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Maryland men’s basketball vs. Michigan State preview

The Terps return home to battle the Spartans.

Maryland v Illinois Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Maryland men’s basketball returns to College Park Sunday when it’ll play host to Michigan State.

The Terps are looking to bounce back after narrowly falling to Northwestern Wednesday, 72-69. Jahmir Young carried the offensive load, tallying 36 points, the second-most of his career, but only three other Terps scored.

Sunday’s game will begin at noon and air on CBS.

Michigan State Spartans (11-7, 2-4 Big Ten)

2022-23 record: 21-13, 11-8 Big Ten

Head coach Tom Izzo needs little introduction as one of the best college basketball coaches of all time. In 29 years, Izzo has won a national championship (2000), 10 Big Ten regular-season titles and six Big Ten Tournament titles. Last season, he became the first coach to lead a team to 25 straight NCAA Tournament appearances.

Michigan State has played the 18-most difficult schedule this season, according to KenPom.com, contributing to a mediocre start. Since beginning their Big Ten slate, the Spatans are 3-2, defeating Rutgers, Penn State and Minnesota by double-digits, while losing to No. 14 Illinois and Northwestern.

Players to watch

Tyson Walker, graduate guard, 6-foot-1, No. 2 — Walker is having another phenomenal season following an All-Big Ten campaign last year.

He is averaging a team-high 20.0 points and 1.8 steals per game. Walker averaged 14.8 points and 1.1 steals per game last season.

A.J. Hoggard, senior guard, 6-foot-4, No. 11 — Hoggard and Walker make up one of the best backcourts in the conference. Hoggard, an all-conference third team selection last year, is averaging 11.2 points and a team-high 5.2 assists per game this season, a slight decrease from his 12.9 points and 5.9 assists per game last season.

Jaden Atkins, junior guard, 6-foot-4, No. 3 — Atkins is the only Spartan to start in all 18 games this season, playing 27.1 minutes per start. He ranks fourth on the team in both points (10.7) and rebounds per game (4.1), while shooting 36.4 percent from three.

Strength

Defense. The Spartans boast one of the best defenses in the conference. They rank third in points allowed per game (65.6), second in opponent field goal percentage (39.2%) and first in opponent 3-point percentage (30.5%).

Weakness

An elite center. Michigan State does not have many, if any, outlying flaws. It does not have an elite center, though, which could be problematic against Julian Reese. The Spartans struggled Thursday against Minnesota’s Dawson Garcia, who recorded 22 points and nine rebounds.

Three things to watch

1. Young vs. Walker. Sunday’s game features a matchup between two of the best guards in the country: Walker and Young. Each leads their team in points per game by a wide margin.

2. Defensive battle. Both teams rely on their defense to win games, which could lead to a low-scoring affair. Maryland leads the conference in points allowed per game (64.0) and ranks 23rd in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency (95.6) — which is the amount of points a team would allow per 100 possessions against an average D1 opponent — while Michigan State ranks 24th (95.4), according to KenPom.

3. Can Maryland win a close game? This year, the Terps are 0-4 in games decided by one possession, although they did defeat Penn State in overtime. Their failure to effectively close out games could prove detrimental against Michigan State and their NCAA Tournament hopes.