The Iowa Hawkeyes return to Iowa to face the surging Maryland Terrapins after a shaky start to Big Ten play for the former.
TV Schedule: Friday, January 10, 2020 at 7:00 PM ET, FS1
Location: Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City, Iowa
This is not how the Iowa Hawkeyes envisioned Big Ten play going this season.
Including the two games that took place earlier in the year, Iowa is just 1-3 in conference play so far, a disappointing mark when placed next to their 9-2 non-conference record, which includes wins over Texas Tech, rival Iowa State and Cincinnati. The Hawkeyes have lost two straight, including a road defeat at the hands of one of the conference’s worst teams (Nebraska) on Tuesday evening.
Big man Luka Garza can’t be blamed for the team’s recent struggles. The junior center has continued to emerge as one of the best players in the entire nation, averaging 22.1 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. In the two recent losses, he’s combined for 50 points and 30 rebounds.
Instead, it’s the rest of the team that needs to catch up to their Wooden Award candidate. In the six-point loss to the Cornhuskers, the bench scored just four points, all coming from Cordell Pemsl. Bakari Evelyn played 15 minutes without scoring a single point. Additionally, the team shot an abysmal 12.1 percent from three, hitting just 4 of 33 attempts.
That number is probably an aberration – at least Fran McCaffery has to hope so.
Maryland, on the other hand, is riding high after consecutive double-digit wins over Big Ten opponents, including a 12-point defensive knockout of the No. 11 Ohio State Buckeyes. The Terrapins are 3-1 in conference play, tied with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights for second in the Big Ten.
There are some commonalities shared between how Iowa played against Nebraska and how Ohio State played against Maryland. The Buckeyes, too, struggled from the 3-point line and saw little contributions from their bench, suggesting Maryland has the potential to roll Iowa out of their own building Friday night.
But Maryland’s next road victory will be their first of the season, as they have losses at Penn State and Seton Hall in hand. Four of their next five games will be on the road, giving them ample opportunity to work out their issues away from their home court, but it may take a game or two to get into a rhythm.
Iowa is not as bad as their start to conference play suggests, with the numbers suggesting a turnaround is right around the corner. The Hawkeyes are one of the best scoring teams in the Big Ten (80.4 points per game) and one of the best passing teams in the nation (17.9 assists per game).
Last year’s game between these two teams in Iowa City was a memorable one. Bruno Fernando tipped the ball in with less than eight seconds to go to give Maryland a road victory, their first over a ranked opponent in almost a decade.
The Terrapins are better this year, but they need to prove they can win on the road before getting the benefit of the doubt.
Prediction: Iowa 71, Maryland 68