Cedar Rapids, Iowa News, Sports, and Weather
NEW YORK, NY -- Iowa and Maryland boast many similarities from their records to their personnel.
The schools will have much more in common in 2014 when Maryland joins the Big Ten. But tonight (8 p.m. ESPN2) is about championships. The Hawkeyes (24-12) and Terrapins (25-12) are playing for a spot in Thursday's NIT finals.
The teams hold their opponents to about 38 percent shooting and score between 70.6 and 71.0 points per game. Both had a substantial rebounding margin over their opponents. And they both like to run on offense.
"Offensively, they've got some athletes that really like to push in transition," Iowa sophomore Aaron White said. "They're just like us. They attack the glass, they've got the big guy in the middle. They're a good defensively team while they're doing that. A great match-up."
Each team has a designated scorer that has elevated their team's level of play this offseason. Maryland sophomore Dez Wells, a 6-foot-5 combo guard, has scored in double digits and averaged 17.8 points in 10 straight games. For the season he put up 13.2 points and 4.9 rebounds and scored 30 points against Duke. In the NIT, he averages 18.3 points.
"He's incredibly powerful and amazingly quick," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "Normally you're either quick or you're powerful. He's got the package on both ends. In transition, he's really effective. We like to run, they like to run. That'll be interesting to watch but we have to stop their transition game to the point where he doesn't go for 25 because he's a big-time coast-to-coast guy."
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said Wells has brought much-needed toughness at both ends of the court.
"For a sophomore he's brought on an unbelievable leadership to our young team," Turgeon said. "He's been great. Lately he's done some great scoring. He's become a better defender, he's become a better team player. He's given us a lot. I couldn't imagine where we'd be without him."
Iowa counters with 6-7 junior guard Devyn Marble, who will handle the point most of the time. Marble averages 15.1 points this season, but has elevated his play with 25.3 points and 5.3 assists in Iowa's three NIT games.
"We're going to have a lot of people on him, but it's a team effort," Wells said of Marble. "It's trying to get him in uncomfortable situations and force him to score over a stretched hand. He's a really good player, but we're not just scouting him; we're scouting his team. It's not just about him; it's about the whole team."
Turgeon said he wants his team to keep Marble off the free-throw line.
"He's good, and he's so good reading screens," Turgeon said. "Keep him off the foul line, keep him and White off the foul line -- that's what's most important. That's a big key. It's easier said than done. Everybody's tried to do it, but they can't do it.
"Marble's going to get 24, but hopefully he does it on 18 shots. Keep him off the foul line. He's a heck of a player and he makes them go."
The teams also feature two young 7-footers in the post. Maryland sophomore Alex Len, whom McCaffery calls "a lottery pick" averaged 11.8 points and 7.8 rebounds this year. Len, who stands 7-1, is a Ukrainian native and was a member of the ACC's all-defensive team.
"I see he has a good set of hands," Iowa junior forward Melsahn Basabe said. "He has a good skill set for a 7-footer. He has good post moves, he uses his left and his right. He definitely a respectable player and obviously we have to be aware of what he does well. I think we have the advantage of having Adam Woodbury, who's just a great defender and presents a physicality match-up for him. I think we've got the right thing to make sure he doesn't affect us and take over the game.
"The key is when he gets it down low and goes in his move, you've got to dig on him from the guards so I might be in position to do that," White said. "We also might be in position to run him. We've got good, athletic bigs that compete well and try to run him a little bit more than he wants to and put him in ball-screen situations a lot."
Iowa freshman Adam Woodbury, who also stands 7-1, posted his best game last week against Virginia with 10 points and eight rebounds in 26 minutes. Woodbury has started every game and averages 4.9 points and 4.8 rebounds.
"I think it's a really good match-up," McCaffery said. "Adam's going to have to work. They do really good things. They get him the ball, they move the ball, they throw it in to him. He's got a tremendous skill set. Obviously Woody's going to have his hands full but he's guarded (Indiana center Cody) Zeller and people like that. He's used to guarding talented players that are that big."
Len said he admires how Woodbury uses his left hand around the basket.
"His left hand is strong, he plays physical," Len said. "It's going to be a good match-up."
Both teams are fairly young. Iowa has only one scholarship senior while Maryland has two. That's evident in the post.
"Alex is pretty good when he comes to play," Turgeon said. "Woodbury's pretty good, too. A highly recruited player. So we'll see. You won't know until the game starts where your advantage is; we're set to play any way we have to play."
Maryland has to play short-handed without guard Seth Allen, who broke his hand on March 24. Allen averaged 7.8 points and 2.3 assists per game.
"We're not as deep as we were," Turgeon said. "We lost Seth Allen to a broken hand that hurt us. Because he was really coming on. He was our third-leading scorer in the postseason, he was a dynamic scorer and a tough guard for a lot of people. We're a little bit different than we were 10 days ago, but we're much confident team than we were a month ago."
Turnovers mark the only major difference between the schools. Iowa's turnover margin is plus-0.4, while Maryland's is minus-4.2. The Terrapins rank 338th in turnover margin and give up 14.9 turnovers a game.
The schools have played five commons opponents -- South Carolina State, Stony Brook, Northwestern, Virginia and Virginia Tech. Iowa is 6-1 (loss to Virginia Tech) against those teams, while Maryland is 5-2 (two losses to Virginia).
There's a genuine respect between the clubs. The winner faces either Baylor or BYU on Thursday.
"I've seen them play a couple of times this year so I'm not surprised," Wells said. "They're everything I thought they were. We just have to come out and be ready to play."