What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he (or she) answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: Alex from Testudo Times, SB Nation's fine blog for all things Maryland.
1) So... Iowa-Maryland, for one night only! (At least until the Big Ten Tournament, maybe.) This looked like a big game before the season and it looks like an even bigger one now with the way both teams have started out Big Ten play. Is this a de facto Big Ten Championship game? Is it must-win for the Terps
ALEX: I don't think it's quite a title game, just because Maryland might not catch Iowa even with a win and, more than that, because there's still a tournament to play at the end of the year. "Must-win" is strong, but it'd go a long way for Maryland.
2) Maryland has looked excellent at times, but they've also had to scrape together wins at home against fairly unglamorous opposition this year, like Rider, Penn State, and Northwestern. What gives? Does Maryland simply play to the level of their opponent at times or are there other reasons for their inconsistency?
ALEX: Maryland has won 24 games in a row at home, but the Terps have gotten plenty used to playing mediocre basketball at home and just turning it on in time to win. The Terps' struggles tend to coincide with cold shooting and terrible defensive rebounding, so those are things to track.
3) Looking at the stats a bit, it seems like the inside-outside matchups could be pivotal. Iowa is top ten in 3P%, while Maryland is top five in 2P% -- is the key for Maryland to hammer Iowa inside while limiting Iowa's damage from deep? Or will they try other approaches to attack Iowa?
ALEX: This is a great question, and I've wondered about it myself. My guess is that you've described it pretty well. Rasheed Sulaimon and Jake Layman will chase around Peter Jok and Jarrod Uthoff (great players, by the way), and Maryland's offense will fall to Melo Trimble in the backcourt and Diamond Stone and Robert Carter Jr. in the frontcourt.
4) Who from Maryland figures to see the most time defending Jarrod Uthoff? What will be the plan to limit Uthoff in this game? Or will they focus their efforts on limiting the rest of the Hawkeyes?
ALEX: My guess is there's a Layman/Carter split, depending on whether the teams are playing big or small. Layman is probably the best physical matchup, but he'll need to guard Jok whenever Sulaimon sits down. I'm not sure what Maryland thinks it can do against Uthoff, but any game plan to stop him at this point seems well above my pay grade. Force jumpers, I guess? (But he makes them, so who knows?)
5) Melo Trimble has been excellent this year -- he's leading Maryland in scoring (14.5 ppg), assists (5.6 apg), and steals (1.3), all while putting up .472/.354/.870 shooting splits. What's been the biggest improvement in his game from last season and what will Iowa need to do to slow him down?
ALEX: Trimble has gotten a lot better as a playmaker, which makes sense given the new weapons around him. His assists are roughly double what they were a season ago, and he's become even more deadly on the pick-and-roll. To stop him, Iowa needs to stay in front of him on ball screens and keep him off the foul line. Both are tall orders.
6) Robert Carter and Diamond Stone have also been very good -- can you tell us a bit about what they can do and why Iowa fans should be concerned about them on Thursday night?
ALEX: Stone isn't a great rebounder, but he's the most offensively skilled freshman big in the country, and he's made strides of late on defense. Carter is Maryland's Draymond Green, basically: a superb post presence who can shoot some threes and moves around well. They're both worth concern, just because they're physical nightmares to guard.
7) Are there any other Maryland players that Iowa fans should be aware of? Is there anyone who could come off the bench and swing this game in Maryland's favor?
ALEX: Keep an eye open for Jared Nickens, Maryland's three-point specialist. He's been cold in Big Ten play, but he's probably a true-talent 40 percent shooter from beyond the arc, and he's liable to hit a string of triples if he gets cooking.
8) Is this "the year" for Maryland? It certainly looks like it will be the only year with this core together -- Trimble and Stone could be off to the NBA after this season and Sulaimon and Layman are seniors. What would constitute a successful season for Maryland this year?
ALEX: This is definitely Maryland's "up" year, I think, but it's hard to demand more than a Sweet 16 trip. The NCAA Tournament is so volatile that Maryland's most important objective should be to clear the opening weekend and give itself a shot. That's all anyone can ask.
9) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
ALEX: Iowa is better than Maryland, in my opinion. But Maryland has never lost a Big Ten home game and didn't lose in College Park any time in 2015. I expect the Terps to hold serve on their own floor, 61-60. (I think it could be a lower-scoring game than the numbers suggest, because the teams' best players are going to get tired hunting each other down on defense.)
Thanks for being a good sport, Alex, but I still hope your team gets mollywhopped tomorrow night. You can check out the TT crew at Testudo Times. You can also follow TT on Twitter at @testudotimes and Alex on Twitter at @alex_kirshner. The Iowa-Maryland game is in College Park, MD on Thursday, January 28, and is scheduled to start at approximately 6:00 pm CT, with TV coverage from ESPN.