Observations: Here’s the 7-foot-1 key to the Iowa-Maryland matchup

Post defense is something that has to be on a high level if any team is going to have a chance to beat Maryland this year and that’s why center Adam Woodbury will be a critical piece for Iowa on Thursday in College Park.

The 7-foot-1 senior isn’t getting the same amount of hype as Jarrod Uthoff or Peter Jok, but he’ll definitely be a key cog for the Hawkeyes on the road.

Woodbury is currently leading Iowa in rebounding (6.7) and will undoubtedly be responsible for guarding both Robert Carter and Diamond Stone in the paint.

Fran McCaffery’s team is currently undefeated in Big Ten play, but the Hawkeyes will be tested against Maryland just like they were when they went on the road to play both Michigan State and Purdue.

Iowa (7-0 in Big Ten play) needs a big game defensively out of Woodbury if it wants to leave College Park with its unblemished conference record in tact.

The Big 12/SEC Challenge is like found money for the SEC

We all heard rumblings over the summer about the SEC’s resurgence in college basketball, but the truth of the matter is that this league has been a notch below the other power-five conferences during the first few months of the season.

That can be slightly altered this weekend.

The Big 12/SEC Challenge is an opportunity for the SEC to elevate its overall profile as several of its teams will play games against some of the top programs in the country.

The Big 12 currently has five teams — Oklahoma, Kansas, West Virginia, Iowa State, and Baylor — ranked in the top 17 of the AP Top 25 poll and all five of those teams will be on display during the event.

For schools like LSU and Florida, who could use quality wins to boost their potential NCAA resume, this weekend is beyond huge.

The Tigers will host top-ranked Oklahoma in Baton Rouge while the Gators will entertain West Virginia in Gainesville.

Red-hot Iowa State meanwhile travels to Texas A&M while Kentucky heads to Kansas in a battle between two of the sport’s premier programs.

Oregon can seize control of the Pac-12 Thursday at Arizona

To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best and the Ducks will have that chance Thursday in Tucson.

Arizona (16-4, 4-3 in the Pac-12) has won back-to-back Pac-12 regular season titles under Sean Miller, but Oregon (16-4, 5-2) can take a two-game lead over the Wildcats in the conference standings if they win on the road Thursday.

Several Pac-12 coaches have told CBS Sports in the past week that they feel the Ducks are the conference’s best team and Oregon can take a major step in that direction against Arizona.

Miller has done yeoman’s work this season on the sidelines after dealing with injuries to freshmen Ray Smith and Allonzo Trier, but it remains to be seen if Arizona has enough left to win its third straight Pac-12 regular season title.

The key to the game?

The Wildcats’ defense against the Ducks’ versatility on offense.

Adam Woodbury will be the difference in Iowa’s showdown with Maryland on Thursday. (USATSI)

This and That

  • Iowa State’s Monte Morris has just 29 turnovers this season in 739 total minutes played. That’s one turnover every 25.4 minutes for those of you keeping score at home. This guy is the epitome of a security blanket for the Cyclones, who are 16-4 overall under first-year coach Steve Prohm.
  • Buddy Hield has scored 30 or more points in seven of Oklahoma’s 19 games this season. This guy has separated himself as the clear favorite for National Player of the Year. The Sooners are 17-2 overall and 6-2 in Big 12 play.
  • Desperate times call for desperate measures and Cincinnati is desperate for a key road win Thursday at UConn. The Bearcats are 15-6 overall, but have lost four games by two points this season and need to start separating themselves with quality victories if they hope to play in the NCAA Tournament for the sixth consecutive season. Mick Cronin’s squad hasn’t won at UConn since the 2011-12 season.
  • Texas freshman Kerwin Roach is averaging 11.0 points over his last three games and got to the free-throw line 15 times in Tuesday’s win over TCU. The 6-4 guard is a big time athlete and is starting to become more of a regular contributor for the Longhorns. Shaka Smart’s club next hosts Vanderbilt on Saturday as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
  • Notre Dame’s Zach Auguste is quietly having a heck of a year for the Irish. The veteran big man is averaging 13.9 points and 10.1 rebounds while posting double-doubles in 11 of Notre Dame’s 19 games.
  • Georgetown is now in sole possession of second place in the Big East following Tuesday’s dramatic come from behind win over Creighton, but the Hoyas still have serious work to do. John Thompson III’s squad hosts Providence on Saturday and then goes on the road for back-to-back games at Butler and Seton Hall. This is the type of stretch that could make or break Georgetown’s season with the Hoyas sitting at 13-8 overall and 6-2 in conference play.
  • Mississippi State’s Malik Newman is averaging 20.0 points in his last two games and has made 12 3-point shots during that span. The high scoring freshman missed several weeks of practice right before the start of the season with a toe injury, but now looks like the player people thought they’d see when he signed with the Bulldogs. Let’s all hope this kid does the right thing and comes back to school for his sophomore year.
  • Transfers like Maurice Watson (Boston University) and Cole Huff (Nevada) have again made Creighton relevant in the Big East, but here’s one big thing to remember: The Bluejays have former Kansas State guard Marcus Foster sitting out this season. Foster will be eligible in for the 2016-17 season and has first-team All-Big East potential.
  • Jameel Warney has shot 53.5 percent from the field of better in 17 of Stony Brook’s 20 games this season. This kid deserves to play in the NCAA Tournament. Warney is averaging 18.0 points and 10.5 rebounds for Stony Brook, who is 7-0 in America East play.
  • Duquesne’s Jim Ferry received a large dose of media attention after last weekend’s blizzard forced his team to spend almost 24 hours stuck on a bus, but he’s also quietly making waves on the basketball court. The Dukes won their 14th game on Tuesday night against La Salle and now have more victories than they’ve had in Ferry’s four years at the Pittsburgh school.

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