Big Ten teams are simply jockeying for position at this point. Wisconsin barely escaped Michigan, and kept pace with Maryland atop the conference standings. In fact, eight other teams are within a game and a half of the leaders. Michigan State, Northwestern and Purdue all lurk just a half game back.
You can preview the only Thursday Big Ten game below.
Big Ten Game of the Day:
- Time/TV: 6:00 PM CT – ESPN
- KenPom Spread: Iowa (-2)
Iowa’s one of those eight teams, just a game and a half back of Maryland and Wisconsin. Beating Purdue helped, but following it up with a loss to Northwestern on the road made it a one step forward, one step back situation.
Maryland offers a great opportunity to take another step forward. The Terrapins represent the third ranked team to play in Iowa City this season, and the Hawkeyes have won the previous two (Iowa State, Purdue).
Iowa has been a pretty interesting case this season. The team ebbed to close last year, with all the talent and experience. This season, according to the Hawkeye athletic department, the program has the youngest consistent lineup in program history – four freshmen (one redshirt) and one senior. We’d have to go back seven decades (1943-44) to find an Iowa starting lineup rivaling the youth of this season.
Fortunately, Peter Jok is Iowa’s lone senior, who can provide instant scoring from anywhere on the floor. His range extends well beyond the three-point line, and he’s shooting about 40 percent from three and 90 percent from the free throw line. Undoubtedly, Jok gets a majority of the opposition’s attention, and he’s still averaging 21.9 points per game, pretty efficiently.
What’s unfortunate is that Jok’s season is happening during a time of transition for Iowa. The young talent on the roster has shown promise, but consistency has been the issue. Isaiah Moss and Tyler Cook have been solid. And, Jordan Bohannon has 28 assists over his last five games.
As for the Terrapins, Mark Turgeon’s squad is pretty young too. He starts three freshman and two juniors. One of the veterans, Melo Trimble, appears to have returned to form after dealing with injuries a year ago. He’s averaging 17.2 points per game, and while only shooting 34 percent from three, Trimble’s back to attacking the basket. He’s finishing better around the rim, and his free throws are up slightly over his sophomore season.
More broadly, Maryland’s and Iowa’s offense are similar efficiency-wise, according to KenPom, but the Hawkeyes’ defense is worse (138th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, compared to 35th for Maryland).
Iowa will look to push the pace, as they do against any opponent. The Hawkeyes, on average, possess the ball less than 15 seconds per possession, which is fifteenth in the nation. Maryland’s not afraid to play fast, but it’ll be different if Iowa gets rolling at home.
Either Fran McCaffrey or Mark Turgeon will leave Carver-Hawkeye Arena with his 381st coaching victory (both will enter with 380 career wins, obviously), but more interestingly, Maryland will face a big test in Iowa City. The Terrapins have been gutsy this season, and they’ll get a chance to prove it again on the road.
- Pick Against the Spread: Maryland