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No. 23 Maryland men’s basketball at Louisville preview

Maryland goes on the road for the first time with a 6-0 record.

Miami v Maryland Photo by Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images

Maryland men’s basketball is 6-0 and ranked No. 23 in the AP poll — with the potential for that number to rise Monday — heading into its first true road game of the season in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Terps’ opponent this season is Louisville, a usual winning program that has fallen on hard times.

Overall, Maryland has an 11-12 record in ACC/Big Ten Challenge games but has struggled since joining the Big Ten. While in the ACC, the Terps went 10-5 in the event but are 1-7 since representing the Big Ten. The most recent result was last year’s 62-58 loss to Virginia Tech that proved to be Mark Turgeon’s final game with the program.

In this year’s matchup, what was circled as a potential toss-up game prior to the season has become a must-win for the Terps, not because of any real implications but instead because of the immense struggles Louisville has gone through this season. According to KenPom, Maryland is projected to win by nine points.

“Watching them, you know, they’ve had some bad luck. And they played some really good teams. I mean, their schedule has been brutal. So this is a good test for us,” Maryland head coach Kevin Willard said.

Tuesday’s game, which will be broadcast on ESPN2, is set to tip off at 7 p.m.

Louisville Cardinals (0-6, 0-0 ACC)

It’s still early, but the beginning of Kenny Payne’s first year as head coach at Louisville has been an unmitigated disaster. Alarm bells began to ring when the Cardinals lost an exhibition game to Lenoir-Rhyne — a Division II team that finished the season prior eight games below .500 — and those concerns proved to be the correct reaction once the regular season got underway.

Louisville began with consecutive one-point losses to Bellarmine, Wright State and Appalachian State at home. After those results, Louisville simply looked outmatched and unfit to be a part of the loaded Maui Invitational field, losing its three games by an average of over 25 points. For a program that has won a national championship in the last 10 years and is a perennial college basketball power, it is nothing short of shocking to see the Cardinals struggle to this extent.

Payne inherited a tough situation and is a beloved former Louisville player, so he’ll get a relatively long leash, but Cardinals fans are rightfully concerned about the state of their program.

Players to watch

El Ellis, senior guard, six-foot-three, No. 3 — After two years at Tallahassee Community College, Ellis transferred to Louisville before last season. He started to find a groove once the calendar flipped to 2022 and is the Cardinals’ starting point guard this year. Through six games he is leading the team in scoring with an average of 17.2 points per game, including back-to-back 29-point performances against Wright State and Appalachian State.

“I think El Ellis is as good a guard as we’re gonna see all year,” Willard said. “He has an unbelievable high workload. He gets everybody involved.”

Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, sophomore forward, six-foot-10, No. 5 — Coming out of high school, Huntley-Hatfield was a top-five prospect in the nation in the class of 2022 before reclassifying to the class of 2021. He played his freshman year at Tennessee but averaged just 3.9 points and three rebounds per game, eventually entering the transfer portal and choosing to play for Payne at Louisville. He looks to have taken a slight step forward this season, currently averaging 8.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, but is still looking to reach his full potential at the collegiate level.

Jae’Lyn Withers, redshirt junior forward, six-foot-nine, No. 24 — Withers is considered by most to be Louisville’s top returning wing, although he had a disappointing sophomore season after a freshman campaign that earned him All-ACC freshman team honors. His numbers this season are decent — 8.7 points and five rebounds per game — but he is yet to recapture the magic of his first season in a Cardinals uniform.


Height. Louisville’s roster has an average height of 78.9 inches (six-foot-6.9), which ranks ninth in the country, according to KenPom. While that height hasn’t necessarily translated into a ton of success on the boards — the Cardinals are about even with opponents in rebounding — it is something that can’t be taught or taken away by a coach. Julian Reese has had a strong start to the season against opponents that have generally been smaller than him, but he’ll have to really assert himself against Louisville.


Turnovers. According to KenPom, Louisville has the eighth-worst offensive turnover percentage in the nation. The Cardinals are losing the turnover battle by an average of 5.3 giveaways per game and are allowing opponents to nearly double their points off turnovers. Against a Maryland team that is always applying defensive pressure and looking to get in transition, they will need to be more disciplined or else they face the possibility of giving up a lot of free points.

Three things to watch

1. Can Maryland get hot from three? Maryland’s three-point shooting has been hit-or-miss this season. When the shots are falling, the Terps look almost unstoppable, but when they aren’t, they go into offensive lulls. Louisville is yet to prove that it can capitalize on opponents’ mistakes, but if it does and Maryland goes into a shooting slump, it could be a dangerous situation for Willard’s team.

2. A few familiar faces. After Turgeon’s departure, Danny Manning was tabbed as the Terps’ interim head coach and led the team for the final 24 games of the season. When the season concluded, Manning did not return to Maryland and instead chose to take the role of associate head coach at Louisville. A few of the players on this year’s Maryland roster played for Manning, as did Louisville junior guard Aidan McCool, who was a two-year walk-on with the Terps.

3. How will the Terps play on the road? Maryland has raced out to a fast start this season, playing four home games and two at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut. What Willard’s team has yet to do, though, is go into a hostile environment on the road. While Louisville’s fanbase doesn’t have the same excitement as usual, the KFC Yum! Center is always a difficult place to win. How they will deal with that environment will be something to monitor.

“You know, obviously Louisville’s struggled a little bit, but Kenny still has them playing hard and you know, winning on the road, it’s hard to do,” Willard said.