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Maryland basketball vs. Minnesota preview: Terps look for 2nd straight win over Gophers

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Maryland and Minnesota will tangle on BTN Wednesday at 8:30.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Minnesota Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland basketball has four regular season games left. The first of those comes Wednesday at home against Minnesota.

The Terps will host the Gophers in a relatively late matchup at 8:30 on BTN. Maryland won the teams’ first matchup this season, 85-78, in Minnesota. The Gophers are in the midst of a five-game winning streak, having just topped Michigan in double overtime.

Maryland just finished its hardest week of the season. The Terps beat Northwestern on the road on Wednesday, then fell at Wisconsin on Sunday. They’re still holding on strong to the No. 3 spot in the Big Ten, while Minnesota is two spots behind.

This won’t be Maryland’s first game without Michal Cekvosky, but it’ll be the first where Mark Turgeon knows he won’t have his Slovakian center for the rest of the season. Just as the Terps appeared to have him back at full strength for the first time this season, Cekovksy fractured his left ankle against Wisconsin. He’s out for the rest of this season, meaning Damonte Dodd and Ivan Bender will stay as Maryland’s primary centers.

Minnesota Golden Gophers (20-7, 8-6 Big Ten)

2015-16 record: 8-23

Head coach: Richard Pitino. He’s 71-58 as Minnesota’s head coach, and could lead the Gophers to their first NCAA Tournament bid in his time at the helm.

KenPom ranking: 39 (Maryland is 32)

Players to know

Nate Mason, guard, junior, 6’2/190, No. 2. Mason is a high-volume shooter, scoring 15 points per game on 37 percent shooting from the field, but Minnesota needs him. He’s got the team’s best offensive rating on KenPom at 109. Mason also adds a team-high 5.3 assists per game with only 1.7 turnovers.

Amir Coffey, guard/forward, freshman, 6’8/195, No. 5. Coffey was a heralded local recruit (the No. 7 shooting guard in the country), and he’s paying dividends for Pitino. He averages 12 points per game on 36 percent shooting, along with 3.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists.

Jordan Murphy, guard, sophomore, 6’6/240, No. 3. He’s just as powerful a scorer as Coffey. Murphy is shooting 20 percent better than he was last season, chipping in 11 points per game.

Strengths

Defense. The Gophers have the 15th-best defense in the land, by KenPom’s adjusted efficiency metrics. Their opponents have an effective shooting percentage of 45, the 12th-best mark of any defense in the country. With the fifth-best block percentage, they also make things tough inside.

Ball security. Minnesota only turns the ball over on 16 percent of its possessions, the 37th-best mark in the country. The team’s offense isn’t explosive, but doesn’t give its opponents too many extra possessions.

Weaknesses

Shooting. This is the one clear area in which the Gophers fail. Their effective shooting mark is 48 percent, 266th in the country. They’re especially bad at two-pointers. Their mark of 47 percent from inside the stripe ranks 280th, an especially putrid number.

Prediction

KenPom’s prediction: Maryland 73, Minnesota 68. Terps have a 66 percent chance of victory.

Ryan’s prediction: Maryland 76, Minnesota 66.