When Maryland plays Valparaiso on Friday to open the NCAA Tournament, Alec Peters might be the best player on the floor.
It's not definite. Dez Wells and Melo Trimble are stars, and Jake Layman has taken over a few games in his day. But Peters, the 6'9 Valpo power forward who can guard three positions and score from virtually anywhere on the court, belongs in any conversation about the best basketball player rolling through Columbus this weekend. Here's what Maryland's going to be dealing with from inside Peters's 81-inch, 225-pound frame:
- 16.7 points per game on a ridiculous 62.3 percent true shooting rate.
- 6.8 rebounds per game, including an 18.2 percent defensive board rate that places him in the top 400 nationally.
- A fast, sturdy defender who can guard inside and out while fouling almost never (2.5 times per 40 minutes).
- A ball-dominant threat who turns the ball over just 12.1 percent of the time, 155th best in the sport.
- A 46-percent three-point shooter.
- An 86-percent foul shooter.
- All in all, a 125.4 offensive rating that suggests he's one of the 30 most efficient offensive players in the country.
Peters is pretty great at pretty much everything. He's going to be more than a handful for Layman, a similarly constructed 6'9 forward who also plays a versatile, two-way game. If you like potential game-defining matchups between really good players with similar skill-sets, Maryland-Valparaiso is just the thing for you.
Daniel Martin covered this nicely at SportsNet Baltimore already, but watch for Peters and Layman to play a tit-for-tat game both around the basket and on the perimeter. Peters is by far Valpo's best player, so Layman's primary objective on Friday needs to be stopping him. That could wear out the Maryland junior and keep him from making much of an imprint offensively, but that's why the Terps have Wells and Trimble. Layman needs to keep Peters from setting him on fire. If he can prevent that, Maryland's very unlikely to lose.
Make no mistake: Peters is one of the best players Maryland will face all season, Horizon Leaguer or not. On the flip side, it's also true that Maryland's the best team Peters has faced. Peters has been good in almost every game he's played, but the few down games he's had mostly have a similar thread: They've come against teams that make him miss three-pointers. He averaged just 8.7 points in January, when he "only" made 38 percent of his threes over nine games. In February and March, he's made his usual 46 percent, and his scoring's jumped to 14 per game.
So Peters is great, but he's not immune to the drop-offs that come with mortal outside shooting. If Maryland can defend the arc and make Peters venture inside, where he's a fine-but-not-special 50-percent shooter, there's a chance to hold him down at least a little bit. Otherwise, he could be a serious problem.