Maryland basketball vs. Iowa: Previewing the NIT semifinals


(Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

THE INFO

Who: Maryland (25-12) vs. Iowa (23-12).

When: Tuesday, approximately 9:30 p.m.

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York.

TV: ESPN2.

DMV radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM, 1300 AM.

Coaches: Terps — Mark Turgeon (second season, 42-27). Hawkeyes – Fran McCaffery (third season, 53-49).

Pomeroy ratings: Terps 48th, Hawkeyes 21st.

Final RPI: Terps 71st, Hawkeyes 81st.

THE SCRIPT

In a neat bit of symmetry, Maryland will bookend its season in New York, where the Terrapins dropped their season opener against Kentucky on Nov. 9. Nearly five months later, an entirely different group — at least in practice – drove north in search of a National Invitational Tournament final appearance. Standing in its way is Iowa, a future Big Ten opponent that’s won 10 of 13 dating back to Feb. 9, a stretch that includes a hard-fought three-point loss to Michigan State in the conference tournament. The Hawkeyes are no slouch, either. Roy Devyn Marble has been on fire through three NIT games and sophomore forward Adam White is one of four Big Ten players to average 12.9 points and at least six rebounds. The others? Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo and Deshaun Thomas.

NIT championship aside, the Terps have plenty to play for. They want to send senior James Padgett, a Brooklyn native, out on a high note. They want to atone for that loss to the Wildcats. Most importantly, they want the hardware to validate their late-season progress since the loss to Georgia Tech on Feb. 27, which has now become Turgeon’s definition of “rock bottom.”

THE QUESTIONS

1. Contain Marble? In three NIT games, Marble is averaging 25.3 points, 5.3 assists and three steals. Per Iowa’s game notes, more than 10 percent of his career scoring has come in five NIT games over the past two seasons. A 6-foot-6 guard, Marble dominated top-seeded Virginia in the quarterfinals, playing point guard and taking advantage of mismatches outside the perimeter. Expect Pe’Shon Howard, Dez Wells or Nick Faust to handle defensive duties on Marble. Let him loose, and the Hawkeyes could roll.

2. Win inside? Iowa freshman Adam Woodbury has been playing better lately, posting a career-high 26 minutes and 10 points against the Cavaliers. But the 7-foot-1 freshman should provide a formidable body for Alex Len to bang against, creating an enticing interior matchup. Remember, Len actually plays his best against defenders his size. It’s the scrappy 6-8 players who cause problems. Woodbury has also started 36 games this season, a program record, so youthful inexperience shouldn’t be an issue.

3. Come out strong? Maryland is 80 solid minutes away from an NIT title, playing at Madison Square Garden before a national television audience. New York City has plenty of distractions, and the late tip-off creates even more down time for both teams. A sluggish first half could put Maryland behind early and spell doom for its championship hopes.

THE STATS

57.4: Two-point shooting percentage for Dez Wells over the past 10 games, all double-digit scoring efforts for the sophomore.

179: Points allowed in three NIT games by both Maryland and Iowa (59.7 per game, tied for lowest among the semifinalists).

.923: Iowa’s winning percentage against nonconference opponents when leading at halftime. (h/t Daily Iowan)

THE QUOTES

“To me, it felt like a tournament from day one. We played two league champions in Niagara and Denver, then you play a team that’s won 13 straight at home, undefeated in the SEC, so you’ve played good teams. To win three good games against three good teams is nice, no matter where you play. Does this make it feel more like a tournament? Yeah, absolutely. Being in the Garden, there will be fans from each schools here. It’ll feel like a tournament. I just know our guys, since we beat Alabama, have had a little more pep in their step.” – Turgeon.

“I like doing this stuff, but in New York it’s too much. D.C. is cool. Here, it’s too many people. Walking across the street took me 10 minutes. Everyone wants to ask questions and take a picture.” – Len on New York.

THE TERPS TUNE OF TODAY

“Bright Spring Morning” by Suburban Legends.

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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