April 1, 2013
NEW YORK CITY -- When the University of Iowa and Maryland meet in a semifinal of the 2013 National Invitation Tournament Tuesday evening, fans will see two young teams that hope the experience of this Final Four leads to an invitation to the NCAA Tournament next season.
While both teams were among the final programs left out of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, both are young enough to be optimistic about the future. Iowa has one scholarship senior on its roster in Dubuque, Iowa, native Eric May. Maryland has two seniors on its roster. Iowa's Fran McCaffery is in his third season as the leader of the Hawkeye program, while Mark Turgeon is in just his second year at Maryland. Both teams have a number of players who are likely to meet again when the Big Ten Conference expands in 2014-15.
Turgeon is a Kansas graduate (1987) who joined the Maryland program from Texas A&M (2007-11). He earlier was the head coach at Wichita State (2000-07) and Jacksonville State (1998-2000). He is familiar with McCaffery, the Iowa program, and the style of play the Big Ten Conference is known for.
"I see a very well-coached team," said Turgeon, when talking about Iowa. "A smart team that runs great offense and is very good defensively. Iowa is a great rebounding team that plays with a toughness. Like most teams that are still playing, they are playing well; guys are shooting the ball well, and playing with a lot of confidence. They went right at Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament, which shows how tough Iowa is."
Iowa lost a hard-fought 59-56 battle to Michigan State in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament, but has rebounded with three strong performances in the NIT. Both the Hawkeyes and Terrapins won a pair of home games before earning a trip to the NIT semifinals with impressive road wins. While Iowa won at Virginia, Maryland won at Alabama.
"I see a very well-coached team. A smart team that runs great offense and is very good defensively. Iowa is a great rebounding team that plays with a toughness. Like most teams that are still playing, they are playing well; guys are shooting the ball well, and playing with a lot of confidence. They went right at Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament, which shows how tough Iowa is."
Maryland head coach
Maryland defeated Wake Forest (75-62) and Duke (83-74) in the ACC tournament before a 79-76 loss to North Carolina. Howard is a junior guard who has totaled 285 career assists. A native of Los Angeles, Howard attended Oak Hill Academy in Virginia before joining the Maryland program.
"Winning at Alabama was a tough game," noted Howard. "Alabama is known for its defense and being a physical team. Coach Turgeon challenged us to get a signature road win; we didn't really have one during the season. That is maybe why we didn't get in the NCAA.
"Iowa is a really tough, physical team," added Howard. "They attack you; they are a physical, hungry team. Being in the Big Ten, Iowa has seen everything as far as the physical style. They are somewhat like us and they have size at every position."
Turgeon is pleased with the progress the Maryland program has made in his two seasons.
"Whenever your name doesn't pop up in the NCAA, it's hard," said Turgeon. "We didn't have much time to prepare for the NIT. We played on Tuesday, had a home game right away and got fired up to go out and play. We have been more focused as the tournament has progressed. Our guys have become a little more excited and its pretty good motivation when you have the chance to get to New York and play in the Garden."
With head coaching experience in the Missouri Valley, the Big 12, and now the Atlantic Coast Conference, Turgeon knows what lies ahead for the Terrapins when they join the Big Ten for the 2014-15 season.
"I try not to think ahead about being in the Big Ten," said Turgeon. "The depth of the league was tremendous this year. I know it's coming; this is a little head start to it, to play against a well-coached Big Ten team. I think the coaching in the Big Ten is second-to-none and look forward to that challenge."
The Hawkeyes and Terrapins, who have met on the basketball floor just twice previously, are ready to renew the series Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. (CT) inside Madison Square Garden.