After a surprising loss to St. Bonaventure, Maryland basketball rebounded with a convincing win over New Mexico to improve to 6-1. The Terps stunned with a loss in the Emerald Coast Classic against the Bonnies, having been nine-point favorites. But they didn’t waste any time playing down to New Mexico. Thanks to a bevy of threes, the team jumped out to a 27-3 lead and eventually sealed the 80-65 victory.
The Terps will now face their foe in this year’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge, heading to upstate New York to battle undefeated Syracuse. The Orange are 5-0 on the year so far, having just beaten Toledo 72-64. The game will be on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. ET in the Carrier Dome
Syracuse Orange (5-0)
2016-17 record: 19-15 (10-8 ACC)
Head coach Jim Boeheim is one of the most accomplished coaches in the sport. Now in his 42nd season at his alma mater, he ranks second among active coaches for career wins. Under his leadership, the Orange won the National Championship in 2003. They’ve also made five Final Fours, with the latest being in 2016 as a 10-seed.
Players to know
Tyus Battle, sophomore, guard, 6’6, No. 25. From Edison, New Jersey, Battle is Syracuse’s best and most lethal scorer. After averaging 11.1 points per game as a freshman, he now averages 20 points thanks to a .486 field goal percentage. It’ll be a tall task for Maryland to stop him, and they’d be wise to key in on him defensively.
Frank Howard, junior, guard, 6’5, No. 23. Not only is he Syracuse’s second leading scorer, he’s the team’s best facilitator with 5.2 assists per game. Howard is from Maryland, and his job on Monday night will to get the ball to Battle and others to beat his hometown team.
Oshae Brissett, freshman, forward, 6’8, No. 11. Brissett is one of the best young rebounders in the game, posting 9.2 boards per contest. However, the freshman stands at only 6’8; the Terps have five players taller than him. With the height Maryland possesses, he’ll find it hard to corral the basketball like he’s accustomed to.
Ball control. Thanks to the ball-handling abilities of its best scorers, this Syracuse team takes good care of the basketball. They average just 11.4 turnovers per game, which puts them near the top of college basketball. Maryland thrives on points off steals, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Orange maintain control throughout the game.
Passing. While Frank Howard does a good job of setting up his teammates, the rest of the team doesn’t follow his lead. Syracuse as a team only averages 13.8 assists per game, ranking in the bottom half of the nation. For Boeheim’s team, running isolation basketball may not be enough to challenge the Terps.
Three things to watch
1. Can Maryland compete with an ACC team? Maryland’s biggest test so far this year has been Butler of the Big East, but that level of competition doesn’t compare to one of the more prestigious programs in the country in arguably the best conference in basketball. With a loss to mid-major St. Bonaventure, it’s hard to feel quite as confident.
2. Will Maryland’s three-point shooting continue to be a factor? Against New Mexico on Saturday, the Terps shot a tremendous 53.3 percent from long range. The Terps have great shooters like Anthony Cowan Jr. and Kevin Huerter, and they often rely on three point shooting to extend a lead or cut a deficit. In their sole loss, Maryland only shot 21.7 percent on three-pointers.
3. Is Syracuse capable of proving the doubters wrong? In the ACC preseason poll, the Orange were picked to finish 10th in the conference. This is coming off a year that saw them lose in the second round of the NIT. Jim Boeheim’s teams don’t miss the NCAA Tournament often, and a win over Maryland will do wonders in getting them back there.
KenPom: Syracuse, 68-67
Me: Syracuse, 78-72