Maryland Basketball: 5 Keys to Beating Iowa in NIT Semifinal
After defeating Niagara and Denver handily, and then eking out a nail-biter against top regional seed Alabama, Maryland has advanced to the Final Four of the NIT.
The Terps will finish their season where they began it—in New York City. Maryland opened against Kentucky in Brooklyn and will finish at Madison Square Garden.
While the NIT doesn't have nearly the same luster as the NCAA tournament does, Maryland fans must recognize that their squad hadn't even made the "lowly" NIT for two consecutive seasons.
Now, the Terps will face future BIg Ten rival Iowa in the semifinal, who knocked off ACC power Virginia to get to Manhattan.
Here are five keys for Maryland to proceed to the NIT final and face the winner of BYU and Baylor.
Force Iowa to Shoot Threes
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If one thing is certain, Iowa did not accumulate 24 victories in a loaded Big Ten Conference by draining three-pointer after three-pointer.
The Hawkeyes rank 296th in three-point field-goal percentage at 30.9 percent. Even more alarmingly, they only get 23 percent of their points behind the arc, a very low number.
Maryland hasn't played any zone this season, so I don't suspect Mark Turgeon will go down that avenue this late in the season. But, Iowa scores by attacking the bucket and feeding the post, so Maryland must make some adjustments and force Iowa to rely on its dearth of outside shooters.
Don't Put Iowa on the Free-Throw Line
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While the Hawkeyes make very few long balls, they are very reliant and efficient from the charity stripe.
They've gotten to the line 854 times this season, which is the eighth most in the nation. Once they get there, they take advantage of the opportunity, putting in a commendable 73 percent of their foul shots.
Maryland has done a solid job at avoiding foul trouble this season, only averaging 16.6 fouls per game. The Terps must continue this trend if they wish to advance to the NIT final.
Avoid Reliance on Alex Len
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In a very odd and infrequent scenario, Maryland will face an opponent who has someone to match 7'1'' Alex Len's height and length in the post. Enter freshman Adam Woodbury, who also stands an inch over seven feet.
Woodbury now has a year of work in the Big Ten under his belt, having faced top-notch big men like Cody Zeller, Adreian Payne and Mitch McGary. He'll have zero fear facing Len, regardless of Len's NBA projected future.
Since Iowa has the personnel to slow down Len, the Hawkeyes must get increased production from perimeter players. Dez Wells and Nick Faust must get to the hoop, while Jake Layman and Logan Aronhalt need to nail their outside shots.
Pressue the Ball-Handler
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Iowa's roster carries a plethora of skilled post men and athletic slashers, but the Hawkeyes have a major absence when it comes to reliable ball-handlers.
The Hawkeyes depend on two freshmen, Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons, at the point guard spot. Together, they combine for a 1.5-1 assist-turnover ratio, which isn't very good. For comparison, UCLA's Larry Drew II has a 3-1 ratio, nearly doubling Gesell and Clemmons.
Maryland has some quick guards, even with the absence of injured freshman Seth Allen. If Dez Wells and Nick Faust can bring some pressure, Maryland will thrive off forcing turnovers and getting out in transition.
Win the Rebounding Battle
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This NIT semifinal will be a battle between two of the nation's rebounding Goliaths.
Iowa ranks sixth in America in total rebounds, while the Terps are even higher up that list, ranking second nationally. These two teams know how to eat up the glass, so this is where one team can gain an advantage over the other.
If Maryland can eliminate Iowa's presence on the glass, it gets rid off the Hawkeyes' primary dimension as a ballclub. With bigs Alex Len, Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell as massive bodies in the post, Maryland is fully capable of doing so.