Maryland sets their sights on #5 Iowa
Maryland has its sights set on a major upset tonight when #5 Iowa runs through the tunnels of the Xfinity Center at 7:00 p.m. A week after upsetting #6 Wisconsin, Maryland was provided enough light to illuminate hope as they forge through the bad lands of the Big 10 schedule. In their last two games however, Maryland suffered consecutive losses to Michigan and Indiana in which they had second half leads in both games.
Tonight, they will face #5 ranked Iowa and player of the year candidate Luka Garza. Despite being ranked #5 in the country, Iowa ranks 3rd in the Big 10 behind Michigan and Illinois. Iowa will be the heavy favorites entering the contest and expect to soar higher in the Big 10 rankings after tonights matchup.
Here is what Maryland fans need to know headed into the contest.
Maryland has lost its last two contests and this has been in large part to their inability to contain top tier big men. Specifically, Hunter Dickinson (26 points) and Trayce Jackson-Davis (22 points) have torched the Terps over the past two games. Both players are considered to be top level big men, not only in the conference but in the nation.
Their reward? Garzilla himself, Luka Garza. Garza enters the game averaging 27.5 points per game and 9 rebounds. Luka Garza has stomped and scorched his way through competition, despite every effort from their opponent’s to contain the beast. Leave him alone inside? He feasts near the rim. Double team? He finds the open teammate. Force him to the outside? He shoots from range. Pressure him outside? He puts the ball on the floor and puts you on a poster.
Even in a loss to #1 Gonzaga, Garza slashed and clawed his way to 30 points and 10 rebounds. He has quickly made his claim as king of the monsters, or at least tops of the NCAA player of the year discussions.
Maryland has struggled against lesser competition, and they must find a way to limit Garza or put the pressure on his teammates to win.
How to pull the upset? Air Assault and Contain the Perimeter
Fran McCaffery is in his tenth season as the Hawkeyes head coach and his team is expected to be National Title contenders. They Hawkeyes have back to back ranked victories over #14 Rutgers and #19 North Western. While proving to be a top tier team, Iowa can be beaten.
Iowa has suffered two losses, #1 Gonzaga (99-88) and Minnesota (102-95), and enters the game the heavy favorite against Maryland. However, in their two losses, Iowa struggled from range. While Garza would still rampage through his opponents and lead his team in scoring and rebounding, Iowa as a team would shoot poorly from distance.
In those losses Iowa shot a pedestrian 25.5% from the arc and allowed their opponents to shoot 44.75% from outside and pepper the score board. The assault from distance accounted for a combined 90 points in those losses. If Maryland manages to find victory, they will need their outside shooting to recover their early season accuracy while managing to use their defensive rotations to stifle Iowa on the perimeter.
Maryland has the talent to compete in this contest. Ayala, Wiggins, Scott, Hart, and Hamilton have shown the ability to shoot from rang despite what the collective numbers suggest. There has not been a game this season where they have put a collective offensive effort for the totality of a game. The zenith of the team’s offense was on display in the final ten minutes against Wisconsin and proved it has the ability to compete with anyone.
The team defense will give Iowa trouble. Darryl Morsell will return from his facial fracture to give solid minutes from the bench. Maryland will in no way stop Luka Garza from stomping around the cylinder and they will almost certainly allow him to score above his average and collect double digit rebounds which will frustrate Galin Smith, Chol Marial, and Jairus Hamilton. However, the Terps will instead look to frustrate the rest of his teammates. The game plan will allow Garza to eat, but starve his teammates.
Donta Scott and Eric Ayala will land several shots that will inspire Maryland to fight throughout the carnage. Aaron Wiggins will continue to use his athleticism to evolve and progress the Terps offense that will give the Terps bench reason to windmill their team towels. Maryland will have moments of promise and possibly even have a first half lead.
However, a familiar ending will come to fruition as Maryland will try to use its transition game to force a pace that will wear down the legs of Garza late in the game. Frustration will continue to swell and Maryland will see familiar failures from the free throw line. Baskets that were falling early, will clang against the rim and the depth of the roster will provide little relief to the starters as they stumble to compete against the best the Big 10 has to offer. Iowa will use the second half to slowly and consistently put a strangle hold on the lead forcing Maryland into a game in which it cannot keep pace.
Iowa wins 90 – 78