3:45 PM EST, CBS – Line: Maryland -1, Over/Under: 130
With just a few games left in the Regular Season, there is still much to be decided in the Big 10, as the Ninth-Ranked Michigan Wolverines travel to XFINITY Center at College Park to battle the Seventeenth-Ranked Maryland Terrapins as both teams continue to jockey for positioning. After winning their first seventeen games to begin the campaign, Michigan (25-4, 14-4 in Big 10) hasn’t been quite as imposing in the typically competitive Big 10, recently going through a stretch in which they won four out of seven contests. However, John Beilein continues to tinker with his rotation in an event of creating some more quality depth as the Tournament nears. After coming up short in a 70-77 defeat at home to instate rival Michigan State, his charges found a way to get back on track in their final home affair of the term, an impressive 82-53 showing against Nebraska, largely on the strength of their offense returning to desired efficiency levels. In scoring Eighty-Two Points the Wolverines put forth their highest total since early December, shooting a very healthy 55.6% from the field, including 12-of-22 from beyond the arc (54.5%), with Beilein praising their ball-movement, amassing Nineteen Assists on Thirty Field Goals. Together, John Teske (9.7 PTS, 52.4% FG, 34.5% 3FG, 6.7 REB, 0.8 AST, 0.7 STL, 2.2 BLK, 23.2 PER) and Ignas Brezdeikis (14.6 PTS, 46.0% FG, 39.8% 3FG, 5.3 REB, 0.9 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.5 BLK, 21.3 PER) scored Twenty-Two ad Twenty Points respectively, with the former shooting 7-of-10 from the floor (70.0%), including 3-of-3 from downtown (100.0%), while the latter drilled 4-of-5 from the perimeter (80.0%), combining for Seventeen Rebounds. Jordan Poole (12.9 PTS, 44.9% FG, 38.0% 3FG, 3.1 REB, 2.1 AST, 1.0 STL, 16.1 PER) and Zavier Simpson (9.1 PTS, 42.6% FG, 29.5% 3FG, 5.2 REB, 6.2 AST, 1.4 STL, 16.6 PER) accounted for Fifteen of this Nineteen Assists, while the likes of Isaiah Livers (7.5 PTS, 48.9% FG, 44.3% 3FG, 4.2 REB, 0.7 AST, 0.7 STL, 0.5 BLK, 16.4 PER) and the seldom-used Colin Castleton saw the opportunity to contribute a lot more than usual, with the former receiving his first Start. Defensively, the hosts absolutely suffocated the Cornhuskers, relegating them to a paltry 34.3% shooting from the field, including 21-of-55 inside the arc (38.2%) and 2-of-12 beyond it (16.7%), held them to just Six Assists, and outrebounded them 42-30. Michigan’s lone Senior, Charles Matthews (12.8 PTS, 43.6% FG, 32.1% 3FG, 5.1 REB, 1.4 AST, 1.1 STL, 18.5 PER) was unfortunately nothing more than a spectator on Senior Night, listed as Day-to-Day with a sprained ankle. His status for today’s meeting with Maryland is currently undecided.
Currently trailing Purdue by a single game in league play, Michigan are going to have to go through a bit of hell on the road to have a chance at netting their first outright Big 10 Regular Season Championship since the 2013-2014 campaign. A rematch with the Spartans awaits next weekend, though a rematch with the Terrapins and their physical Defense comes first. When these teams met in Ann Arbor back on February 16th, Coming off a shocking loss to bottom-dwelling Penn State (69-75), the Wolverines responded with fury, racing out to an early 14-2 lead, and leading by as many as Fifteen Points in the First Half of the eventual 65-52 victory. Turnovers were a huge part of their success, harassing the visiting side into Thirteen in the First Half alone, while committing just six themselves, including none in the Second Half of play. Maryland did manage to cut the deficit to as close as Five Points in the final period, but a momentum-swinging Three-Pointer courtesy of the aforementioned Brazdeikis pushed the lead back to Eight, which the hosts would never relinquish. Granted, it was far from a perfect effort for Beilein’s troops, who only shot 42.4% from the field, including a dismal 7-of-26 from beyond the arc (26.9%), and shot just Ten Free-Throws. However, they defended like hell, and still managed to pummel their counterpart in inside the arc, shooting 18-of-33 in that area (54.5%), and still managed to move the ball well enough to facilitate easier shots, assisting on Fifteen of their Twenty-Five Field Goals. Matthews scored a team-high Fourteen Points on 7-of-12 shooting (58.3%), with Six Rebounds, and an Assist, while Brazdeikis added Thirteen Points with Five Rebounds, Two Assists, and a Steal. Zavier Simpson was arguably the most indispensable, totaling Twelve Points, Five Rebounds, Eight Assists, and a Steal. Michigan has won five of their last six meetings with Maryland, splitting their two encounters at XFINITY Center.
Meanwhile, there is still much left to play for if you’re Maryland (21-8, 12-6 in Big 10), whom despite sitting three games out of First Place in the Big 10, can still secure a Double-Bye in that conference’s tournament, where a bit of rest can truly make a world of difference for a team looking to enhance their standing in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. However, based off of their recent run of play, the Terrapins may just want to get to their collective s@#$ together if they’re indeed going to see that goal through. You see, you could very well divide the 2018-2019 Campaign into two disparate halves; the half in which Mark Turgeon’s charges began the term on a 16-3 tear ascending to Thirteenth in the Polls, and the half that followed in which they’ve been largely a .500 basketball team in winning just five of their last ten outings. Taking one step forward followed by another in retreat could be the perfect way to describe these Terps, who have become as maddeningly inconsistent over the past two months as any team in the country. Losses to ranked powerhouses such as then-No. 6 Michigan State (55-69), No. 24 Wisconsin (61-69), and No. 6 Michigan (52-65) are nothing to sneer at, particularly on the road, and win at the likes of then-No. 12 Purdue (70-56) and No. 21 Iowa (66-65) certainly boost one’s profile, but inexcusable losses to struggling teams like Illinois (67-78) and most recently Penn State (61-78) wipe away virtually all of said progress. The defeat at Penn State has to e the most alarming, for they never came close to looking competitive against a 12-16 team. The visiting side shot just 41.1% from the field, including a miserable 2-of-19 from beyond the arc (10.5%), while committing a whopping Sixteen Turnovers in comparison to dishing out just Seven Assists. It also certainly didn’t help that arguably their two most important contributors, Anthony Cowan Jr. (15.9 PTS, 40.6% FG, 34.3% 3FG, 3.8 REB, 4.4 AST, 0.9 STL, 18.1 PER) and Bruno Fernando (14.2 PTS, 64.7% FG, 10.5 REB, 2.0 AST, 0.6 STL, 1.8 BLK, 29.4 PER) fouled out , with Turgeon at one point resorting to hockey-like whole Line Changes in an attempt to send a message. It’s safe to say that that tact didn’t make much of a difference for this team that has suddenly been in search of an identity.
For Maryland to get back on track today, and avoid a Regular Season Sweep to Michigan they’re going to have to rely on their defensive effort to create some easier opportunities on the offensive end of the floor. They did a solid job of limiting what the Wolverines, wanted to do to them in the previous meeting, particularly in the Second Half, in which they cleaned up their mistakes, committing only Three Turnovers, opposed to the sloppy Thirteen that preceded it. Then again, this has been one of the more stout defensive teams in the country, fitting in well with their neighbors in the Big Ten, allowing just 65.0 Points per Game (34th Overall) on 39.4% shooting from the field (14th Overall), including 44.4% shooting inside the arc (19th Overall) and 31.8% beyond it (58th Overall), while outrebounding opponents by more than Nine Boards a night, and racking up 4.6 Blocks to boot (26th Overall). Furthermore, they do a great job of defending WITHOUT fouling, committing a average of just 15.4, thirty-fourth fewest in the nation, typically granting them a solid advantage at the Charity Stripe, where they average just over three more attempts than their counterpart. Size and length have had a lot to do with this with the aforementioned Fernando and Freshman Forward Jalen Smith (11.2 PTS, 48.2% FG, 25.5% 3FG, 6.6 REB, 1.0 AST, 0.4 STL, 1.1 BLK, 20.9 PER) both checking in at 6′-10″ and 200+ lbs. Despite seeing a streak of seven consecutive Double-Doubles snapped, the former was effective in the earlier meeting with the Wolverines, scoring Twelve Points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field (50.0%), with Eight Rebounds and a Block, though the latter was decisively less so, scoring Eight on 3-of-10 shooting from the floor (30.0%), including 0-of-2 from downtown (0.0%). Aaron Wiggins (8.7 PTS, 39.3% FG, 41.5% 3FG, 34 REB, 0.9 AST, 0.8 STL, 14.8 PER) was their most impactful player, scoring a team-high Fifteen Points on 5-of-10 shooting (50.0%), including 3-of-6 from the perimeter (50.0%), and filling out the stat sheet with Six Rebounds and Three Assists. Cowan, who struggled with Ten Points on 4-of-12 Shooting (33.3%), and as many Turnovers as Assists (3), summed it up by stating “They got up to play and we didn’t”. With that also applying to the embarrassment at Penn State on Friday Night, they had better find a way to get up before they can’t.