Offensively No. 24 Iowa enjoys the luxury of having multiple scorers capable of reaching double figures on any given night. Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White are the only players averaging double figures for Fran McCaffery, but six different players have led the team in scoring in at least one game this season. In their 86-76 loss at No. 22 Michigan State on Thursday it was Marble who led the way, scoring 24 points on 9-for-17 shooting to go along with five assists.
As a team the Hawkeyes shot 46.7% from the field, a respectable number when considering the fact that Iowa made just seven of its 20 attempts from beyond the arc. But offense hasn’t been much of a concern for Iowa this season. It’s the defense that has proven to be problematic, and that was once again the case in East Lansing.
Michigan State shot 58.3% from the field and 10-for-17 from beyond the arc, making more than 63% of their shots in the second half. The Spartans certainly deserve credit for their offensive execution in the second half, most notably Keith Appling knocking down some shots that could get him going after struggling mightily thanks in part to an injured wrist. But Michigan State was able to get the looks it wanted far too often, and that’s a concern for an Iowa team that has struggled defensively for much of conference play.
Iowa entered Thursday ranked 11th in the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense and tenth in three-point percentage defense. Given the tempo that Iowa prefers to play they’re going to allow points, as they led the Big Ten in tempo by nearly four possessions per 40 minutes. But that doesn’t excuse the percentages that teams are shooting.
Clearly Iowa has both depth and talent; they wouldn’t have 21 wins if that weren’t the case. But for whatever reason those attributes haven’t translated to the defensive end of the floor, with ten straight opponents scoring at least one point per possession. And in three of their last four losses Iowa’s allowed teams to score at least 1.2 points per possession, with Michigan State finishing the night at 1.28 points/possession.
Games tend to slow down in tournament play, which makes half-court execution incredibly important. Iowa can hold its own offensively, but if the Hawkeyes don’t find some answers defensively their time in the NCAA tournament will be short.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Syracuse vs. No. 18 UConn, 3:30 p.m.
For the first time since the Orange departed the Big East, the two former rivals will square off. Today’s battle will take place at the Battle 4 Atlantis, as the Orange knocked off Charlotte yesterday and the Huskies dispatched Michigan. To get ready for this battle, I’d suggest ready through the conversation @NoEscalators had with himself last night.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 25 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Gonzaga, 1:00 p.m.
The other semifinal in the Battle 4 Atlantis could end up being just as good, as the Aggies — who might be the second best team in the SEC — square off with a Gonzaga team that has one of the best front lines in the country. This will be a good test to figure out just how good both of these teams are.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1. No. 20 Wichita State vs. USC, 2:00 p.m.: The Shockers will be without Fred VanVleet for this event. It will also be a chance for us to gauge just how good this 4-0 USC team is.
2. No. 23 Xavier vs. Alabama, 12:00 p.m: The Musketeers should have no problems dispatching Alabama.
3. No. 8 Villanova vs. Stanford, 4:30 p.m.: The Wildcats are, once again, as good as any team in the country. Josh Hart might be the nation’s most underrated star.
4. No. 14 Cal vs. San Diego State, 12:00 a.m.: Tyrone Wallace and company have been awesome this season. They get their first real test of the season tonight.
5. Providence vs. Evansville, 7:00 p.m.: Evansville is one of the nation’s best mid-majors, good enough to give the likes of Wichita State and Northern Iowa a fight in the Missouri Valley. And Providence? They got a kid named Kris Dunn. Heard of him?
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- No. 3 Michigan State vs. Boston College, 6:30 p.m.
- No. 11 Arizona vs. Santa Clara, 11:30 p.m.
- No. 17 Notre Dame vs. Monmouth, 6:30 p.m.
No. 2 Maryland finally found their rhythm on Wednesday night, blowing out a good Rhode Island team, 86-63, in the finals of the Cancun Challenge.
Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon combined for 34 points and eight assists on 13-for-14 shooting and Robert Carter added 15 points, nine boards, three assists and three blocks. Peak Maryland, which is what we saw tonight, is really dangerous.
But Peak Maryland wasn’t the story after the game, as tempers flared in the waning minutes.
It started when Maryland coach Mark Turgeon called a timeout with less than two minutes remaining. Jake Layman had just hit a three to put Maryland up by 24 points and Turgeon wanted to get his walk-ons in the game. Hurley said to the Maryland bench, “We’ll see you again, boy,” according to Inside Maryland Sports, which prompted this reaction from Turgeon:
After the game, the two teams had to be separated in layup lines. According to reports from IMS and from the Baltimore Sun, Hurley was cursing at Maryland players as he was shaking their hands after the game. According Doug Gottlieb, who called the game for CBS Sports Network, Trimble said that the Rhode Island team wanted to “fight us”: