On Wednesday, Maryland will participate in their final ACC-B1G Challenge as a member of the ACC before flipping sides when they join the Big Ten in 2014. But more importantly, Wednesday will make Maryland best chance to notch a marque, non-conference win for their NCAA tournament resumé before heading into conference play next month. But beating the Buckeyes, in Columbus, won't be easy.
Ohio State is ranked #3 in the Coaches poll and #5 in the AP Poll this week, while KenPom has them as the second best team in the nation. They'll be the toughest team the Terps have faced this season, especially when Ohio State is playing defense. The Buckeyes have started out the season 6-0, with their best win coming in a 17 point road win against Marquette, who was ranked #17 at the time. Their average margin of victory has been 19.6 ppg and they're holding opponents to just 53.3 ppg, good enough for second best in the nation. This will be the 5th time the two schools have faced off in basketball and the first time since 1985, with OSU holding a 3-2 edge in the series.
Aaron Craft, 6'2" senior, G
Shannon Scott, 6'1" junior, G
Amir Williams, 6'11" junior, C
LaQuinton Ross, 6'8" junior, F
Lenzelle Smith, Jr., 6'4" senior, G
Ohio State's starting five is a super experienced group of players, with three juniors and two seniors. That alone makes them a dangerous team, but they have a lot of other skill sets that will make beating the Buckeyes in Columbus a difficult task.
OSU's offense often comes from their defense, with senior guard Aaron Craft and junior guard Shannon Scott leading the way. Scott is 40th in the country and Craig 64th when it comes to steal percentage (# steals/#defensive possessions), as each average over two steals per game. Kempom ranks Ohio State as the best team in the nation when it comes to adjusted efficiency on defense, which could be problematic for a Maryland team who is turning the ball over 20% of the time on offense.
Craft is a very talented, smart and experienced guard who will present a challenge to whoever he's matched up with (probably Dez Wells). Scott has a very good eFG% of 60.9 (156 best) while averaging 11 ppg. The Buckeyes actually have extremely balanced scoring, with four players averaging between 11 and 11.3 ppg and two more averaging between 8-8.2 ppg. They essentially have six players who are very capable of scoring when given the opportunity; you can't really focus on trying to shut down just one player.
Amir Williams had arguably his best game of the season in OSU's last outing, scoring 18 points, grabbing seven rebounds and picking up two assists and a block in the Buckeyes' blowout win over North Florida. LaQuinton Ross also had his best game of the season against North Florida, scoring 17 points and grabbing eight rebounds. It was also Ohio State's best offensive performance of the season as the Buckeyes scored 99 points in the win.
On the road again
Wednesday will make Maryland first "true" road game of the season, with all of their other games away from the confines of the Comcast Center at neutral sites. The Terps were 4-7 in road games last season, with their best win arguably coming in their final road game of last season, when they defeated Alabama to advance to the NIT semi-finals. However, Maryland has one of the best ACC-B1G road records at 4-1.
As we said, Ohio State has one of the best defensive teams in the country. How will Maryland, especially freshman Roddy Peters, handle the Buckeye's suffocating defense? Will Maryland be able to get their offense in sync? Those are the million dollar questions for the Terps Wednesday night. Maryland actually has one of the better effective FG%, while also being one of the top offensive rebounding teams. The question then becomes whether Maryland can execute their offense despite OSU's defense or if OSU's defense will disrupt Maryland's offense and force them into making turnover that translate into easy Buckeye buckets?
Maryland really has to limit their turnovers and value every possession. Ohio State loves to dictate a slower tempo game, but if someone makes a bad pass or poor decision on offense, they'll take the ball away and quickly score on a fast break, which they're very good at executing.
One player very familiar with Ohio State is Evan Smotrycz, who transferred from Michigan, where he faced the Buckeyes six times during his time in Ann Arbor. Maryland is going to need a very good performance out of Smotrycz and Jake Layman Wednesday evening if the Terps want a shot at walking away from Columbus with a win. While Ohio State has very talented, experienced guards, Maryland has an advantage in the versatility and consistency of their forwards, something they'll need to capitalize on against OSU.
The Terps are going to have to rely on and make their outside shots if they want to win on Wednesday, but they have to make sure they're taking good shot opportunities, not forcing up a shot when they're not open. Maryland really needs a performance similar to what they did in their last game against Morgan State, when they went 13/20 from beyond the arc. Hopefully Jake Layman can continue his hot start against the Buckeyes.
Maryland's inexperience at point guard could also be an issue Wednesday. While Dez Wells has experience matching up against veteran guards, freshman Roddy Peters will be facing one of his biggest challenges of his young career when he's on the court Wednesday. Peters and Wells both need to not try to do too much while also valuing every possession on offense.
Ohio State is a very good team, but in a way that Maryland hasn't really seen so far in this somewhat young season. Their defense is extremely good and will present a very tough challenge on the road for Maryland. Despite the fact that the Terps' should be able to score effectively from beyond the arc, their inexperience at point guard and susceptibility to turning the ball over leads to a Buckeyes win, 65-58.
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- Ranking the ACC: Regular season wrap-up
- Maryland bowl projections 2013: Where will the Terps play? Looking at the available options and possible opponents