Big Ten Preview Part IV: Key Questions for Iowa & Maryland

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on November 3rd, 2017

With the season just a little over a week away, Rush the Court’s Big Ten preview will tip off its coverage by posing season-defining key questions for each team. Today we address Iowa and Maryland.

#8 Iowa – Will the loss of Peter Jok be addition by subtraction?

Isaiah Moss and co. have big shoes to fill, offensively. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Peter Jok largely defined Iowa’s offense last season, taking a whopping 31.2 percent of the Hawkeyes’ shots while on the floor, scoring a quarter of his team’s points (19.9 PPG), and occasionally willing the Hawkeyes to victory — like when he scored 35 points — including 15 in overtime — against Indiana in February. The 6’6″ wing was a scoring machine and will obviously be missed. But he could also be a defensive liability at times, struggling to keep players in front of him and preventing better defenders from seeing the floor. With virtually everyone else on the roster back, Iowa will be defined this season by the extent to which its promising young roster can fill Jok’s offensive void while also improving defensively. Thanks to a rotation that should run more than 10 deep, the former task will fall on a variety of players. While forward Tyler Cook (12.3 PPG) should lead the team in scoring, many of Jok’s 15 shots per game will be distributed among Isaiah Moss (6.5 PPG) and Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year Nicholar Baer, both of whom will need to become more aggressive scorers from the wing. Point guard Jordan Bohannon (10.9 PPG), who shot 41.6 percent from three-point range on more than 200 attempts last season, is now the team’s primary perimeter threat; how he performs without Jok to divert defensive attention will also be key. Defensively, more minutes for Baer, Moss and forward Cordell Pemsl should help Iowa improve on last season’s middling defense, which ranked near the bottom of league play in efficiency. Pemsl is reportedly leaner, healthier and more athletic, while Baer — who led the team in both block and steal rate in 2016-17 — is versatile enough to defend multiple positions. With a strong recruiting class entering the program to boot, the Hawkeyes could well be a more well-rounded team without Jok.

#7 Maryland – Who becomes the Terrapins’ go-to guy?

The shots are up for grabs among Maryland’s sophomore trio. (Baltimore Sun)

Like Jok at Iowa, Melo Trimble’s impact on the Maryland offense cannot be overstated. For three straight seasons, Trimble led the team in minutes, points, assists and free throw attempts, serving as the Terps’ primary ball-handler most of the time and most relied-upon scorer all of the time. Mark Turgeon — who hadn’t reached the NCAA Tournament in three seasons in College Park prior to Trimble — said of the D.C. native: “Melo Trimble is a winner and helped change the face of our program… [he] will be celebrated as one of the all-time greats in our program’s history.” So, with Trimble now gone, who does Turgeon turn to? The answer lies in one of the league’s most promising and experienced sophomore trios. Wing Justin Jackson (10.5 PPG), point guard Anthony Cowan (10.3 PPG) and shooting guard Kevin Huerter (9.3 PPG) ranked second, third and fourth in team scoring behind Trimble (16.8 PPG) last season, each showing individual flashes of offensive potential. Huerter was the team’s lone bright spot in an otherwise dreadful postseason, scoring 19 points against Northwestern and Xavier. Jackson, whose athleticism and 7’3″ wingspan makes him a legitimate NBA Draft prospect, led the team in three-point percentage (43.8% 3FG). Cowan started every game at point guard (enabling Trimble to play off the ball) and led the Big Ten in free throw rate (70%). None of the three second-year players needs to be Trimble this season; his level of usage was unique, and the presence of a focal-point scorer is not necessary to team success. But in Turgeon’s ball-screen heavy offense, having one player who can create his own shot — who wants the ball in late-game situations — can be the difference between close wins and close losses. In 2017-18, Cowan will run the pick-and-roll more often; Jackson will have more freedom on the wing; and Huerter — apparently the guy who most “gets it” — should be stronger and more well-rounded. Whether one emerges as a go-to shot maker will help determine Maryland’s ceiling this season.

Tommy Lemoine (250 Posts)

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