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Maryland basketball vs. Wisconsin preview: Terps look to score biggest win of the year

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Maintaining their status as first in the conference is also on the line.

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Since Maryland’s move to the Big Ten, Wisconsin has been as close to a rival for the Terrapins as one could ask for. Two years ago, Maryland stormed the court following a gold rush victory. Last year, Melo Trimble hit a game-wining three-pointer on the road before the then-No. 2 Terps dropped a close one at the Xfinity Center. What this year’s lone matchup will bring is yet to be seen.

The Terrapins are fresh off a solid road victory over the Northwestern Wildcats, while the Badgers dropped their fifth game of the season courtesy of the Michigan Wolverines. Wisconsin is on a two-game skid after also losing to Northwestern last Sunday.

This Sunday’s game takes place at 1 p.m. EST. Brad Nessler and Clark Kellogg have the call on CBS.

Wisconsin Badgers (21-5, 10-3 Big Ten)

2015-16 record: 22-13

Head coach: Greg Gard, who’s 36-13 in his second season (first full season) as Wisconsin’s head coach. This is his first head coaching job after serving as Bo Ryan's long-time assistant since 2001.

KenPom ranking: 15 (Maryland is 31).

Players to watch

Ethan Happ, forward, redshirt sophomore, 6’10/232, No. 22. The reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year is easily the Badgers’ most efficient scorer at 14 points per game on 61 percent shooting. It may actually be smarter for Maryland to intentionally foul the 51 percent free-throw shooter on entry passes into the post. Besides being the team's leading scorer, he also leads the Badgers in rebounds (9), assists (3), steals (2), and blocks (1) per game.

Nigel Hayes, forward, senior, 6’8/240, No. 10. Hayes is second in many categories for Wisconsin including points (13), rebounds (6), and assists (3). He is a matchup problem for most teams because of his ability to play in the post and keep defenses honest from beyond the arc.

Bronson Koenig, guard, senior, 6’3/190, No. 24. Koenig missed Thursday's loss to Michigan with a left calf injury that has forced him to miss multiple practices, but his importance to Wisconsin’s team makes him a player to know even if there is a chance he does not suit up against Maryland. Koenig averages 13 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists for the Badgers this season and is also their best three-point shooter with 64 makes.

Strengths

Defense. Wisconsin’s opponents have an effective shooting percentage of 47, which is 36th best in the nation. Their adjusted defensive efficiency is seventh on KenPom.

Offensive rebounding. The Badgers are not the greatest shooting team at 46 percent, but it helps when their offensive rebounding percentage is 37. That is good for 14th-best in the country.

Weaknesses

Three-point defense. The Badgers may have the eighth-best two-point shooting defense in America, but they take a step back when they’re launching from beyond the arc. Wisconsin allows opponents to shoot 37 percent from three, which is No. 254 in the country.

Free-throw shooting. Wisconsin only scores 17 percent of its points from the free throw line because of their poor shooting from the charity stripe at 67 percent. The No. 272 rank could mean a comeback opportunity should Maryland have to foul to stop the clock late.

Predictions

KenPom’s prediction: Wisconsin 69, Maryland 61. Terps have a 24 percent chance of winning.

Neil’s prediction: Maryland 72, Wisconsin 65.