Who: #17 Maryland Terrapins at Iowa Hawkeyes
What: A chance to save some face after consecutive road implosions
Where: Carver-Hawkeye Arena and the Big Ten Network
When: 3:15 PM on Sunday
It’s very easy to get wrapped up in negatives right now. Since the Terps January 17th decimation of Michigan State, the team has looked rudderless. The once stout defense has shown significant cracks, especially in the first half and defending the three-point line. The offense has completely broken down, with Maryland ranking dead last in the Big 10 in field goal percentage during conference play, and third in turnovers. The ball still moves around the floor, but it moves without conviction, allowing several perfectly good shot opportunities to go by the wayside every possession.
The only silver lining here comes from looking at the other recent Maryland teams during Turgeon’s tenure. Although this team is obviously more talented than any in the past 4 years, that’s not the part to focus on. If you took away a good bounce here or a Dez Wells miracle there, this team could easily be sitting squarely on the bubble with a 16-7 record. But unlike the teams of years past, as poorly as this team can perform for 35 minutes, they seem to have a different gear for the last five. They don’t panic when they’re trailing, and although it hasn’t been pretty, they’re one Iowa win away from a nice round 20 on the season. Let’s see if they can pull it off.
What To Know About Iowa
They’re Freaking Huge
I mentioned in my last game preview that at the start of every game, there is now a question of whether the 6’11” Damonte Dodd fits into the gameplan against that days opponent. Against undersized Indiana, he was a square peg, his size working against him due to the Hoosiers lack of a traditional center and breakneck pace. Sunday will be the first time in weeks that Dodd will finally be a perfect fit for a game.
This is simply because Iowa’s style contrasts Indiana’s almost directly. During conference play, the Hawkeyes have had the second fewest possessions per game in the Big 10 (59.2). That lumbering pace suits Fran McCaffery just fine, because it allows Iowa’s deep front court to settle in and get position to dominate on the glass.
Iowa’s top three scorers are Aaron White (6’9”) and Jared Uthoff (6’9”), and Gabriel Olaseni (6’10”) with Adam Woodbury (7’1”) ranking fifth on the list. Only Uthoff gives even a passing glance to the three-point line (35/92, 38% on the season). All four of those guys average over 5 rebounds per game, and Iowa is coming off a game where they were +16 against Michigan on the boards. Maryland has some size in Dodd and Cekovsky, but I don’t’ think anyone is expecting them to outrebound the redwoods on Iowa, but keeping the margin close will be a big part of this matchup.
Their Size Hampers Them On Defense
Like most teams (see: every team besides Kentucky), Iowa’s height is a double-edged sword. The advantage it provides them underneath is significant, but it hinders their perimeter defense nearly as much. When the Hawkeyes have lost, it has often been due to flash avalanches of three-pointers. Iowa State came in and knocked down 12/27 from deep, Michigan State hit 12/17, even in a win over North Florida, Iowa conceded 12 three pointers.
On paper, Iowa doesn’t have the speed to guard players like Wells, Trimble, or possibly even Layman. That advantage should provide some open driving lanes to the basket for the guards, but the key will then be to look for shooters and try and copy what has been a tried and true strategy for beating the Hawkeyes.
What To Watch For Maryland
Can Trimble Snap The Slump?
Every team has their flaws and Maryland is no exception. Sloppy defensive rotations are a problem, Damonte Dodd’s regression during conference play is a problem. But those are problems that any coach worth his contract can work around. The Terps biggest problem right now could be the possibility that Melo Trimble has run smack into the freshman wall.
Trimble ranks second in the conference in minutes per game among freshman at 33.1, and he hasn’t made a field goal in his last two games. Although he did have a few pretty passes in the Penn State game, Trimble’s electric first step looks to have lost a few watts recently, and there’s no denying he was very tentative to pull the trigger against the Nittany Lions.
This isn’t just a problem for the Iowa game, this is a problem for the season; plenty of things can happen to this Maryland team that they’ll be able to fight back from. This team has shown resiliency more than any other trait this season, and it will take more than a few dings to cause a breakdown of what looks to be an NCAA tournament season. However, Trimble is the engine of this team, and if he’s truly failing due to overuse, Turgeon will need to work some magic to keep this team competitive against some tough teams down the stretch.
Maryland – 75, Iowa – 70
I’m picking Maryland to win for a few reasons. One is that this team more than any other in the past four years plays FOR Turgeon. Just a few weeks ago, he said in a radio interview that he’s finally gotten back to really enjoying coaching because he really enjoys teaching this group of players. I have to think they’ve heard the whispers about the last two road blowouts, and they’ll come out looking to silence the critics of the team and the coach.
My other reason is that Iowa is not a scary place to play judging by the results this year. Iowa State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin all came in and won convincingly, and Maryland has beaten two of those teams soundly. Maryland maybe be undersized, but I trust their ability to scrap for rebounds more than I trust Iowa’s ability to challenge the Terps outside shots.