A school widely selected as a Big Ten preseason favorite has run into plenty of trouble lately, and one considered a mid-pack challenger is winning the league and off to its best conference start in 46 years.
There'll be more foreign territory Thursday night as No. 3 Iowa visits College Park for the first time, needing to take down eighth-ranked Maryland for a 10th straight win to add to an already impressive resume.
"We know what we have to do, and when you're in a hostile environment, all you can do is stay poised," guard Anthony Clemmons told the school's official website.
Iowa (16-3, 7-0) has won six league games by double figures, including Sunday's 83-71 victory against then-No. 22 Purdue in which the Hawkeyes went on a 23-6 run to start the second half after trailing by two.
It was their nation-leading fifth win against the Top 25, and it amounts to their first nine-game winning streak since 2004-05. They last bettered that on an 11-game run in 1998-99, and Iowa last started 7-0 in the Big Ten in 1969-70 when it finished 14-0 for the regular-season title. Voters have taken notice and moved it into the top three for the first time since reaching third in December 1987.
"(Iowa has) been dominating the league so far," Maryland guard Melo Trimble said. "We know going into this game they're more talked about more than us - they're even ranked higher than us. So it's a great opportunity."
It's also a great opportunity to see two of the conference's best talents. Iowa's Jarrod Uthoff scored 22 against the Boilermakers and is averaging 21.7 points while shooting 53.3 percent from 3-point range in his last six.
Trimble, Maryland's leader with 14.5 points per game, has been more erratic with his scoring but had 24 in Saturday's 74-65 loss at then-No. 11 Michigan State. His scoring isn't the only thing that concerns Iowa.
"(Trimble) is just as dangerous when he's looking for shots for himself as he is when he's loading other people up," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "Those are the toughest guys to guard."
Maryland (17-3, 6-2) is 9-0 following a loss over the past two seasons. To keep that streak intact, the Terrapins almost certainly will have to rebound better than they have in their past two games.
In an overtime win against Northwestern on Jan. 19, Maryland gave up 16 offensive rebounds and finished with 18 fewer shots. Michigan State grabbed 17 offensive boards and outrebounded the Terrapins 46-36.
"It's a combination of everything," said coach Mark Turgeon, whose team is 11-0 at home with wins by an average of 18.7 points. "We haven't boxed out well, we've been outhustled for some. The Michigan State game, there were three or four that just bounced in their direction. But that's an excuse. We've got to do better on the boards."
Against the Spartans, Trimble and fellow guard Rasheed Sulaimon each grabbed seven rebounds, but frontcourt starters Jake Layman, Robert Carter Jr. and Damonte Dodd totaled seven.
That probably won't cut it against Iowa, though it also might not be as much of an issue considering the Hawkeyes' minus-1.3 margin ranks ninth in league play, four spots behind Maryland (3.3).
"It's a very fixable thing," Layman said. "It's not like the whole team is shooting terribly. It's just about boxing out for us right now and rebounding on the defensive end."
Maryland is 29-1 at home since the start of last season, including 13-0 in the Big Ten. The Terrapins are in third place in the conference also behind Indiana, and a loss in this one would seriously damage their bid to earn the top seed in the Big Ten tournament.
"I'll never say this early in the year it's a must-win," Turgeon insisted. "We'll be fired up to play. We'll be prepared to play. It's a great opportunity for us, playing a team that's playing as well as any anybody in the country. Just killing teams. A lot of games aren't really close."
Iowa defeated then-No. 17 Maryland 71-55 at home Feb. 8 despite Trimble's game-high 20 points.