No — Iowa will not win out this week

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

Nothing like two top-five road matchups in a four-day span to test a winning streak.

The No. 9 Iowa men’s basketball team has won its last four games, a rare feat for the program in February. But matchups with No. 3 Michigan in Ann Arbor, followed by Sunday’s contest with No. 4 Ohio State in Columbus, will both be tricky.

So tricky, that I don’t see Iowa winning both games. And that’s no slight against Iowa — these two games back-to-back are about as tough as it gets in men’s college basketball.

Michigan is playing remarkably well despite going more than three weeks without playing a game because of a COVID-19-caused shutdown. The team stands at 16-1 overall after a road win over the Buckeyes over the weekend (one of the best games of the season so far). The Wolverines have the No. 7 most efficient offense and the No. 11 defense, per the KenPom rankings system.

That’s a tough matchup. And defeating the Buckeyes won’t be much easier.

Iowa led Ohio State by 11 points in the second half of the Feb. 4 matchup between the teams at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, but lost by four. The Hawkeyes went through a scoreless stretch and didn’t convert late, so they couldn’t hold on to the win. I feel more comfortable predicting an Iowa win over Ohio State than I do over Michigan.

The Hawkeyes are undoubtedly capable of winning both of these games. But what these two games will show is if Iowa is capable of playing against elite-level competition consistently.

This stretch is the opportunity for Iowa to prove it can beat the best teams in the Big Ten because it is also on the top tier of the conference. Will it? I feel safer predicting a split.

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