John Beilein opened his press conference Tuesday heaping high praise on his next opponent. The coach compared Iowa to top-ranked Arizona.
The Michigan head man saw his team push the No. 1 Wildcats on Dec. 14 before falling 72-70 in Ann Arbor. He spent the last few days preparing for Wednesday's home game against the 10th-ranked Hawkeyes (6 p.m. CT, BTN).
"Arizona is on my mind because they're so long and rangy," Beilein said. "This is a high-powered team coming in here with six juniors and seniors that are very hungry to get Iowa to the NCAA Tournament and beyond."
The programs come streaking into this Big Ten showdown. The No. 21 Wolverines (13-4 overall, 5-0 conference) have won seven games in a row since the loss to Arizona. Iowa (15-3, 4-1) has captured its last three contests after losing at Wisconsin on Jan. 5.
Wednesday's combatants sit among the top four highest scoring teams in the Big Ten. Iowa's 86.8 points per game ranks first while Michigan is fourth (77.3).
"They're going to test our discipline," Michigan forward Jordan Morgan said. "They're really trying to score quickly so we have to be really good in transition. And they're really bent on attacking the rim so we're going to have to be really solid defensively.
"They draw a lot of fouls. We don't like to foul. It's going to come down to a battle of wills."
The Hawkeyes have attempted a league-high 552 free throws. They generate a lot of those by catching the defense off guard on the fast break.
"We both like to get out in transition, score easy points," Michigan sophomore Glenn Robinson III said. "It's going to come down to who can get the most stops. Our goal is to stop them in transition because we know that's what they like to do."
Said Beilein: "We've been very good at running as well so it could come into play. Hopefully we're in good enough shape. We're certainly not as deep as Iowa."
The Wolverines began the season in the Top 10 despite losing leading scorers Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. to the last NBA Draft. They dropped three of five games during a stretch from late November to mid-December and also lost one of their best players, Mitch McGary, to a back injury.
A closer look at Michigan's losses brings to mind the Hawkeye setbacks. Both teams lost at No. 14 Iowa State. The Wolverines also fell at Duke while Iowa suffered a defeat against No. 4 Villanova.
A young Michigan team has grown from those tough early-season tests. It hasn't surprised Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery.
"If you look at John over the years, he's one of the best coaches of our generation. The numbers bear that out.," McCaffery said. "They can beat you in the half court. They can beat you in transition. They're going to guard you.
"His offense is really sound. It's not easy to guard. He puts them in a position to be successful. It provides those players with the necessary confidence they need to go out and do the things that they're doing."
Sophomore guard Nik Stauskas leads the Big Ten in scoring (18.0 PPG) a year after playing a role on the Wolverines' National Title game team. He's made 40 of his 91 three-point attempts.
"He's a tremendous challenge for anybody that plays them," McCaffery said. "He has been impressive. He's athletic. The kid has a great handle. He can go off the dribble. He moves without the ball."
Roy Devyn Marble creates match-up nightmares for Iowa opponents. The 6-foot-6 senior ranks eighth in the conference in scoring (16.3 PPG), second in steals (2.2) and 13th in assists (3.3).
"Marble reminds me of Evan Turner right now," Beilein said. "He's just doing whatever he wants to do out there."
The Hawkeyes boast 11 players averaging at least 12.7 minutes per game. Beilein said he can't remember seeing a Big Ten team employ this many athletes in his seven seasons in Ann Arbor.
"The UConn teams used to roll a lot of guys at you when I was at West Virginia," he said. "Here, I haven't seen any teams go this deep. And they're really talented."