Maryland men’s basketball will hit the road again Tuesday, taking on No. 21 Iowa in the only matchup between the two this season.
The No. 24 Terps are coming off a road loss against Michigan over the weekend after taking down then-No. 12 (now No. 15) Purdue at home earlier in the week. The mixed bag kept Maryland steady in the rankings heading into the last two weeks of the season. Now, heading into the home stretch of the season, a strong final push should be enough to secure a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament.
The Hawkeyes are undefeated in the month of February and have won four straight, including their last two games on buzzer-beaters. Iowa used one to take down Northwestern in a game that looked like it was trending towards disappointment, and then another against Rutgers on the road to avoid an upset in tbe RAC.
The Terps will try again for a ranked road win Tuesday night, traveling to Iowa City for a showdown with the Hawkeyes at 8 p.m. ET on BTN. A Maryland loss would put it behind Iowa and Wisconsin in the loss column; those teams currently sit fifth and sixth in the conference, respectively.
No. 21 Iowa Hawkeyes (20-5, 9-5 Big Ten)
2017-18 record: 14-19, 4-14
Head coach Fran McCaffery returned largely the same team at the top of his roster, but with much better results. After missing the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons, McCaffery is on the verge of guiding this core to the postseason and playing in March for the first time since Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok led the way for the Hawkeyes. It's McCaffery’s ninth season at Iowa, where he's gone 171-125, and snapping the postseason drought with this crop would show solid year-over-year improvement.
Players to know
Tyler Cook, junior, forward, 6’9/245, No. 25. Cook has taken another step forward offensively, leading the Hawkeyes in scoring and rebounding for the second straight season while upping his production. He's posting averages of 16.3 points and 8.3 rebounds, while also dishing a career-high 2.6 assists per game.
Luka Garza, sophomore, forward, 6’11/250, No. 55. Garza's reprised his role as Cook’s No. 2, though his rebounds have dipped a bit he's averaged 13.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. He's been held in check recently, though, and has finished with single-digit scoring in each of his past three games.
Jordan Bohannon, junior, guard, 6’1/185, No. 3. The junior pace-setter for the Hawkeyes has produced another solid season. He's averaging 11.3 points and a team-high 3.5 assists per game, and nailed the game-winner that took down Northwestern.
Beyond its returning core, Iowa has also gotten significant contributions from freshman Joe Wieskamp and junior Isaiah Moss. Wieskamp has emerged as the third-leading scorer for the Hawkeyes with 11.8 points per game, while shooting 44.9 percent from three. He also emerged as the hero against Rutgers, drilling a ridiculous corner three to end it at the buzzer. Meanwhile, Moss has been Iowa's deadliest marksman, hitting 45.3 percent of his attempts beyond the arc to average 9.9 points per game.
Getting to the free-throw line. Iowa has carved out the Big Ten’s highest-scoring offense with a balanced attack, but it excels at getting to the charity stripe—23.5 percent of the Hawkeyes’ points come at the free throw line, the 10th-most in the nation and most in the Big Ten. Iowa has attempted the 12th-most free throws in the nation and made the second-most, hitting at a 75.1 percent clip.
Interior defense. The Hawkeyes don't have an elite rim protector among their bigs, and opponents have done fairly well inside the arc. Iowa has posted an in-conference block rate of 8.5 percent, ranking 12th in the league, per KenPom. For comparison, Maryland and its shot-blocking bigs lead the Big Ten in block percentage, ending 14.5 percent of opponents’ possessions with a swat. As a result of having no deterrent to trying, Iowa is allowing conversions on 55.5 percent of two-point attempts in conference play, the worst mark in the Big Ten.
Three things to watch
1. Do Maryland’s bigs carve out space for themselves? Without top-notch protection in the paint, Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith could have big games inside. Fernando's been a force night in and night out, and while Smith has been more inconsistent, Iowa's interior defense should give each chances to make an impact. Smith has been taking his lumps in conference play, and a strong showing could give him confidence going into the final stretch of the season.
2. Can Maryland keep the turnovers down? Maryland turned the ball over 13 times in the first half against Michigan, putting the Terps in a hole that proved just too deep to climb out of. Maryland got it together in the second half and strung together a run to nearly erase its deficit, but if the Terps come out with the same sloppiness against the Wolverines, it could a long night.
3. Does Maryland finally get a ranked road win? Few, if any, expected the Terps’ infamous streak of ranked road losses to end in the Crisler Center, but Iowa represents another opportunity. Maryland has still yet to win a ranked road game under Mark Turgeon, and will once again come in as the lower ranked of the two, but not by much. A road win over the Hawkeyes would give the Terps the head-to-head tiebreaker in terms of the conference standings and finally snap the streak.
KenPom: Iowa 76, Maryland 75
Me: Maryland 68, Iowa 66