2018 Big Ten Tournament: Iowa vs Michigan Preview + Game Thread

By Jeremy Karll on May 23, 2018 at 8:25 am
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WHO: Michigan Wolverines (32-19, 15-8, RPI: 55)
WHEN: Wednesday, May 23 -- 9:00 AM CT
WHERE: TD Ameritrade Park (Omaha, Nebraska)
TV: Big Ten Network
STREAMING: BTN2Go
RADIO: Hawkeye Radio Network | TuneInRadio

Iowa and Michigan are the first game of this year's Big Ten Tournament, starting at an early 9 a.m. The winner will take on the winner of the Ohio State-Purdue, with the loser facing the loser of the aforementioned game in round two. Last year, Michigan was the No. 2 seed but lost its only two games of the tournament. In fact, it hasn't won an opening round game since 2015, while Iowa has gone 3-1 in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament under Rick Heller. Iowa also won a home series against Michigan this season, snapping the Wolverines' 20-game winning streak in the process. 

Player BA OBP SLG AB H BB R RBI HR
C Tyler Cropley .351 .460 .587 191 67 30 43 50 9
1B Austin Guzzo .245 .398 .377 196 26 23 26 13 3
2B Mitchell Boe .268 .353 .356 149 40 19 23 23 1
SS Kyle Crowl .256 .399 .415 176 45 32 41 33 6
3B Matt Hoeg .282 .350 .417 156 44 16 23 30 3
RF Robert Neustrom .322 .395 .556 205 66 24 43 36 11
CF Justin Jenkins .257 .394 .331 136 35 25 23 20 1
LF Chris Whelan .315 .410 .423 149 47 16 36 10 4
DH Ben Norman .198 .305 .307 101 20 12 12 12 0

On Tuesday, the Big Ten announced its season awards, naming Tyler Cropley and Robert Neustrom to the All-Big Ten First Team. The conference also named Chris Whelan to the Third Team, despite him missing the first month of the season. However, Iowa has gotten production from its entire lineup to end the season, such as Mitchell Boe hitting 10-for-25 in the last eight games and Matt Hoeg hitting 21-for-60 in the last 15 games. It will also be interesting to see which lineup Heller rolls with, as Lorenzo Elion's .273/.302/.353 slash line is starter-worthy, but his glove keeps him on the bench. Hopefully, Iowa gives Nick Allgeyer more run support than usual -- Iowa averages 4.3 RPG when Allgeyer starts compared to 6.9 RPG in other games.

Jonathan Engelmann and Dominic Clementi were named to the All-Big Ten First Team, and Jordan Nwogu was named to the Second Team. I went more in-depth about Michigan's offense (and the rest of the field) earlier this week. In short, Michigan's offense is top-heavy but scores a lot of runs thanks to a solid BA, OBP and stealing a lot of bases. Watch out for Christian Bullock on the base paths. However, Michigan ended the season in a scoring drought, failing to top five runs in each of its last six games.

Team Round 1 vs Michigan/Iowa
Iowa LHP Nick Allgeyer (5-4, 2.50 ERA) 7 IP, ER, 5 H, 8 K, 2 BB
Michigan  LHP Tommy Henry (7-3, 3.14 ERA) 4.2 IP, 3 ER (4 R), 7 H, 5 K, BB


Nick Allgeyer was named to the All-Big Ten First Team and unsurprisingly will get the nod for Iowa on Wednesday morning. In 14 starts this season, Allgeyer has 12 quality starts, including a streak of 10 straight quality starts in the middle of the season -- 5 IP, 0 ER vs Toledo and 6 IP, 6 ER vs Oklahoma State are his non-quality starts. Allgeyer leads Iowa in nearly every statistical pitching category, too. In the conference, he is second in innings pitched (90) and strikeouts (86), and fourth in ERA. As Chad Leistikow wrote, Heller won't be scared to use his bullpen early if Allgeyer struggles. Everyone should be available, too, except for Cole McDonald, Jack Dreyer and likely Brady Schanuel, barring an extreme circumstance.

Taking on Allgeyer will be Michigan's Friday night starter, Tommy Henry, who was named to the All-Big Ten Second Team. Henry is 12th in ERA and OBA, eighth in innings pitched (80.1) and third in strikeouts (77), so there could be a lot of swings and misses in the morning. It took Iowa a couple of innings to get going against Henry in their first meeting, but once Iowa was able to string together a couple of hits, the game unraveled for him. Since his start against Iowa, Henry has allowed eight earned runs (14 total) over 14.1 innings in three starts. He's also given up 23 hits and five walks, while also striking out 12 batters. Henry can be vulnerable at times, but he has also flashed tons of potential, such as seven shutout innings at Stanford. If Iowa is able to hit Henry hard again, it will then face one of the best bullpens in the conference.

We'll try to post updates in the comments, but feel free to join in, too.

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