After losing for the first time this season, No. 4 Iowa bounced back nicely in its Big Ten Conference opener on Tuesday night.
Can the Hawkeyes continue that momentum when it takes the court on Christmas Day against Minnesota?
Will Iowa continue to put a smile on the face of Iowa sports bettors?
How to watch Iowa vs. Minnesota
- What: No. 4 Iowa (7-1, 1-0 Big Ten) at Minnesota (7-1, 0-1)
- When: 7 p.m. CST, Friday, Dec. 25
- Where: Williams Arena in Minneapolis
- TV: Big Ten Network
- Online Livestream: Fox Sports Go
- Radio: Hawkeye Radio Network
- Satellite Radio: Sirius Channel 84
- Online Radio Stream: HawkeyeSports.com
- Live Stats: HawkeyeSports.com
Iowa favored on the road against Gophers
With the game still a couple of days out, not many sportsbooks are offering odds on this Big Ten clash as of yet.
William Hill Sportsbook does have a line out, and it lists Iowa as a 5-point road favorite against Minnesota.
The over/under is currently listed at 163 points.
The Hawkeyes won both meetings against Minnesota last season. Iowa prevailed at home 72-52 back on Dec. 9, then traveled to Minnesota for a 58-55 win on Feb. 16.
In both contests last season, the under hit.
Hawkeyes back on track
It was just about a week ago that Iowa got beaten at its own game in a 99-88 loss to Gonzaga.
The Bulldogs knocked down 13 3-pointers and shot 51% from the field in the win. Iowa was held to just four 3-pointers while being out-rebounded 49-37.
The Hawkeyes found their defense on Tuesday in a 70-55 win over Purdue to open conference play. Iowa held the Boilermakers to 39% shooting while the Hawkeyes knocked down 12 three-pointers in the win.
With the victory, Iowa improved to 7-1 on the season and 6-2 against the spread.
Luka Garza continued to lead Iowa in the latest win. He put up 22 points, nine rebounds and two blocks against Purdue. Even in the loss to Gonzaga, Garza posted a double-double of 30 points and 10 rebounds.
On the season, Garza is now averaging 28.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. He remains the favorite to win the John R. Wooden Award. FanDuel Sportsbook lists him as a -350 favorite currently.
Despite the loss to Gonzaga, Iowa remains a top contender to win the 2021 NCAA Tournament. FanDuel lists the Hawkeyes at +950 to win the title, giving them the fourth-shortest odds behind Gonzaga (+350), Baylor (+800) and Villanova (+900).
If Iowa can continue to score at its current pace of 95.1 points per game, which ranks second nationally, the Hawkeyes will remain a top contender nationally and the Big Ten.
Gophers look to avoid 0-2 Big Ten start
Minnesota picked up seven wins in nonconference play this season, but the Gophers struggled mightily in their Big Ten opener.
On Dec. 14, Minnesota was dominated on the road by Illinois in a 92-65 loss.
The Gophers couldn’t find the basket, shooting 19 of 69 from the field and seven of 28 from the three-point line.
Shooting hasn’t been a strong suit for Minnesota thus far, as the Gophers rank outside the top 200 in both field goal percentage (42.6) and 3-point percentage (30.1).
The defense hasn’t been much better for Minnesota, as the Gophers are giving up 73.5 points per game, which ranks 248th nationally.
Richard Pitino is in his eighth season as head coach of Minnesota and he could be feeling the hot seat after a 15-16 record in 2019-20.
Pitino has been relying heavily on junior guard Marcus Carr. Carr is leading the team with 23.9 points and six assists per game.
Junior guard Both Gach (13 ppg, 6 rpg) and junior center Liam Robbins (11.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.4 bpg) are also key contributors that Iowa will have to key in on.
Though Minnesota has a strong record, the Gophers haven’t been reliable at the betting window, posting just a 3-4-1 record against the spread.