| ||Tuesday, March 14|
Special to ESPN.com
|Gary Williams was the coach at Ohio State when Steve Alford was a senior at Indiana. They both know the Big Ten, and both understand the concept of smash-mouth basketball. This will be a terrific game, with an improving Maryland team trying to blend new players into new roles, while Iowa is trying to mold itself into a new system after shocking the college basketball world with its win over Connecticut in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
There was not a single person involved in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic that didn't say, "I hope Iowa can make it a game, at least for a while." Clearly, the Huskies, who were trying to work into new roles themselves, thought it would be a walkover. However, Steve Alford spoke with his team only about winning the game, not about staying close or giving good effort and seeing what might happen.
This Iowa team, while not particularly talented or deep, believes in what Alford is selling them. That alone makes the Hawkeyes dangerous. What makes the Hawkeyes feel better about going to Maryland is that the game is in Baltimore rather than in Cole Field House.
When Iowa has the ball
Iowa runs motion offense, with a lot of pro sets into motion sets. Alford is an excellent teacher of reading screens and using them to get open shots. He teaches footwork and precision in the Hawkeyes' pop cuts, basket cuts and flair cuts. Iowa will make use of screening pairs and has a lot of screen and re-screen action. There are ballscreens, misdirections to free shooters Ryan Luehrsmann and Kyle Galloway, and to allow lefty point guard Dean Oliver to get into the paint and create.
Oliver is an explosive penetrator that can be outstanding, and Alford is looking for him to be more of a creator and scorer this season. Oliver is the most important player on the Iowa roster, along with Jacob Jaacks. Without either of those two, the Hawkeyes are in trouble. Iowa takes opportunistic 3-pointers in transition, and looks inside to Jaacks, who has shown great improvement as a scorer and defender, and is sporting a new Dr. Evil shaved head.
Jaacks likes to go up and under, spin or look for his short hook. Rod Thompson and Duez Henderson provide additional rebounding and baseline scoring, but both are undersized.
When Maryland has the ball
In addition to scoring off of its defense, Maryland runs several halfcourt sets, but primarily relies upon a flex look along the baseline. The Terps love to attack the basket and get it closer in, and they do a nice job of setting baseline screens, sealing off in the post and delivering a scoring pass. Freshman Steve Blake will run the show, and Blake is a capable handler who has done nothing but win during his high school days, including a 31-0 mark at Oak Hill last season.
Blake is a resilient performer with a good maturity level who is very tough with the ball in his hands. When Blake has the ball, he will be looking primarily for Terence Morris, one of the nation's true stars. Morris is long and athletic, and is one of the few players on the college scene with no ceiling to his potential. Morris presents matchup problems for Iowa because he has the ability to step outside to take a slower defender off the dribble and shoot over a smaller defender. Look for Morris to rely more upon his considerable inside skills this season, and especially against Iowa.
Iowa needs to be concerned with two other Terps, Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter. Dixon is very quick with excellent shooting range. He is mentally tough, has long arms and the ability to get deflections and steals, and he is looking to have a breakout season. Baxter is a very strong low-post scorer that really came on after Obinna Ekezie went down with an Achilles injury last year. Baxter has double-double ability.
Drew Nicholas is a capable shooter, Danny Miller is an athletic small forward, and Mike Mardesich has shown flashes of ability to be a good player if he can keep his confidence up . The key for Maryland will be its execution in the halfcourt. Gary Williams is a very good coach, and he will bring this team along to be a real threat by the beginning of the ACC season.
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