Who: Maryland faces their first ranked opponent, #13 Iowa State
What: A chance to get a resume defining win in November
Where: Sprint Center, Kansas City, MO/ ESPNU
When: 9:30 PM
After a solid win against what was an unknown quantity in Arizona State on Monday night, Maryland gets its first shot at putting something solid down on their March resume on Tuesday. Make no mistake, if the Sun Devils continue to play anywhere near the level they did against the Terps, that win will certainly be a decent reference for tournament entry, but nothing compared to a win versus an Sweet 16 team from 2013.
3 things to know about Iowa State
1) The Mayor runs unopposed
“The Mayor” is the nickname of Cyclones coach and former NBA guard Fred Hoiberg, and not only is he incredibly popular in his hometown of Ames, but he’s talented enough that every major program would love to see him leave. Hoiberg encourages his teams to play at an up tempo pace. He allows for his players to make decisions based on what they see from the defense instead of always sticking to what the system says.
These tenets may seem so simple that you would think every coach in college basketball uses them, but that’s not the case. Hoiberg is a magnet for talented players, so much so that he routinely brings in a big time transfer or two every year. 2014’s version is swingman Bryce Dejean-Jones who came over from UNLV.
So expect to see a game with a very quick tempo similar to Monday’s against ASU. I was pretty impressed that Maryland was able to answer the bell consistently against the Sun Devils’ high speed attack yesterday, but they’ll only have a brief breather before getting a very similar but slightly more difficult test.
2) Georges Niang is a problem
Had Niang not broken his foot early in the Tournament last year, I fully believe Iowa State would’ve had a shot to go all the way. Now he’s the lone holdover from the three-headed offensive monster he formed with DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim, but it doesn’t seem to be bothering him much.
Niang put 28 on Alabama last night, and has a very similar offensive game to college age Kevin Love. Simply put, he knows how to score from every spot on the floor. He’s just as adept at getting garbage buckets as he is launching three balls. He’s comfortable driving to the basket and strong enough to finish through contact. The only saving grace is that he’s not an explosive athlete, but it hasn’t seemed to matter.
Just like every other team in the country, Maryland doesn’t have a great defensive matchup for Niang. The responsibilities will most likely fall to Damonte Dodd and Jake Layman, with Layman probably getting the lions share of matchup duties to allow Dodd to protect the rim.
3) They have a hyper efficient point guard
Over the past 2 years, the thing that has bothered me the most with Maryland basketball has been the enormous propensity for turnovers. It was a frustrating problem, but I thought the Terps had some legitimate excuses (lack of a true point, and youth). It’s these things that make what Monte Morris is doing for Iowa State so impressive.
Morris is a sophomore point guard who started for the Cyclones last year. Most coaches are thrilled with a 2/1 assist to turnover ratio from their point guard. Well last year Morris had 134 assists against 28 turnovers, putting him over a 4/1 ratio which is outstanding for a college point guard, and unheard of for a freshman.
In 2014, he’s out of the gates with 24 assists versus just three turnovers. Consistent positive guard play is a major separating factor in the college game, and there’s no doubt that Morris provides that for ISU.
One big weakness
Lack of defense & size
Because Hoiberg likes to turn games into a track meet, his squad’s defense can occasionally suffer, such as when Iowa State allowed 102 points in a game at West Virginia last season. Alabama’s offense won’t make anyone forget Showtime, and they put up 74 points on Monday. If Maryland can play level-headed and limit mistakes like they did against ASU, they’ll be able to put up a big number against the Cyclones.
Iowa State does have a transfer big guy for 2014 in Jameel McKay, but he’s not eligible until December leaving Fred Hoiberg worryingly thin up front. Niang, Matt Thomas, and Dustin Hogue will do the heavy lifting up front with none of them being over 6’8”. Maryland’s not exactly flush with big guy talent either, but between Layman, Dodd, and Cekovsky, the Terps should have the two tallest people on the floor most of the time.
How Maryland can win
I really thought the one place where Maryland struggled Monday was running shooters off the three point line. Jonathan Gilling and Bo Barnes torched the Terps in the second half and nearly cost them a victory. Iowa State is similar to Arizona State in that they are rich with perimeter weapons. Practically everyone on the Cyclones can shoot, so it needs to be a point of emphasis to hedge out on shooters off of picks, and generally hustle to make sure there aren’t too many open threes.
Offensively, attacking the basket where the Cyclones are bereft of a rim protector would make the most sense to me. Wells and Layman were very aggressive getting to the basket against ASU, and were not only successful in jump starting their offensive, games but also got the freshmen open for some good looks outside. The Terps can’t get caught up in the fast pace and settle for poor shots, good shots should be there to be had at the basket, and the idea of getting Niang in foul trouble would just be a bonus.
Lastly, Trimble and Pack will face a big test trying to disrupt the human metronome that is Morris. Its Morris’ steady hand that bolsters the Iowa State half court offense, and if Trimble can bother him into a few uncharacteristic mistakes, Maryland could be in business.
Iowa State – 82
Maryland – 78
I loved what I saw from the Terps on Monday against a much better than advertised ASU team, and believe that if this game was later in the season, they could actually pull off the upset. But this is a tall order against a more experienced slightly more talented team in Iowa State. I think the Terps will acquit themselves nicely, but the Cyclones firepower will just be too much against a tired UMD defense in the end.