March basketball is just about here. For No. 21 Maryland men’s basketball (20-9, 11-7 Big Ten), opportunity awaits. Maryland hopes to begin a fruitful month with a successful trip to Ohio State (12-17, 4-14) Wednesday.
The Terps, winners of eight of their last 10 games, have checked back into the AP poll for their first ranking since the Dec. 12 poll. Not only is Maryland receiving national love, but it is in the thick of an intense Big Ten race. The Terps sit in a tie for second in the Big Ten with Indiana, Michigan and Northwestern, and they hold tiebreakers over each of them.
Maryland controls its own destiny heading into its final two games of the season, but it will have to do it on the road. The Terps went a perfect 10-0 at home in Big Ten play but haven’t experienced the same fortune on the road — they are 1-7 on the road in conference play, with the lone win coming at last-place Minnesota on Feb. 4. The Terps’ last three road losses have come by an average margin of just four points.
Tipoff on Wednesday is set for 7 p.m. on Big Ten Network. KenPom.com projects the Terps as two-point favorites.
What happened last time
It’s safe to say that life was different for the Buckeyes the last time around. Ohio State came into XFINITY Center on Jan. 8 with hopes of being a Big Ten contender, sitting with a 10-4 record, a No. 9 KenPom ranking and one of the most efficient offenses in the nation.
Maryland trailed 39-34 at halftime after shooting just 34.5% from the field. The Terps let Ohio State freshman star Brice Sensabaugh get loose for 11 points in the first half, a frame where the Buckeyes made six 3-pointers. Ohio State starting center Zed Key did not play.
The Terps began the second half on a mission, though, rattling off an imposing 14-0 run and not allowing the Buckeyes to score in the first five minutes and 43 seconds of the half. Ohio State cut its deficit to as little as three multiple times after Maryland took the lead, but it did not have enough to get the job done.
Maryland graduate point guard Jahmir Young put up a season-high 30 points and a season-high 11 boards, becoming the first Terp to do so since Greivis Vasquez on Feb. 21, 2009. In addition to Young, all five Maryland starters scored in double figures.
Maryland closed out the first meeting with a 80-73 victory, lifting it to 11-5 overall and 2-3 in the Big Ten. Ohio State fell to 10-5 and 2-2 in conference play.
What’s happened since
Ohio State’s season crumbled over the last seven-plus weeks.
The Buckeyes’ loss at Maryland was their second of a five-game losing streak, which included a home loss to lowly Minnesota. Ohio State snapped its winless spell with a 93-77 home victory against Iowa on Jan. 21, but that was just a buffer to another long slide.
Following its victory over Iowa, Ohio State lost nine straight games by an average deficit of 12.6 points per contest. However, it upset likely NCAA Tournament team Illinois in its most recent showing. As four-point underdogs, the Buckeyes raced out to a 12-point halftime lead and never looked back. Freshman guard Bruce Thornton led Ohio State with 20 points.
Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann announced on Feb. 22 that Key would miss the remainder of 2022-23 season. He is having shoulder surgery Thursday, according to The Columbus Dispatch’s Adam Jardy.
Maryland, on the other hand, has been rolling. The Terps had a week off after beating Ohio State before losing two of their next three, both on the road. Since then, the Terps are 8-2, picking up resume-boosting wins that secured their spot in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Overall, the Terps are 9-4 since beating the Buckeyes. Young is locking up a spot on the All-Big Ten first team, Kevin Willard is working his way into the Big Ten Coach of the Year conversation and the team has been fortunate to avoid any major injuries.
Three things to watch
1. Can Maryland exhaust its road woes? The Terps’ only road wins of the season have come at Minnesota and against Louisville, the worst team in power conference basketball. Home teams have won 83 of 123 (67.5%) of Big Ten games, according to KenPom. If Maryland is going to lock up a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament and perhaps the No. 2 seed in the conference, it starts with taking care of business against an inferior team on the road. Following Wednesday’s game, the Terps will wrap up the regular season at Penn State on Sunday.
2. How will the Terps shoot from deep? Maryland put on an absolute clinic from beyond the arc against Northwestern, hitting 14 of its 22 3-pointers. Four Terps hit multiple threes, with Young and graduate guard Don Carey hitting four apiece. Maryland came into Sunday as the 318th-best 3-point shooting team in the nation, and now it is 273rd. The Terps haven’t been a good 3-point shooting team all year, but perhaps there is a consistent medium between scorching hot and terrible.
3. The Big Ten standings. If Purdue loses out and Maryland wins out, an unlikely combination to foresee, the Terps will take a share of the Big Ten regular-season title. Regardless, even speaking a scenario like that into existence at the beginning of March must be a joy for Terps fans to hear. Maryland was projected to finish 10th in the conference in the preseason, but it currently has an inside track to finish No. 2 with a strong finish. According to BartTorvik.com, the Terps have a 76.1% chance to finish top four in the Big Ten.
Indiana hosts Iowa on Tuesday, Northwestern hosts Penn State on Wednesday, and Michigan travels to Illinois on Thursday.