Maryland men’s basketball finishes its two-game road trip with a game at Michigan State Tuesday night at 9 p.m. in East Lansing, Michigan.
Maryland is entering Tuesday’s matchup with a ton of confidence, riding a four-game win streak. Most recently, Maryland won its first conference road game when it defeated Minnesota by 35 points on Saturday night, the Terps’ second-largest conference road win in program history.
Michigan State will present a whole different challenge as one of the premier programs in the Big Ten. If the season ended today, Maryland (7-5 Big Ten) would be the fifth seed in the conference tournament, but Michigan State is lurking in the standings with a 6-6 record. This game could have massive conference tournament seeding implications.
Michigan State Spartans (14-9, 6-6 Big Ten)
Michigan State has been as good as anybody in the Big Ten this century. The Spartans have the most conference titles in the Big Ten since 2000, all of which have come under the direction of legendary coach Tom Izzo. Izzo is in his 28th year at the helm and consistently has Michigan State competing for championships. That’s no different this season.
Although the Spartans have had an up-and-down season, in part due to injuries, Izzo’s group is still considered a probable NCAA Tournament team and a contender to win the Big Ten Tournament.
Players to know
Tyson Walker, senior guard, 6-foot-1, No. 2 — Walker is Michigan State’s engine and has been the most consistent player for the Spartans this season. He averages 13.8 points per game, which leads the team. He’s also shooting a staggering 41% from three.
Joey Hauser, graduate forward, 6-foot-9, No. 10 — Hauser is a do-it-all forward who averages 13 points per game and leads the team in rebounds. Not only can he score inside, but he has been lethal from beyond the arc. Hauser is shooting 40% from three this season and has the most 3-point attempts on the team.
Malik Hall, senior forward, 6-foot-8, No. 25 — Hall was supposed to be Michigan State’s best player coming into the season, but injuries have hindered his play. He's played in just 12 of the Spartans’ 23 games, but is averaging 9.3 points per game. Hall did, however, play 26 minutes in Michigan State's most recent game against Rutgers and is slowly getting back to full health.
Defending the three. Michigan State’s strength as a defense, and as a team, is similar to Maryland’s. Michigan State is exceptional at 3-point defense. The Spartans rank second in the Big Ten in opponent 3-point field goal percentage — Maryland ranks third. Luckily for Michigan State, Maryland is the second-worst 3-point shooting team in the conference.
Scoring. Michigan State beats teams due to its defense and physicality inside, usually not because of its offensive production. The Spartans average 68.3 points per game, fourth-worst in the Big Ten. Expect Tuesday night’s bout to be a physical, defensive affair.
Three things to watch
1. Julian Reese’s ascent. Julian Reese is quietly becoming one of the most effective big men in a conference full of them. The sophomore was presumed to be a tier behind the best of the best in the Big Ten, and he likely still is, but he’s shown he can compete on both ends with anyone. Reese has reached double figures in six of his last eight games. The Baltimore native will have another tough test against a physical Michigan State team, but there’s plenty of reason to believe Reese will be up for the challenge.
2. Can Maryland keep Michigan State off the glass? Maryland is the fourth-worst rebounding team in the Big Ten, and Michigan State leads the conference in defensive rebounds. Maryland’s rebounding has not hurt it too much in recent weeks, but it will require a total team effort to keep Michigan State off the glass Tuesday.
3. Can Maryland’s balanced scoring and ball movement persist? Maryland averages the fewest assists in the Big Ten with just 11.13 per game, but that number is a result of contests earlier in the season where Maryland failed to move the ball. Maryland’s assist numbers have been rising during its win streak, including a season-high 17 against Minnesota on Saturday. Quality ball movement has led to a balanced scoring attack from Maryland, with all five starters and multiple bench players contributing in a myriad of ways.