Maryland, Virginia Have Eyes On Madison Square Garden

Maryland will travel to Alabama to face the Crimson Tide.
Maryland will travel to Alabama to face the Crimson Tide.

#1 Alabama vs. #2 Maryland
Tuesday, 7:30 PM, ESPN

Alabama is a very good defensive team. They force 14.4 turnovers per game, which could be an issue with Maryland’s tendency to be loose with the ball. Then again, Denver was one of the nation’s best teams at generating turnovers, and Maryland only gave up possession 13 times in that contest.

As good as Alabama’s defense may be, their offense is equally bad. The Crimson Tide shoot just 42.9 percent from the floor, commit their own fair share of turnovers considering the low pace at which they play, and generally try to grind opponents into submission.

Maryland’s Alex Len will enjoy a size advantage over Alabama’s frontcourt. However, Len has only scored 13 points during two NIT games against smaller opponents, so it seems unlikely that he’ll have a resurgence in this contest. The Terrapins actually improved defensively when Len came off the floor with foul trouble during their second round game against Denver.

Seth Allen, who scored 13 points in that win over Denver, will be out of action tonight for Maryland. Allen broke a bone in his left hand during practice and is likely done for the year. While Allen wasn’t a starter, he was a regular contributor off the bench for Maryland, which could complicate rotations.

Alabama’s 4-8 record on the road is an example of why they are in the NIT, but their 16-3 home mark has benefitted them greatly thus far. As a number one seed, they have had the home-court advantage in every game in the tournament, and will enjoy it again Tuesday night. Meanwhile, Maryland is 3-7 in road games this season.

#1 Virginia vs. #3 Iowa
Wednesday, 7:00 PM, ESPN2

If Virginia can book a trip to Madison Square Garden Wednesday night with a win, it will also be the Cavaliers’ 20th consecutive win in John Paul Jones Arena. The streak is currently the fourth-longest of its kind in the nation, behind South Dakota State (30), Marquette (25), and Belmont (20).

Like Maryland’s opponent, Iowa will rely on stiff defense in their bid for victory. The Hawkeyes have held opponents to 29.1 percent from beyond the arc (9th in the nation), while the Cavaliers are shooting 38.3 percent on three-point attempts (19th in the nation). While Virginia has proven it can score inside, between Joe Harris’ ability to create a shot and players like Akil Mitchell and Justin Anderson working to find close baskets, the battle on the perimeter could decide who comes out victorious.

Like so many teams in college basketball, especially in the NIT, Iowa struggled to a 2-8 record in road games this season. The Hawkeyes benefitted from Stony Brook eliminating two seed Massachusetts, as Iowa would have traveled to UMass if those teams met. Instead, Stony Brook made the trip to Iowa City and lost 75-63.

By the time Wednesday comes, we will know the winner of the Maryland-Alabama game. As such, it is possible that Virginia will be playing for the chance to meet the Terrapins in New York City. Of course, it is also possible that Iowa will be playing to meet Alabama, but that wouldn’t be nearly as fun, now would it?

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