Maryland men’s basketball has a chance to finish the regular season with an undefeated conference home record when it faces Northwestern Sunday at noon.
Maryland has three games left on its schedule and just one home game. Maryland will travel to Ohio State and Penn State to close out the season following Sunday’s tilt against Northwestern.
The Terps are currently tied for third in the Big Ten, so every remaining game has massive seeding implications. Northwestern is 11-6, while Maryland is 10-7. If Maryland wins on Sunday, it will move into second place in the conference.
Northwestern was one of the hottest teams in the country, rallying off five straight wins before Thursday’s matchup against Illinois. Northwestern led by 18 at halftime against the Fighting Illini on the road but completely collapsed in the second half, eventually losing, 66-62. Now, Northwestern has its second straight road game when it plays the only team in the Big Ten that hasn't lost at home in conference play.
Northwestern Wildcats (20-8, 11-6 Big Ten)
Northwestern’s head coach Chris Collins entered the 2022-23 season on the hot seat after failing to make the NCAA Tournament in eight of the last nine seasons. But the Wildcats have surpassed every expectation they had this season and catapulted to near the top of the Big Ten standings, saving Collins’ job for at least another year.
Northwestern is in sole possession of second place in the Big Ten and has had some monster wins over Indiana, Purdue and Iowa. However, as previously stated, it blew a massive lead to Illinois in its most recent contest.
Players to know
Boo Buie, senior guard, 6-foot-2, No. 0 — Buie is by far the best player on Northwestern and one of the best players in the Big Ten. He's having a phenomenal senior season, averaging 17 points per game. He’s the Wildcats’ biggest scoring threat but is not particularly efficient from the floor, shooting 41% from the field and 30% from long range.
Chase Audige, redshirt senior guard, 6-foot-4, No. 1 — Audige is Buie’s counterpart in the backcourt that makes for a dynamic duo. Audige averages 14.8 points per game. As a bigger guard, Audige consistently uses his size to score and is a prominent defender. He has 65 steals on the season — by far the most on the team — and 19 blocks.
Robbie Beran, senior forward, 6-foot-9, No. 31 — Beran serves as a solid scoring forward for Northwestern who can battle on the block but also step outside and shoot the three-ball. Along with being an inside-outside threat, Beran has the second-most rebounds on the team.
Defense. Northwestern is a phenomenal defensive team, particularly on the perimeter. It swarms opposing guards and limits teams’ best players. Northwestern holds teams to 40.6% shooting from the field, the second-lowest mark in the Big Ten. The Wildcats also hold teams to 61.9 points per game, the third lowest in the conference.
Shooting. While it is great at preventing opposing teams from scoring, Northwestern isn’t great at scoring itself. The Wildcats average the fourth-fewest points per game in the conference and have the worst field goal percentage at 41%. For a defense as stout as Maryland’s, the Wildcats are in for a tough matchup in College Park.
Three things to watch
1. Conference standings. Purdue is almost certainly going to lock up the Big Ten regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. But behind the Boilermakers, the seeding is an absolute crapshoot with three games to go. Maryland would move into second place with a win but lose its standing in third if it loses. The top four seeds get a double-bye to the quarterfinals, so every game is crucial with four teams, including Maryland, at 10-7 and many teams separated by just one game.
2. Can Maryland contain Boo Buie? Buie has emerged as one of the best scoring guards in the country this season and has led Northwestern to its stellar, and surprising, record. Buie has been unstoppable at times in conference play. Against Illinois on Thursday, he finished with a season-high 35 points. Maryland has done a great job of limiting opposing teams’ best players. Willard and his staff will have to craft a stout defensive game plan once again.
3. Which Donta Scott will show up on offense? Donta Scott’s offense this season has been inconsistent, to put it mildly. It’s a mystery as to which Scott will show up each game. Scott had his best offensive showing in weeks against Minnesota on Wednesday, finishing with 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting, but it was against the worst team in the conference. In the two games before that against Purdue and Nebraska, he combined for 10 points. If Maryland is going to realize its potential in March, it needs Scott to be consistently great offensively.