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Maryland vs. Iowa State preview: Terps face marquee win opportunity

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Maryland has to deal with Georges Niang and a very tough Cyclones squad in their first meeting with a ranked opponent this season.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland passed their first test of the season Monday with a 78-73 win over Arizona State, defeating a (revamped) NCAA Tournament team from last season. Tuesday, they face an even bigger test, taking on the No. 13 Iowa State Cyclones. The game will tip-off at 9:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ESPNU.

Iowa State didn't always have an easy time against Alabama in their opener in the tournament, but rode a strong second half performance to a 84-74 victory. That takes them to 3-0 on this season, with an underwhelming 93-82 over Oakland (No. 232 in KenPom) followed by an 81-58 win over Georgia State (No. 79 in KenPom). With their win over the Tide, Iowa State passed Maryland in the Ken Pom rankings, ranking No. 24 to the Terps' No. 26.

In 2013-14, the Cyclones went 23-7 in the regular season, winning the Big 12 tournament before being knocked out in the Sweet 16 by eventual national champions Connecticut. Iowa State lost its two top scorers to graduation, DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim, but a number of significant pieces return for what could be another March run.

Fred Hoiberg averaged 15.8 points per game during his time as a guard with Iowa State, and has had extraordinary success in his first four years coaching his alma mater. After a .500 record in his first season, Iowa State has made three straight NCAA Tournament appearances, with last season's Sweet Sixteen run the program's first since 2000.

Players to know

Georges Niang, junior, 6'8 forward. If Maryland has any shot at winning this game, they'll have to contain Niang. He scored 16.7 points per game last year and has gotten off to a red-hot start this season, averaging 22.7 with 8.7 rebounds per game per game.

Monte Morris, sophomore, 6'2 guard. Morris was Iowa State's most efficient offensive player as a freshman and has kept that up this year. He's a very skilled ball handler with a remarkably low turnover rate for a freshman (he set an NCAA record with a 4.8 assist-to-turnover ratio last year) who can shoot very well from three (40.6% in 2013-14). This year, he's averaging 11.0 points per game with 8.0 assists against 0.7 turnovers.

Dustin Hogue, senior, 6'6 forward. Hogue averaged nearly a double-double last season, with 11.6 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per game. He's a skilled two-point shooter who gets to the line with frequency. This season, he's second on the team with 15.7 points per game, also bringing in 5.0 rebounds.

Naz Long, junior, 6'4 guard. Long was an efficient three-point scorer for the Cyclones last season who has gotten off to a bit of a slower start this season. He's still averaging 14.0 points per game after a strong performance against the Tide, and could be an interesting matchup for Richaud Pack at the two.

Bryce Jones, senior, 6'6 forward. A transfer from UNLV, Jones has been a key contributer for the Cyclones this season. He's averaging 14.0 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, but has the team's lowest field goal percentage among its consistent rotation players and its highest turnover rate.

Strengths:

Offensive efficiency. The Cyclones rarely give the ball away, making opponents work for their possessions. They also have one of the nation's lowest opposing block rates, getting off good shots and making a large number of them.

Defensive rebounding. Iowa State does not often allow many offensive rebounds, even with their tallest regular contributor at 6'8. They outrebounded the Tide 34-31, with 32 of their rebounds coming on the defensive glass.

Weaknesses:

Shot-blocking. Iowa State may not get too many of their shots blocked, but they also don't block too many either. They had a season-high five against Alabama, but may have difficulties dealing with Maryland's length.

Offensive rebounding. Same goes here: the Cyclones have limited opportunities for opponents on the offensive boards, but have not been able to create many for themselves. Iowa State had just two offensive rebounds against Alabama, and their lack of height can hurt them in this area.

Predictions:

KenPom’s prediction: Iowa State, 74-73. The Cyclones are given a 51% chance to win.

Our prediction: Iowa State, 86-78. If Maryland can continue their frontcourt improvement, shutting down Niang and winning the battle on the boards, they have a chance. If they can get Jones to give away possessions, they have a chance. But Iowa State is an experienced team who matches up very well against Maryland, and it's hard to expect a win. The Cyclones hit threes with consistency (and the Terps struggled to defend that Monday), and Maryland will need big games from their scorers to keep up.