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Women's NCAA Tournament 2016: Maryland vs. Iona preview, as Terps host first-round matchup

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The Terps open the tourney at home against the Gaels.

Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

The Maryland women’s basketball team begins its bid for a third consecutive Final Four appearance Saturday afternoon against the Iona Gaels. The Terps received a No. 2 seed in the Lexington region on Selection Monday (which I attended).

The first-round contest will tip off at 1:30 p.m. ET at Xfinity Center. The winner will play either No. 7 Washington or No. 10 Pennsylvania; those two will square off 30 minutes after the conclusion of this game. ESPN will have whip-around coverage of this and several other games, but is actually calling the College Park contests remotely.

If the arrival of the NCAA Tournament means that you’re just now getting into the women’s team, our latest podcast is a good primer on the Terps.

The Gaels began the year with four straight losses, but amassed 20 wins in the regular season before knocking off top-seeded Quinnipiac in the MAAC final. They have one opponent in common with the Terps: Rutgers, to whom they lost by 25 points.

Iona Gaels (23-11, 16-4 MAAC)

The coach

Billi Godsey has a 64-32 record in three seasons at the helm. This is her first head coaching gig; she was previously an assistant at Virginia Tech.

Players to know

Joy Adams, senior, forward, 5’11, No. 24. A unanimous All-MAAC selection, Adams leads the Gaels with 14.7 points and 12.1 rebounds per game. She’s primarily an inside scorer, but can knock down some jumpers, as well.

Marina Lizarazu, junior, guard, 5’8, No. 1. Another member of the all-conference team, Lizarazu leads Iona with 5.0 assists per game, but also chips in 12.1 points. You’ll see a lot of her, as she plays an average of 35 minutes.

Aaliyah Robinson, senior, guard, 5’9, No. 21. Robinson racks up 9.1 points per game and is the team’s best long-range threat, shooting threes at a 36.2 percent clip. However, that’s pretty much all she does. The senior only took 46 two-point shots all season, and only hauls in 1.9 rebounds.

Alexis Lewis, freshman, guard, 5-10, No. 20. Lewis was named the Co-Sixth Player of the Year in the MAAC this year. She averages almost 9 points in 23 minutes off the bench, and also shoots 36.1 percent from downtown.

Strength

Offensive rebounding. Iona averaged 14.2 offensive boards per game this year, albeit against extraordinarily weak competition. That’s 37.9 percent of its missed shots, and second-chance points will help anyone’s cause.

Weakness

Size. A staple among mid-majors. Other than junior center Karynda DuPree, who stands at 6’4, the Gaels will be dwarfed on Saturday. Adams probably won’t be able to post up the likes of Brionna Jones and Malina Howard, and the Gaels aren’t good enough at outside shooting to make up for it.

Prediction

Maryland wins, 95-54.