Maryland men’s basketball (12-7, 3-5 Big Ten) welcomes Wisconsin (12-6, 4-4) to College Park Wednesday. The Terps are coming off a close loss at No. 3 Purdue, where they battled back from a 16-point deficit but couldn’t complete the comeback in the game’s final seconds. The Badgers most recently lost to Northwestern, 66-63.
Wednesday’s game will air at 7 p.m. on Big Ten Network. KenPom.com projects a 65-60 win for Maryland, giving it a 68% chance of getting its fifth straight home victory and moving to 4-0 at home in conference games.
What happened last time
When Maryland and Wisconsin first played on Dec. 6, the Terps were riding high off a win over Illinois that improved their record to 8-0 and bumped them up to No. 13 in the AP poll. When they traveled to Madison to take on the Badgers, however, they were greeted with the difficulties playing on the road in the Big Ten, losing 64-59.
Playing right into Wisconsin’s bread and butter, it was a slow game offensively, with neither team able to find success with consistency. Jahmir Young and Julian Reese were the only two Maryland players to score in double figures, Young leading with 17. Chucky Hepburn scored 13 points for Wisconsin and Steven Crowl added 12 of his own.
Maryland’s senior leaders Hakim Hart and Donta Scott did not put together their finest showings, combining to go 5-of-24 from the field.
What plagued the Terps — other than inconsistent shot-making — were their 14 turnovers, six more than the Badgers committed. For a team that was creeping its way toward contending in the Big Ten, it was an inevitable wake-up call for Maryland that life was not going to be easy in the conference.
What’s happened since
Since Dec. 4, Maryland has regressed to the mean and is now an NCAA Tournament bubble team instead of the lock it looked to be through its first eight games. The road struggles have not subsided, as the Terps are still winless on the road in Big Ten games (0-5), although their three-point loss at Purdue Sunday was their best performance in conference play away from College Park.
Wisconsin has also been somewhat inconsistent, going on a six-game winning streak (including the win over Maryland) but then losing three straight to Illinois, Michigan State and Indiana, respectively. Since the Indiana loss, the Badgers beat Penn State but then lost to Northwestern.
The quartet of Crowl, Hepburn, Tyler Wahl and freshman Connor Essegian has turned into one of the most formidable groups in the Big Ten, all averaging over 10 points per game. Hepburn and Essegian are two of the best 3-point shooters in the league while Crowl and Wahl create a dynamic duo in the frontcourt — as they have been for a few years now.
Three things to watch
1. Home cooking. Maryland has been great at home, still unbeaten in conference play and 9-1 overall at XFINITY Center. Wednesday marks the first of three consecutive home games for the Terps, a key stretch that could prove to be crucial come March. In front of what should be a lively crowd for the team’s “blackout” game, Maryland will try and keep its home success rolling against a Wisconsin team that is 2-3 in true road games.
2. Another rematch. Maryland’s last home game was against Michigan, a team that it lost to earlier in the season in convincing fashion. The Terps came away with a victory in the rematch, something they’ll hope to do against the Badgers as well. Beating a team twice is very difficult — especially in the ultra-competitive Big Ten — which plays in Maryland’s favor.
3. Containing Hepburn and Essegian. As previously mentioned, Hepburn and Essegian are lethal 3-point shooters. On the other hand, according to KenPom, Maryland has the nation’s 29th-best 3-point defense. Whether it’s the Terps’ perimeter defense or the Badgers’ sharpshooters that have the advantage could be the difference Wednesday.