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Maryland basketball vs. Pittsburgh preview: Terps take on an ACC foe

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The Terps take on the Panthers in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.

NCAA Basketball: Yale at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland basketball and Pitt overlapped for one season in the ACC before the Terps fled for the Big Ten. The Panthers were set to play the Terps twice a year had they stayed in the conference, but since they left, fans looking forward to a series between the two will have to settle for Tuesday night’s Big Ten-ACC Challenge matchup.

The Panthers are the middle portion of Maryland’s toughest nonconference stretch this season. Sandwiched between Kansas State and Oklahoma State, two other teams in the top 60 on KenPom’s rankings, this is as tough as it’ll get for the Terps until conference play starts.

Pitt comes in with a loss to SMU as the only stain on its season, and that’s a respectable loss. Maryland’s still undefeated, but they’ve gone down to the wire against almost every opponent. This is the Panthers’ first true road game, as their only trip away from campus was for the 2K Classic two weeks ago. This game tips off at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.

Pitt Panthers (5-1)

2015-16 record: 21-12, 9-9 in ACC

Head coach: Kevin Stallings. He’s in his first year as the Panthers’ head coach. Stallings came over from Vanderbilt, where he was 332-220 in 17 seasons.

All-time series: Maryland leads, 5-4

KenPom ranking: 56 (Maryland is 55)

Players to watch

Michael Young, PF, senior, 6’9/235, No. 2. He does it all for the Panthers. Young is Pitt’s leader in points, shooting percentage, rebounds, blocks and free-throw percentage. He’ll be the focus of Maryland’s defense after the Terps had a lot of trouble containing Kansas State’s D.J. Johnson, who racked up 26 points on 18 shots on Saturday.

Jamel Artis, PG, senior, 6’7/200, No. 1. Artis is Pitt’s second-leading scorer, and also tops the team in assists per game with 3.8.

Cameron Johnson, SG, sophomore, 6’7/185, No. 23. Johnson’s been this team’s third-best option offensively in this early season, coming in third in points and assists so far. He’s in his third year with the team, but still has two years of eligibility left. He received a medical waiver after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury eight games into his freshman season.

Strengths

Getting to the free throw line, and preventing others from doing so. The Panthers are 36th in field goals per free throw attempt, meaning they get to the line pretty often. They also rank 15th in opponents’ field goals per free throw attempt, meaning they don’t let other teams get there.

Offensive efficiency. The team ranks 25th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency, which measures how many points a team scores per 100 possessions. Solid shooting, ball security and a knack for getting to the line all help here.

Weaknesses

Forcing turnovers. The Panthers don’t get their hands on opponents’ passes very often. They rank 349th in opponents’ turnover percentage, and 342 in steal percentage.

Not much else. The Panthers are balanced, and though they aren’t amazing at any one particular thing, it’s hard to find any glaring bad spots.

Predictions

KenPom: Maryland 73, Pitt 69. Terps have a 64 percent chance of winning.

Ryan’s prediction: Pitt 68, Maryland 64. The Panthers are a tough opponent, and I think this’ll be a close game that the Terps ultimately don’t pull out in the end.