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Maryland basketball vs. Minnesota preview: Terps face improving Gophers on the road

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Tune in at 2:15 on BTN.

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland basketball returns Saturday to the scene of its most disappointing performance from a year ago.

The Terps visited the lowly Minnesota Golden Gophers last February and retreated home having suffered their worst loss of the season, falling to a team that was ranked No. 192 by KenPom. The Gophers were ecstatic after the win, with coach Richard Pitino saying his players “no longer had to be ashamed of themselves.”

The teams on each side of this year’s matchup are less extreme. Minnesota’s emerged from the Big Ten’s cellar at least slightly as one of the six teams that’s gone 3-5 in conference play. Advanced stats like the Gophers so far, and Vegas favors them by 4.5 over the Terps.

Minnesota Golden Gophers (15-6, 3-5 Big Ten)

2015-16 record: 8-23

Head coach: Richard Pitino. He’s 66-57 in three and a half seasons helming the ship in Minnesota. Before that, he went 18-14 in one season as Florida International’s head coach.

KenPom ranking: 39 (Maryland is 44)

Players to watch

Nate Mason, guard, junior, 6’2/190, No. 2. Mason is Minnesota’s clear No. 1 on offense. He averages 14 points per game and has the team’s second-best offensive rating (on KenPom), and he plays a hair under 82 percent of the team’s minutes. Mason leads the Gophers in assists per game with 5.5 and steals per game with 1.5.

Amir Coffey, guard/forward, freshman, 6’8/195, No. 5. Coffey is making a big impact in his freshman season. That he only puts 195 pounds on his 6’8 frame suggests his skills are much further along than his body. Coffey’s offensive rating is 105, only two points lower than Mason’s. He’s hitting 47 percent from the field even with a 30 percent mark from three-point range bogging that down.

Dupree McBrayer, guard, sophomore, 6’5/190, No. 1. McBrayer doesn’t carry the minutes load Mason does, but he’s been efficient. He owns the team’s best offensive rating (108, exactly 0.2 better than Mason) and plays the third-most minutes on the team. Pitino recently moved McBrayer to the bench, so fans will see him in a sixth-man role on Saturday.

Strength

Defense. Minnesota ranks sixth in the whole country in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Gophers are 10th in opponents’ effective field goal percentage. They’re even 10th in block percentage. Whatever they’re doing on that end of the floor, it’s working.

Weakness

Offensive firepower. The Gophers don’t have any particular strength on offense, though no spot sticks out that badly. If one did, it’d probably be their effective field goal percentage of 49, which ranks 232nd in the country. They’re 242nd in two-point percentage to go along with a No. 205 mark in offensive rebounding.

Predictions

KenPom’s prediction: Minnesota 69, Maryland 65. Terps have a 33 percent chance of winning.

Ryan’s prediction: Maryland 73, Minnesota 65.