Maryland men’s basketball is back in the Xfinity Center to take on Iowa at 8 p.m. ET Sunday on FS1. The Terps are trying to put a blowout against Michigan State firmly in their rearview.
This is the only time these teams will match up this year. The Terps are 2-2 in Big Ten play but have a good chance to go back above .500 against the Hawkeyes. Iowa is still winless through four conference contests and holds a 9-8 record overall. Last season, the Hawkeyes split the season series with Maryland, but picked up a win in College Park. That was with Peter Jok as their leading scorer, though, so it’s a whole different ballgame.
To get a little more info on the Hawkeyes, we called in Harrison Starr from SB Nation’s Black Heart Gold Pants. You can catch Harrison (@HD_starr) or the site (@BHGP) on twitter. Here’s our corresponding Q&A.
Testudo Times: Iowa still doesn’t have a Big Ten win, and has a couple bad non-conference losses on the slate too. What’s gone wrong so far?
Black Heart Gold Pants: What’s gone wrong? Oh man, everything has gone wrong. The season started weirdly with the backup point guard Christian Williams transferring from the program which thrust Connor McCaffery into the role despite previously deciding to redshirt to focus on baseball. He then fought through an ankle injury and a bout with mono before being sidelined after tonsillitis caused some surgery so we might not see him again. Nicholas Baer was out the first 6 games and Iowa could have used him in the tournament where they lost to fine Louisiana Lafayette and SDSU teams.
On the court, however, it’s a mixture of poor defense and turnovers. It’s been canon in pretty much every loss for Iowa to give up an early big lead to their opponent. From there, the teams will trade 8-10 point runs, which is to the leading team’s benefit.
TT: Peter Jok was your top scorer last season. Has Tyler Cook fully taken the mantle in his absence and what makes him a threat?
BHGP: Cook has looked light years ahead of last year but has only increased his scoring about three points a game, namely through efficiency and better free throw shooting. He can take slower defenders off the dribble from the perimeter and post smaller guys. His style of play hasn’t necessarily been to Iowa’s benefit. When he’s isolating, the team isn’t doing a good job of moving without the basketball which has led to boatloads of turnovers.
Many Iowa fans expected big things from Isaiah Moss with Jok’s departure. So far, he hasn’t been able to play with any sort of consistency.
TT: Luka Garza is a local kid for us. How has the former D.C. Player of the Year fared so far his freshman year?
BHGP: Garza’s had an up-and-down year as his role has fluctuated from starter to bench guy. It’s hard not to see the talent he has as his offensive footwork can really flummox defenders and he plays with a high motor. He’s also brought his three point shooting up to 35.3%. However, he’s struggled on defense and even on offense maneuvering double-teams from quick defenders.
TT: Not a whole lot of experience on this roster. Has that hindered growth, and who’s the biggest surprise of the season?
BHGP: Despite lacking experience in college years, they actually return a ton of their talent from last year, with only Jok and Williams departing, who accounted for about 45 total minutes. The construction of this team is much different than years past as Garza and fellow freshman Jack Nunge are both around 7’0” and the guard depth is limited.
Some fans are getting very frustrated with Fran McCaffery, which is fair. Though his system has led to some pretty good results in the conference regular season, it seems pretty clear he needs to adjust it with the big guys on the roster. There was a recent report where a “prominent former Hawkeye” said they didn’t practice much defense. It shows when players’ talents don’t lie on that end of the court. Shifting his practice time that way seems necessary as conference season marches on.
TT: What needs to go right for Iowa to get its first conference win?
BHGP: I really just want to see 40 minutes of effort from these guys. That’d be a start. Also on defense, they’ve struggled with rotations and adherence to the gameplay so some improvement on that side is needed as well. This team can score with just about anyone, it’s just a matter of keeping an opponent close.