Winners of five straight, Maryland men’s basketball is set to resume Big Ten play Tuesday in its biggest test of the season when it hosts No. 1 Purdue.
Last year, the Terps shocked Purdue in College Park, and will certainly have their hands full again as the Boilermakers are 4-0 against top-15 opponents this season.
Tuesday’s meeting will be the first of 18 conference matchups to end the regular season for the Terps.
The matchup is set for 7 p.m. and will stream exclusively on Peacock.
Purdue Boilermakers (12-1, 1-1 Big Ten)
2022-23 record: 29-6, 15-5 Big Ten
Head coach Matt Painter once again has his team among the best in the country, a familiar sight in the latter half of his 20 seasons at the helm. The Boilermakers have been ranked inside the top 10 of the AP Poll in all but three weeks across the past three seasons. However, they have fallen victim to early exits in the NCAA Tournament.
This year’s team again will be favored to make a deep postseason run as they return all but two players from last season’s squad, including National Player of the Year frontrunner Zach Edey.
The Boilermakers have been nearly perfect this season, highlighted by the aforementioned four ranked victories. Three of those came in the Maui Invitational, which they won. They also took down then-No. 1 Arizona in Indianapolis.
Players to watch
Zach Edey, senior center, 7-foot-4, No. 15 — Edey is the most unguardable player in the country and is well on his way to a second straight National Player of the Year nod. Last season, he averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. His numbers this season are almost identical, including eight games with over 20 points. He’s scored 35 points twice.
The All-American is also one of the most efficient players in the nation, hitting shots at a 62.4% clip. When asked how Maryland can limit Edey’s production, head coach Kevin Willard kept his answer short: “Pray.”
Braden Smith, sophomore guard, 6-foot, No. 3 — Following a stellar freshman campaign, Smith has taken an even greater leap this season. The team’s top facilitator and 3-point shooter, Smith is the engine behind an offense which scores nearly 90 points a game.
He’s averaging 12.8 points, 5.3 rebound and 6.8 assists per game, all while knocking down close to half of his 42 attempts from deep.
Lance Jones, fifth-year guard, 6-foot-1, No. 55 — Jones transferred to Purdue following an outstanding four years at Southern Illinois, during which he eclipsed 1,500 points and 175 steals.
A force on both ends of the floor, Jones has perfectly fit into Purdue’s lineup. He ranks fourth on the team in scoring (10.8 points per game), second in steals (1.5 per game) and fourth in minutes at more than 25 per game.
3-point shooting. Coming into the season, most thought Purdue’s weak link would be its lack of success from distance. Purdue has not only proved that to be untrue, but has even been the top 3-point shooting team in the conference, making 38.4% of its triples. Its 3-point defense also ranks top-25 in the nation.
Five players are shooting over 39% from deep: Mason Gillis (51.9%), Smith (47.6%), Fletcher Loyer (39.3%), Trey Kaufman-Renn (41.7%) and Camden Heide (42.9%). Each have taken at least 12 attempts.
All said, still less than 30% of the Boilermakers’ offense is stemmed by the 3-ball, showing their overall efficiency, which is the second-best in the country, per KenPom.com.
Road splits. Purdue does very little wrong, but it has struggled over the past calendar year on the road to sustain its dominant level of play.
While the Boilermakers won seven of 10 conference road games last season, four came by just one possession. And they fell at Indiana, Northwestern and Maryland in consecutive games.
Their only true road game this season ended in an overtime loss at Northwestern.
Three things to know
1. A streak on the line. Maryland has won a Division I-leading 19 straight games at XFINITY Center. The court-storming scene that took place in College Park last season should motivate Purdue to end the Terps’ streak.
2. Others need to step up. Jahmir Young and Julian Reese have done their best to keep Maryland above water this season. Other contributors will be needed not only Tuesday, but throughout Big Ten play. The duo have combined for almost 75% of the team’s offense, which isn’t a sustainable recipe for success.
If shots don’t start to fall at a continuous rate for guys like DeShawn Harris-Smith and Donta Scott, it’s going to be a long 40 minutes Tuesday, and an even longer few months of conference play.
3. Strength of schedule favors Purdue. Maryland has not faced a Quad 1 opponent yet this season. Purdue has faced five, winning each time. Tuesday will be Maryland’s toughest test this season and just its second game against a ranked team. A lot will be learned about Maryland when they match up against a team that has experienced early success against some of the best in the country.