Iowa faces an uphill battle, as they head out east to face off with Melo Trimble and Maryland in a nationally televised game.
Iowa (15-13, 7-8) at Maryland (22-6, 10-5)
Time: 5:00 PM CT
Location: XFINITY Center
Tickets: University of Maryland
Line: Maryland -7.5
Note: All numbers are scaled so that zero is equal to the Division I average in each category. Anything higher than zero means that a team is better than average in that category. Meanwhile, anything less than zero means that a team is below average in that category. Lastly, all numbers, unless otherwise specified, are from Big Ten play.
On this end of the court, we have a pretty close battle between what Kenpom ranks the #52 offense in the country vs. the #53 defense in the country. When you look at their performance in Big Ten play and account for the schedules they have played, Iowa's offense ranks eighth in the conference, averaging 1.12 adjusted points per possession (PPP). Maryland's defense, meanwhile, is seventh in the Big Ten, giving up an adjusted 0.95 PPP.
Looking at the four factor chart, it's pretty obvious that Maryland has the advantage when it comes to contesting shots, but Iowa is the favorite in turnovers and rebounding. And that's actually how the game between these two played out last time. In the January 19th game in Iowa City, the Hawkeyes actually won three of four factors against the Terps, but still lost by eight points because of the disparity in shooting. Maryland plays a disciplined defense, in which they are not only above average at contesting three-point shots, but they are also better than average at suppressing those attempts and forcing their opponents to funnel the ball inside where their big men block a ton of shots.
Last time out, Iowa shot the ball terribly from the field. They made just a little over half of their shots near the rim and shot a meager 25% from three-point land. What they did do, however, was crash the offensive glass and create 20 more scoring opportunities for themselves than Maryland had. On top of that, they also earned their way to the free throw line more often and made 76% of their free throws. Considering the Terps are the second-worst defensive rebounding team in the conference and that their big men have rather large fouling problems, I believe Iowa could very well dominate in these two categories again.
Guys like Tyler Cook, Cordell Pemsl, and Ahmad Wagner (who had a great game against Maryland in January) will be relied on in this game to create second chance opportunities at the rim or at the free throw line. Even if Iowa's three-point shooting continues to be iffy, hopefully the Hawkeyes can put together a consistent stream of points down low and from the charity stripe.
The question that remains, however, is will that be enough? Unfortunately, I'm not sure it will. The Terps contest shots so well on defense, and if their offense is knocking down threes at a high clip, then that whole 3 > 2 thing starts to come into play. Moreover, this game is away from Iowa City, and that makes me worry about this game getting ugly if Iowa is missing everything from the floor and Maryland isn't. Because of the home court advantage, I am going to lean Maryland here.
When Maryland has the ball, Kenpom ranks this as a match up between the #43 offense in the country vs. the #129 defense. In Big Ten play, the Terrapin offense ranks #3, scoring an adjusted 1.18 PPP, while Iowa ranks #11, surrendering 1.00 PPP. When we look at the four factors, Maryland has the edge in shooting and rebounding, while Iowa has the upper hand in turnovers and trips to the line.
Last time, Maryland really only held the shooting advantage, but that was more than enough to walk away with the win. They pick and rolled Iowa to death in the first half, and then came alive from downtown down the stretch to put Iowa away in Carver. And we should probably expect something similar this time around, since Maryland not only sets a ton of ball screens for Melo Trimble and Anthony Cowan, but the Terps also get an above average amount of their points from three-point land.
What we probably can't expect, barring another random single game circumstance, is Iowa to force 22 turnovers and score 30 points off of them like last time. That was a big part of why Iowa was able to stay in the previous game, despite being outshot by 27 percentage points. And if they can't force many turnovers in this one, well then let's hope Maryland doesn't shoot 67% (eFG%) again from the field or this one could get very ugly.
Basically, what this side of the ball boils down to is Iowa not getting killed defending ball screens and not leaving Maryland's bevy of three-point shooters open. Defense is not Iowa's forte this season, though, and with this game not being held in Carver, I have to go with the Terps yet again.
Players to Know
Note: The horizontal axis represents a player's usage rate, while the vertical axis represents a player's offensive rating. The logo size represents playing time (bigger means more time on the court). This chart should tell us how involved in the offense the player is, how efficient they are in doing so, and in how many minutes per game they accomplish all of this.
Melo Trimble G -- Trimble is scoring 17 points in 32 minutes per night in Big Ten play. If you look at the player chart above, you can see that his minutes, usage, and efficiency are all very comparable to Peter Jok this season. Basically, the Terps have a lot of good players, but Trimble is still the engine that makes them go. He scores the most points, hands out the most assists, and the offense is centered on him utilizing ball screens to create scoring opportunities for himself and others. Isaiah Moss started the game on him last time, and I would imagine that he will this time around, as well. However, with Moss' struggles and Christian Williams playing better as of late, I would not be surprised to see a lot more of Williams in this game to try and slow down Trimble.
Anthony Cowan G -- Part of the reason that Maryland is so dangerous is because if Trimble is having on off game, the Terps have another guy with almost the exact same skill set in Anthony Cowan. The freshman guard is playing 30 minutes per night in Big Ten play and scoring 10 points during that time on the court. For a team like Iowa that has a hard enough time defending one slashing guard, Cowan poses a real problem since he's quite frequently on the court with Trimble for a majority of the game. Maryland likes to set ball screens for him the way they do for Trimble, and if Iowa wants to slow him down, they need to force him to shoot from distance off of those, where he's only making 31% this year. Unfortunately, figuring out who is going to guard him is where the issue lies. That pretty much falls in Jordan Bohannon's lap in man defense, and that is a huge mismatch that could very well lead to a ton of points at the rim or the free throw line for Cowan.
Kevin Huerter F -- Another true freshman, Huerter is scoring 10 points in 31 minutes per game against conference competition this season. He is a lower usage guy whose best assets are his three-point shooting and his defensive rebounding. He plays off the ball mostly, as a catch and shoot guy that takes about six threes per game and is making 40% of them in Big Ten play. He and Peter Jok should be battling on both sides of the ball all game long. Hopefully Jok comes out on top.
Justin Jackson F -- Jackson is the the third in the trio of freshman stars. Like Huerter, he's a bigger, versatile forward who is scoring just under 11 points per game in conference play in 29 minutes per game. Unlike Huerter, he can not only play out on the perimeter (he's a 46% three-point shooter on the year), but he can also post up and play closer to the basket. He will be going head-to-head with Tyler Cook on both ends of the court in this one. Hopefully Cook can make his shots and cut down his turnovers this time around because his defense worries me against Jackson.
The Rest -- The remaining players on Maryland's roster basically fit into two bins: 1) catch and shoot guys from deep; or 2) offensively-challenged, foul-prone big men.
The perimeter depth for this Maryland team comes down to Jaylen Brantley and Jared Nickens. Neither guy is a high usage player, but they both favor the three-point shot over the two-point one (Nickens more so than Brantley) and are making more than 40% from distance in Big Ten play. Now, Brantley doesn't fit as neatly into this bin as Nickens, as he is capable of attacking the rim off the dribble. However, he's not really active in this offense, so it's not a huge mislabeling.
As for big men, Maryland has Damonte Dodd, Ivan Bender, LG Gill, and Michal Cekovsky. All of these guys are limited offensively and get most of their offense off of putbacks or rolling to the basket after setting a ball screen. On defense, most of these guys are also good shot-blockers, but all of them also average more than five fouls called per 40 minutes. Hopefully Iowa's big men can take advantage of their fouling troubles.
What Kenpom Thinks
Rankings: Iowa #75, Maryland #36
Projected Outcome: Iowa 74 (22%), Maryland 82 (78%)
Projected Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.04, Maryland 1.15
This projection doesn't take too much to figure out. Maryland has only lost six times this season, is a more balanced team, and the game is being played on their home court. To be fair, four of those six losses have come in their last six games, and Iowa certainly has a chance to pull the upset if Peter Jok is en fuego and if the Hawkeye big men can take advantage of the fouling problems Maryland's bigs have. Unfortunately, the odds of Iowa's offense having a bad game on the road, while also struggling on defense with Maryland's ball screens and losing their shooters on the perimeter, are probably much higher.