Michigan heads to Maryland with a chance to win its 13th game of the conference season on Saturday afternoon (12:00 p.m., ESPN).
The Wolverines have an outside shot at earning a double-bye in next week’s Big Ten Tournament, but they’d need to win on Saturday and get some help with Penn State beating Nebraska on Sunday. Either way, a win in College Park would add to Michigan’s Quadrant 1 win total and boost its NCAA Tournament seeding possibilities.
Maryland’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament are faint. The Terps had plenty of chances to pick up quality victories, but have consistently come up just a bit short. Injuries derailed a once promising season as Mark Turgeon has lost two players to season ending injury including projected first round pick Justin Jackson.
Maryland has played Big Ten opponents largely to a draw. The Terps have scored 108.7 points per 100 possessions (4th) and allowed 109.5 (11th). They’ve also played the second most difficult league schedule. Of the 12 most difficult games that could have ended up on its schedule, Maryland has played 11 of them. The Terps haven’t won many (they are just 1-9 with the game against Michigan pending), but it isn’t hard to imagine them being higher up the standings if they had played a league slate like Michigan State or Nebraska.
Maryland shoots 52.7% on twos (2nd) and 37.2% on threes (5th) for a 53.8 eFG% (4th) in Big Ten games. The Terps also do a great job of drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line. The downfall for Maryland’s offense all season has been the turnover. The Terps had several unforced giveaways at key moments of the first meeting and they are ranked 290th nationally in offensive turnover rate.
Despite the tough schedule, Maryland’s offense has been very good in league play. The Terps have the 4th best offense in the league and rely on their offense to win. They are just 3-9 when they fail to score more than 1.07 points per possession.
Maryland’s defense has struggled this year, but some early blowout losses have magnified the concern. The Terps have generally been solid defensively at home and they also held Michigan to 1.03 points per possession in the first meeting.
The 3-point line has been Maryland’s defensive weakness. Maryland gives up more 3-point attempts per shot attempt than any Big Ten team and allows 39.3% from deep — the second worst percentage in the conference. Michigan missed many of those attempts in the first meeting, but will need to make them on the road.
Sophomore point guard Anthony Cowan is one of the league’s better lead guards. He shoots 45% on twos and 37% on threes and is one of the better tough shot makers in this conference. He has mastered the art of drawing fouls — the Melo Trimble-esque head snap is in his arsenal — and he’s also a quality setup man.
Cowan is the Big Ten’s leading isolation scorer in the Big Ten, great out of ball screens, and he has an impressive 51.4 eFG% on off the dribble jumpers, second in the conference among players with at least 60 attempts.
Kevin Huerter is an elite shooting threat with deep range. He struggled from deep in the first meeting, but he’s Maryland’s most efficient offensive player. He’s also not just a shooter, he’s a capable passer and opportunistic slasher to the rim.
6-foot-4 freshman Darryl Morsell is an energy man on the wing. He’s not a threat from 3-point range (3-of-21 on the season), but he slashes to the basket relentlessly and loves to get out in transition. He’s not an efficient shooter, but his motor can cause problems. He’s turned the ball over a combined 14 times in the last six games.
Freshman big man Bruno Fernando has had a promising season. He’s a great finisher around the basket, draws fouls, protects the rim, and is active on both backboards. Fernando grades out in just the 43rd percentile as a post-up scorer, but he’s also effective cutting to the basket, scoring off of putbacks and rolling to the hoop. Fernando is a great help side shot blocker, but he’s actually struggled to defend one-on-one post-ups.
Backup big man Michal Cekovsky is the more efficient post-up option, but he has just a third as many opportunities as Fernando.
Dion Wiley missed the game in Ann Arbor with injury, but stepped into the starting lineup a few games later. He’s provided solid wing minutes and shooting (40% on 3-point attempts), but attempts more than twice as many threes as twos and isn’t much of a creator off the dribble.
Jared Nickens started the game at Michigan, but hasn’t seen as much time lately. Nickens is a 42% 3-point shooter who attempts almost 80% of his shots from beyond the arc.
- Ball screen defense: Maryland runs heavy ball screen action through Anthony Cowan and he started to get loose in the first meeting. Michigan’s ball screen defense has been fairly solid this season, but Simpson’s ability to slow down Cowan could be Michigan’s key.
- Bench shooters: Duncan Robinson and Jordan Poole have been giving Michigan a huge lift offensively off the bench and their 3-point shooting will be key against a Maryland team that surrenders the three. Poole was critical in Michigan’s comeback win in Ann Arbor while Robinson has been hot of late.
- Turnovers & transition: Maryland’s transition defense grades out as “average” according to Synergy Sports and its tendency to turn the ball over could give the Wolverines a chance to push the pace. The Terps did a terrific job of slowing the game down in the first meeting, but Michigan needs to be opportunistic with its chances to get easy baskets.
KenPom likes Maryland by a final score of 67-66, giving Michigan a 44% chance at the road upset.