When Maryland goes to Madison Square Garden for the NIT semi-finals, the Terps won't get a shot to get even with Virginia, but they'll at least get another interesting storyline: a preview with a future Big Ten opponent. The Iowa Hawkeyes upset the Cavs on the road earlier tonight in a 75-64 win, and will meet Maryland in the semi-finals in Manhattan on Tuesday.
There's a sense that maybe that's for the best; after winning twice in the regular season, including in rather heartbreaking fashion, the Hoos probably had a mental edge, and looking for a revenge win had the potential to prove distracting. The Hawkeyes are a different challenge, a fresh challenge, but likely no less of a difficult challenge.
Plus, hey, we're still all one B1G happy family.
Iowa has quietly been one of the up-and-coming programs of the country this year, missing out on the NCAA Tournament after a late run but setting themselves up to be contenders next year. After a dry spell in the late 2000s, Fran McCaffery has built Iowa back up, going 21-12 in the regular season, checking in at #23 in KenPom (not yet including the win over Virginia), and doing it all despite having only a lone senior on the roster. There are a few bad losses on their profile, dropping road games to Virginia Tech and Nebraska, but then that's nothing worse than what Maryland's endured; they don't have quality wins to match the Terps', but they did beat Wisconsin, Iowa State, and Illinois.
It is refreshing, too, that Maryland finally gets to see a different type of team, after so many in a row against small, vaguely gimmicky opponents. Iowa, on the other hand, is certainly not small: their lineup against UVA tonight topped out at 7-1 and had no one smaller than 6-5. And while they shoot the ball poorly, they're not all that gimmicky, either; they run at a respectable pace, a far cry from the milk-the-clock tactics of Alabama and Denver.
Like those teams, though, Maryland will be challenged by their defense. Iowa's defense is every bit as good as Alabama's: they don't force turnovers at the same rate, but due to their extra size they're significantly tougher to beat for open shots or get the better of on the boards. They play a tough, physical, well-drilled and disciplined man-to-man, and after seeing how Maryland has handled that type of look at times this year, breaking it down in New York will be a worry.
The Hawkeyes are generally terrible at shooting the ball, though, so despite the relatively quick tempos this may be a low-scoring game. They shoot 30% from three on the year, one of the lowest marks in the country, and are only mediocre inside the arc as well. They draw plenty of fouls due to their size and dominate the glass, but when it comes to executing the offense to find good looks, or simply knocking down the shots, they struggle. It's why they're 13th in the country in the percentage of their points that come from free throws, and why the vast majority of their baskets are assisted, generally indicating high-quality looks.
They have improved of late in those regards, though; they shot 49% from the field against Virginia and went 8-17 from deep, and had a similar outing against Stony Brook. It'll be an interesting litmus test for the Terrapins' defense, which has largely been ignored in their recent revival. Individually, keep an eye out for Aaron White, easily the team's best shooter, and the marvelously-named Roy Devyn Marble, a 6-6 swingman who is by far Iowa's most influential player. Nick Faust will be matched up on one of them, which means he won't be able to have an off-day like he did against 'Bama.
We'll obviously have more as the game draws near. But, hey, if you're looking to make a weekday road trip up to the Big Apple, at least you know who the Terps'll be facing when you do.