Last season, Maryland men's basketball traveled down the Beltway for a Gavitt Games matchup with Georgetown that ended when Kevin Huerter sealed a comeback with a block.
That was one of Huerter’s first signature moments as a Terp, and now the challenge between the Big Ten and Big East enters its third year and is bringing Butler with it.
Maryland has started the 2017-18 season 2-0 behind solid outings against sub par competition, so the Bulldogs will be the Terps’ first real competition. Butler is also undefeated so far, getting the campaign started with 22-point win over Kennesaw State and following with a 10-point win over Princeton.
"The only reservation I have is that Butler went on a summer tour,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said Tuesday. “They look like they’ve played seven or eight games. ... I think they’re just a little farther along than we are.”
These two teams both enter the week unscathed, but one will leave Wednesday’s 8:30 p.m. matchup on FS1 with its first loss.
Butler Bulldogs (2-0)
2016-17 record: 25-9, 12-6
Head coach Lavall Jordan is in his first year at Butler, after Chris Holtman left for Ohio State. This is just his second year as a head coach, getting his first gig last season at Milwaukee. He has some familiarity with the Big Ten, having spent 2010-16 on Jim Beilein’s Michigan staff and 2007-10 as an assistant at Iowa.
This gig, in some respects, represents full circle for Jordan, who got his first assistant coaching job from the Bulldogs in 2004, after playing for the team from 1998-2001 and being director of basketball operations in 2003. As Turgeon noted, he got a summer exhibition tour to get accustomed to his team. Now he has a chance to make his mark as a coach at his alma mater.
Players to know
Kelan Martin, senior, forward, 6’7, No. 30. Through two games, Martin is averaging 20 points and 11.5 rebounds a night. He was ranked No. 35 on SB Nation’s Top 100 players list and should give the Terps some trouble.
Kamar Baldwin, sophomore, guard, 6’1, No. 3. Baldwin provides the Bulldogs with a balanced attack at point. He’s averaged 11 points while adding 1.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 steals and a block over 22.5 minutes a game.
Aaron Thompson, freshman, guard, 6’2, No. 2. The Glenn Dale, Maryland, native’s college career is off to a solid start. After scoring seven points in his first game, he added 15 more against Princeton to bring his two-game average to 11 points and has added a team-high seven total assists, as well.
Keeping teams off the offensive boards. Through two games, Butler has been top-five in the country at making sure teams only get one possession. Princeton and Kennesaw State were only able to grab an offensive rebound on 10 percent of their misses, making Butler No. 4 in the nation in limiting second chances, per KenPom.
Three-point shooting. The Bulldogs have struggled behind the arc so far this season, hitting just 26.8 percent of their attempts from deep. Martin is 5-of-15 on threes, Baldwin is 2-of-6, and the rest of the team is a combined 4-of-20. With Maryland’s length, it could be another rough night from beyond the arc for the Bulldogs.
Three things to watch
- Who wins on the boards? Maryland has feasted on the boards in its first two games, but it’s unclear how much of that can be attributed to their opponents’ lack of height. Butler has just an average height of 76.9 inches, or just under 6’5, but features some players with a nose for the ball.
- How Maryland comes out. The Terps have come out slow in their first two games, which is fine against easier competition. However, Butler is at or around the Terps’ talent level, and it will require a 40-minute effort for Maryland to come out on top.
- How does Turgeon play with the lineups? Turgeon went with an all-returner starting lineup against Stony Brook before inserting Bruno Fernando in the first five for UMES. Expect more lineup experimentation from Turgeon in this one. "I'm just trying to figure it out,” Turgeon said. “We have a lot of good players, there hasn’t been a lot of separation yet, except for the big three (Huerter, Anthony Cowan and Justin Jackson).”
KenPom: Maryland, 77-72.
Me: Maryland, 80-74.