17.9 points and 7.1 assists. Winston and 6-foot-5 junior Joshua Langford (17.5 points per game) have combined to make 45 three-pointers and shoot 44.1 percent from that distance.
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Up front, 6-8 junior Nick Ward is imposing. He averages 14.6 points and has shot 60 free throws in eight games.
“He’s really good,” Cook said. “I think his numbers speak for themselves. A guy that plays hard. He’s a big dude. The motor’s crazy. Another matchup that I’m looking forward to.”
Michigan State may be without senior starting guard Matt McQuaid, whom Izzo has called his team’s best defender. McQuaid suffered a thigh injury in the Louisville game last Tuesday and missed the Rutgers game.
After Friday’s loss, Iowa forward Luka Garza said he would spend the rest of that night being upset about it.
“Once I wake up tomorrow,” he said, “it’s on to Michigan State and try to get one on the road there.”
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