When Iowa and Northwestern met for the first time this season on Dec. 29, the Wildcats were enjoying a 3-0 start to Big Ten play and a No. 19 national ranking, while the Hawkeyes had dropped to No. 10 -- their lowest ranking of the season -- following two losses in three games. But Iowa's 87-72 victory over Northwestern that night flipped the script for both teams, and they are entering Sunday's rematch on vastly different footing.
The Wildcats (6-5, 3-4 Big Ten) have lost four straight, starting with that defeat against Iowa, while the Hawkeyes (11-2, 5-1) used the win to jumpstart a four-game winning streak and have now ascended back to No. 5 in the AP Top 25 poll. But there are no guarantees in the Big Ten, which again appears to be the nation's toughest conference from top to bottom.
It's an intriguing showdown in Evanston to get your Sunday afternoon sports viewing experience going early as this will lead into the AFC Divisional Round game between the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs -- also on CBS. Who wins this rematch of Big Ten foes? Let's take a closer look at the storylines to follow before making an expert pick against the spread.
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- When: Sunday, Noon ET
- Where: Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Illinois
- TV: CBS | Live stream: CBSSports.com, CBS Sports App (Free)
- OTT: CBS Sports App (Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast)
Iowa: When the Hawkeyes beat Northwestern on Dec. 29, redshirt senior guard Jordan Bohannon knocked down 6 of 9 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 24 points. Star center Garza was actually Iowa's third-leading scorer in that game as Bohannon's backcourt mate CJ Fredrick contributed 19 points on 3-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc. As that game demonstrated, Garza's supporting cast lacks no shortage of outside shooters, which can often make double-teaming the nation's leading scorer a fruitless endeavor. No one has held the Hawkeyes under 70 points yet.
Northwestern: The Wildcats' four-game slide has coincided with a 2-for-29 shooting slump for sophomore guard Boo Buie, who averaged 18.3 points on 55.9% shooting in Northwestern's three league wins. Getting Buie back on track would be huge for the Wildcats, and getting more consistent contributions from Chase Audige would help in the meantime. Audige, who sat out last season as a transfer from William & Mary, exploded for 25 points in a loss at Ohio State on Wednesday. The 6-foot-4 guard is still trying to reach double figures in consecutive Big Ten games for the first time.
Game prediction, pick
These teams are trending in the opposite direction, and the potential for an Iowa offensive explosion is so high that the Hawkeyes are hard to bet against. Buie will snap out of his funk eventually and help Northwestern get competitive again. Until he does, the Wildcats are a team to fade in the brutal Big Ten. Prediction: Iowa 85, Northwestern 72
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