IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa basketball is not very good right now.
There’s just no other way to put it – there aren’t any excuses. The team is 9-8, and 0-4 in the Big Ten – joint last, with an Illinois team under a first-year head coach.
Iowa is under an 8th year head coach, on a team that returned all but one rotation player. To be disappointed, frustrated, and upset is normal and understandable. The next stretch of games for the Hawkeyes may not alleviate that frustration just yet.
Iowa starts a three-game road stretch on Sunday when they visit Maryland (13-4, 2-2 Big Ten). The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 at 7PM.
The Terrapins are coming off of a blowout road loss to Michigan State, the #1 team in the country, and are without their best player, Justin Jackson, for the rest of the season. Other than those two losses, it has been a mostly good year for Mark Turgeon’s program. The Terps hold a non-conference win over Butler and don’t have any bad losses. For a team in transition following the departure of do-it-all guard Melo Trimble, this is a solid foundation.
Jackson’s injury threw Maryland’s rotations around, but the team has a good core of young pieces. The two other pieces of Turgeon’s recruiting class that brought in Jackson – Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter – are the two centerpieces for Maryland. Cowan is a scoring point guard with craftiness and athleticism, posting 16.2 points per game and adding 4.5 assists. Huerter is an electric forward with length, at 6-foot-7, and a deadly three point shot – he hits 45.7% of his shots from behind the arc. Maryland also has a raw but talented freshman big man from Angola named Bruno Fernando, who scores in double digits and has been hot in Big Ten play.
Maryland is a balanced team – by Ken Pomeroy’s advanced college basketball analytics, they rank in the top 45 of the country in both adjusted offense and adjusted defense. They do a very poor job of protecting the ball, ranking the in bottom ten teams in the nation in offensive steal rate, and in the bottom 50 in total turnover rate. The Hawkeyes do not force a lot of turnovers, but they will have to focus on stopping the Terrapins via the turnover game.
Unfortunately, Iowa has not succeeded at stopping most teams in any ways so far this season. The 92 points they allowed to Ohio State on Thursday was to a team that does not have a size or athleticism advantage over the Hawkeyes. Maryland, even without Jackson, has both of those advantages. The Hawkeyes will have to work out better defensive schemes to overcome this. They stuck with a poor zone defense for far too long against the Buckeyes, and when they did switch to a man-to-man set to start the second half, they showed flashes of their best defense of the season.
Prediction: Maryland wins, 86-70. Ultimately, the Terrapins just have too much size and skill. Pomeroy gives Maryland an 80% chance to win on Sunday – if the game was being played at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, that number would drop, but as it stands, Iowa is not built to win on the road. They will win a Big Ten game eventually, but Sunday will not be it. After Maryland, the Hawkeyes get road trips to Illinois and Rutgers – look out for those as potential victories.