Hawkeyes set to open Big Ten play against top-5 Wolverines

After facing a few early-season challenges, Iowa will kick off Big Ten play on the road against No. 4 Michigan on Friday.

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Hawkeyes set to open Big Ten play against top-5 Wolverines

Iowa center Luka Garza drives the ball during the men's basketball game against Cal Poly at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, November 24, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Mustangs 85-59. Garza made 8 of his 13 baskets.

Iowa center Luka Garza drives the ball during the men's basketball game against Cal Poly at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, November 24, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Mustangs 85-59. Garza made 8 of his 13 baskets.

Katina Zentz

Iowa center Luka Garza drives the ball during the men's basketball game against Cal Poly at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, November 24, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Mustangs 85-59. Garza made 8 of his 13 baskets.

Katina Zentz

Katina Zentz

Iowa center Luka Garza drives the ball during the men's basketball game against Cal Poly at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, November 24, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Mustangs 85-59. Garza made 8 of his 13 baskets.

Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor

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It’s not every year Iowa gets to open its Big Ten season against a top-5 team, but that’s what it’ll do today.

Fresh off an ACC/Big Ten Challenge victory over Syracuse, the Hawkeyes travel to Ann Arbor to take on No. 4 Michigan at 5:30 p.m.

It’s just another early-season test.

Iowa has already faced solid teams this season, such as then-No. 12 Texas Tech and the Orange, but none of them compare to what the Wolverines bring to the floor.

“We know when you’re going against Michigan, you’re going against a high-powered offense that’s just as good on the defensive side of the ball,” Iowa forward Luka Garza said.

After starting the season unranked, Michigan made waves in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas by toppling Iowa State, No. 6 North Carolina, and No. 8 Gonzaga.

Those wins shot the Wolverines up to No. 4 in the AP Poll, tying the largest jump in AP Poll history.

“Having played in that tournament, a lot of those three-game tournaments, there’s a day off in between,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “They played three games in three days in that tournament, and that’s not easy — especially with that level of competition.

“The challenge of a one-day prep and then beating teams that had different pieces says a lot about who Michigan is.”

RELATED: Second-half shooting pushes Iowa past Syracuse

Unable to get anything going on offense in its next game, the Wolverines fell to No. 1 Louisville, 58-43, on Tuesday.

Still, new coach Juwan Howard’s squad has proven to be one of the best teams in the Big Ten with Maryland and Ohio State.

The Wolverines boast a three-headed monster in their starting lineup in Isaiah Livers, Jon Teske, and Zavier Simpson.

Livers leads the way with 15.3 points per game, while Teske and Simpson finish the job in more than one way.

Teske scores 13.9 points per game and grabs 9.8 rebounds. Simpson drops 11.9 points to go along with 8.9 assists.

“They’ve got a lot of returning guys that are some of their core guys,” Iowa forward Joe Wieskamp said. “Obviously, they lost a few to the NBA. But they got Simpson, Teske, Livers — those main guys that are really talented and are going to be tough to stop.”

Iowa played Michigan in last season’s Big Ten Tournament in which it fell, 74-53.

Joe Wieskamp and Luka Garza each scored 14 in the game, but the Wolverines outplayed the Hawkeyes throughout, as Iowa went 1-for-16 from 3-point range with a late triple from Nicolas Hobbs.

Livers, Teske, and Simpson all reached double figures, with Teske and Simpson posting double-doubles.

Even though a lot of the same playmakers are back for the Wolverines, it’s a new team. Gone are the days of John Beilein. These are the days of Howard.

The room to improve is clear. Now, Iowa finally has its chance to prove to a new coach that its better than what it showed last year.

“One of the things I always was impressed with with Coach Beilein’s team was how they share the ball, how they move the ball,” McCaffery said. “And it’s exactly the same. Juwan’s running good stuff. His players are playing with confidence.”

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