No. 8 Maryland and No. 10 Iowa tip off tonight at 6 p.m. ET at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on ESPN2 in the Big Ten tournament title game. The Terrapins (28-3) and Hawkeyes (25-6) entered the conference tournament as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, respectively, and with a win either could clinch a spot among the top seeds in the NCAA tournament.
Iowa did beat Maryland, 86-73, earlier this season. But it came at home and the Terrapins are playing in their fifth straight Big Ten tournament championship game. Maryland won three in a row from 2015-17.
Maryland’s projected starting lineup
G — Kaila Charles (Jr.): 6-1; 16.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists per game
G — Blair Watson (Jr.): 6-0; 8.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists per game
G — Channise Lewis (So.): 5-8; 4.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists per game
G — Taylor Mikesell (Fr.): 5-11; 13.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists per game
F — Stephanie Jones (Jr.): 6-2; 13 points, 6.3 rebounds, 0.9 assists per game
Iowa’s projected starting lineup
G — Kathleen Doyle (Jr.): 5-9; 12.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 6 assists per game
G — Tania Davis (Sr.): 5-3; 10.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists per game
G — Makenzie Meyer (Jr.): 5-9; 9 points, 2.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists per game
F — Hannah Stewart (Sr.): 6-2; 11.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists per game
F — Megan Gustafson (Sr.): 6-3; 27.5 points, 13.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists per game
When Maryland has the ball
Expect Mikesell and Watson to step right into taking 3s, with Charles and company establishing themselves inside to give those sharpshooters even more room to do damage. Charles leads the Terrapins in scoring and shots taken so far this season, but only 14 of her 389 field goal attempts have been 3s. She’s been far more effective getting to the free-throw line, where she’s taken 155 attempts and hit 80.6 percent of them. Mikesell has hit 42.7 percent of her 211 attempted 3s and Watson has hit 36.8 percent of her 155 attempted 3s.
Overall, Maryland averages 74.9 points per game and hits 46.3 percent of its shots. Three different players average 13 points per game or more and three others average at least 7.6. The Terrapins lead the Big Ten in 3-point field goal percentage and rebounding margin. And while Maryland is in the bottom half of the conference in turnover margin, it does have the best scoring margin.
When Iowa has the ball
Expect the Hawkeyes to get Gustafson her shots, and expect the lone 2019 Women’s Citizen Naismith Trophy semifinalist in this game to make a lot of them. Gustafson averages close to 30 points per game because she hits 69.6 percent of her shots and has taken all but one of her 506 attempts this season inside the 3-point line. It helps, too, that she grabs close to three offensive rebounds per game.
But if the Terrapins think stopping her from a repeat of her 31-point, 17-rebound performance against them back in February will deliver a win, that would mean forgetting three other Hawkeyes average more than 10 points per game. Iowa doesn’t lead the Big Ten in points per game (79.5), free throw percentage (.773) and field goal percentage (.519) by accident or because of the play of one individual. Gustafson may be the best to ever play for the Hawkeyes, but she isn't all by herself.
Iowa does have the second-worst turnover margin in the Big Ten. Too many turnovers could deliver Maryland a win. But if they’re both turning the ball over as they did in February (Iowa had 13 and Maryland 14) and they both score the same amount of points off turnovers, it’ll be a wash.