Gary Williams and the Maryland Terrapins won't have much time to ponder and analyze their first loss to Cincinnati yesterday. The newly defeated team plays Wisconsin today in the consolation game of the Maui Invitational, and that'll happen at 4:30 on ESPN2.
We might learn more about the team this way then we would've in any other way. If nothing else, we'll certainly learn about their resiliency. You might remember that that was a major strength of last year's team - after falling to Clemson by 29, they bounced back with a win over UNC. After losing to Virginia, which all but sealed their fates as missing the NCAA tournament, they came up with two huge wins in the ACCT, which got them back in the hunt.
We'll learn again if this team is capable of bouncing back from a loss against a good team to beat another good team. We'll also learn if the Cincinnati loss was a little flukey or if those are the real Maryland Terrapins this year.
Early on, it looks like Wisconsin plays normal Big Ten basketball - low-scoring, half-court, and solid defense. Maryland normally does well against those types of teams, so there's a plus.
The Badgers' most effective weapon has been Jon Leuer; outside of the Arizona game, where he got in foul trouble, he's yet to score fewer than 12 points and is averaging 13 a game (around 16ish without that Arizona game). The lanky big man is a shooting specialist, and will probably draw out Maryland's bigs to the perimeter. Hopefully that doesn't mean Jin Soo Choi sees a lot of time again - I don't know if it's the injury or his inexperience, but he just looks lost right now. He has the talent (see last season's exhibition), but he's yet to put it together.
Wisconsin also has a solid backcourt duo in combo Trevon Hughes, the team leader in points, and Jason Bohannon, the team leader in minutes and assists. Before yesterday, I would've said that Maryland would have no issues dealing with them with their plethora of backcourt players, but less than encouraging performances from Sean Mosley and Adrian Bowie have caused me to have my doubts.
Hughes is the team leader, and is a stereotypical inconsistent scorer. He can get hot and destroy a team, or get cold and destroy his own. Bohannon is more consistent, a more Hayes-ian type guy - a guy who you might think of as a point guard playing the 2 as a shooting specialist. He's not going to kill any team with points, but he's good for about 9 points a game, sometimes more.
One plus is that they're not a great rebounding team, at least not as good as Cincinnati - the Bearcats were outrebounding opponents by more than 15 a game, while Wisconsin is only +3 on the season (Maryland is +.2). A strong rebounding performance from Jordan Williams and James Padgett would be helpful, but getting Landon Milbourne back in the rebounding picture (2 in 2 games) would be much appreciated.
Actually, size is a bit of an issue all across the board for Wiscy. Of their five starters, only one reaches past 6-8, and that's the very lanky 6-10 Leuer; none of the first 4 players off the bench scrape 6-8, either. Keaton Nankivil (he's, you guessed it, 6-8) is the second-tallest starter, and team leader in rebounding. He only has Landon Milbourne by about an inch, so Maryland shouldn't have to go up against a massive height disadvantage.
The biggest problem, however, is their ability to lock a team down defensively - before Gonzaga, no team had shot better than 37% against them. With Maryland desperately trying to find their stroke, that's not a good sign.
It was late, so I didn't stay up to watch the Wisconsin game, but I don't think they'll provide a challenge on Cincinnati's level. If Maryland plays up to what we think they're capable of, it'll be a win, but this is by no means a cakewalk. I think Wisconsin succeeds in slowing the game down a little, but Maryland gets stepped up performances from Sean Mosley and Landon Milbourne, and the Terps pull out a win, 70-63. Just a random guess after a little research.