I'm not sure what the best athletic season in University of Iowa history is when considering the football and men's basketball teams, but I can't remember a better one in my memory than this season. The football squad was unbeaten entering the Big Ten Championship Game, a Top-5 team and played in the Rose Bowl for the first time since Jan. 1, 1991. Yes, the Hawkeyes were crushed by Stanford in Pasadena, but still a great season. The basketball team is atop the Big Ten standings and off to its best start in years. If things break right the rest of this week, Iowa could be No. 1 in next Monday's polls. Alas, I see a loss on Thursday...
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No. 3 Iowa At No. 8 Maryland (-2)
The game of the night from the Big Ten is at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. Iowa (16-3, 7-0) has won nine straight games, four of those against ranked teams. The Hawkeyes finished a season sweep of Purdue on Sunday with an 83-71 victory. Jarrod Uthoff had 22 points and Adam Woodbury added 13 points and 10 rebounds. The Hawkeyes shot 60 percent from the field in a 50-point second half, outscoring Purdue by 14. All but one of the Hawkeyes' conference wins are by double digits. Iowa's No. 3 ranking is its highest since also a No. 3 in the Associated Press poll on Dec. 8, 1987. Iowa is 7-0 in league play for the first time since 1969-70. It has five wins over ranked teams overall this season, most in the nation. The Hawkeyes' three losses are by a combined 12 points, including by one at the buzzer against ranked Iowa State.
Maryland (17-3, 6-2) had a two-game winning streak end in a 74-65 loss at a desperate Michigan State team on Saturday. Sophomore Melo Trimble had 24 points and seven rebounds, while freshman Diamond Stone had 13 points, but no other Terp did much. Maryland shot only 38.6 percent from the field and 8-for-27 from long range. Trimble is one of 20 players tagged on the Oscar Robertson Trophy list, which honors the men's national player of the year while Stone is one of 10 on the list for national freshman player of the year. The Terps and Hawkeyes played once last season and Iowa upset No. 17 Maryland 71-55 in Iowa City. Iowa opened on a 22-3 run and didn't look back.
Key trends: Hawkeyes are 8-1 ATS in their past nine vs. teams with a straight up record. Maryland is 10-4 ATS in its past 14 vs. the Big Ten.
I'm leaning: Maryland.
No. 25 Notre Dame at Syracuse (-2.5)
A 7 p.m. ET start for this ACC matchup on ESPN2. The Irish (14-5, 5-2) have won four straight, which included what looked like an incredibly impressive win at Duke -- but that doesn't look all that impressive any longer with the Blue Devils' issues. Notre Dame crushed visiting Boston College, the ACC's worst team, 76-49 on Saturday. The Irish were 25-for-27 from the free-throw line but got some bad news when guard and leading scorer Demetrius Jackson left early in the first half with a hamstring injury. He's not going to play here and might miss Sunday's game against Wake Forest as well. The junior is 10th in the ACC in scoring at 16.6 points per game and tied for second in assists at 5.0 per game. Steve Vasturia took over at point guard after Jackson exited vs. BC and had 16 points and four assists. Freshman guard Rex Pflueger played a career-high 32 minutes and had 11 points. His minutes will continue to be high with Jackson out.
Syracuse (13-8, 3-5) had a three-game winning streak end in a 73-65 defeat at No. 13 Virginia on Sunday. The Orange had rallied from a 10-ponit deficit to tie it with eight minutes left. Michael Gbinije scored 24 points and Malachi Richardson 23 for the Orange. They combined for 11 3-pointers, but SU shot just 38.9 percent from the field overall. Here's an interesting statistic: Syracuse, long known for its zone defense, hasn't given up a point in transition in four straight games. SU leads the nation in allowing opponents just 15.8 percent of their shots to come in transition. This is the only meeting with Notre Dame this regular season. Syracuse won the lone one last year, 65-60 in South Bend. The Orange have won six of the past seven meetings.
Key trends: The Irish are 2-5 ATS in their past seven after a win. They are 1-4-1 ATS in their past six against teams with a winning record. SU is 4-0 ATS in its past four overall. It has covered seven straight on Thursday.
I'm leaning: Syracuse.
Loyola Marymount at BYU (-14.5)
Your latest tip of the night is this West Coast Conference game at 11 p.m. ET on ESPNU. Loyola Marymount (10-10, 3-6) won at home vs. San Diego 67-63 on Saturday. The Lions forced 17 turnovers and committed only five themselves, finishing with an 18-5 edge in points off takeaways. Adam Jacko, who was in early foul trouble, scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half (Loyola was down six at intermission) to lead all scorers for Loyola. Jacko was named WCC Player of the Week on Monday. He averaged 24.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in two games last week while shooting 70.7 percent from the field.
BYU (14-7, 5-3) lost at Pepperdine 71-65 on Saturday, and a loss like that all but kills BYU's at-large NCAA Tournament hopes. The Waves defeated BYU for the third consecutive time and for the fourth time in five games. With 21 seconds remaining, Pepperdine's Jeremy Major blocked Chase Fischer's potential go-ahead 3-point attempt. The Cougars shot only 36 percent (23-for-64) from the floor. BYU might have to run the table in the regular season to have any shot at an at-large bid. On the bright side, seven of the Cougars' final 10 games are at home, where BYU is undefeated (8-0) this season. BYU won at Loyola last Thursday, 91-80. Kyle Collinsworth had his NCAA-leading 10th career triple-double with 10 points, 13 rebounds and a career-high 15 assists. It was his fourth this season. Jacko had a career-high 26 points on 11-of-12 shooting for the Lions, who led by 10 at halftime.
Key trends: Loyola is 3-10 ATS in its past 13 vs. the WCC. BYU is 4-0-1 ATS in its past five after a loss. The Cougars have covered six of their past seven on Thursday.
I'm leaning: BYU.
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