Maryland basketball has seen better days this season.
The Terps are mired in a slump. They’ve dropped five of their last seven contests, are assured to drop out of the AP Top 25 when it’s released on Monday , and have slid out of the race for the Big Ten regular season championship.
Lucky for them, Tuesday could provide a simple cure to ease fans’ collective feeling: Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights are dead last in the Big Ten with a 2-14 conference record. Their No. 127 ranking on KenPom is the Big Ten’s worst by more than 30 spots. Their trip to College Park in January resulted in a 12-point loss, and Rutgers has only won one game since then.
However, this team has looked better of late. Rutgers’ most recent losses came by four points at Northwestern and four points at home against Michigan. Those are two of the Big Ten’s toughest teams, and both of them are looking better than Maryland right now. Combine that with an overtime loss against Wisconsin, and this is a game fans can’t chalk up as a guaranteed win.
Tuesday’s game tips off at 6:30 p.m. on BTN. Brandon Gaudin and Dan Bonner have the call.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (13-16, 2-14 Big Ten)
2015-16 record: 7-25
Head coach: Steve Pikiell. This is his first season at Rutgers. He came to the Scarlet Knights after establishing himself as the winningest coach in Stony Brook history.
Players to watch
Corey Sanders, guard, sophomore, 6’2/181, No. 3. Sanders is still leading Rutgers in scoring with 13 points per game, and he’s still doing that on a whole lot of attempts, coming in shooting 39 percent from the field. He’s not the kind of scorer who’ll explode for 30 points, but he’ll get his. Sanders had 15 points on 19 shots in the teams’ January matchup.
DeShawn Freeman, forward, junior, 6’7/225, No. 33. Freeman is the team’s most efficient scorer, hitting 49 percent of his shots from the field, and is also Rutgers’ best rebounder. He grabs eight boards per game, and has reached double-digit rebounds 13 times this season.
Nigel Johnson, guard, junior, 6’1/186, No. 0. Johnson, in his first season after transferring from Kansas State, has a much bigger role at Rutgers than he did with the Wildcats. He’s playing 27 minutes per game with the Scarlet Knights, compared to the 18 he averaged in his sophomore season at Kansas State. Like Sanders, he isn’t particularly efficient, getting 11 points per game on 36 percent shooting.
Offensive rebounding. Rutgers is 10th in the whole dang country in offensive rebounding percentage. This is where Freeman shines. His offensive rebounding rate of 11 is outstanding, and he grabs 36 percent of his boards on that end of the court.
Defense. The Scarlet Knights are 59th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency, and rank in the top 50 in opponents effective field goal percentage, two- and three-point shooting percentage and block percentage. If Maryland’s hoping for a way to ease back into its offense, it may not come here.
Shooting. Freeman also owns the team’s best three-point shooting percentage at 36 percent, and he’s only taken 11 threes all season. The team as a whole hits under 30 percent of its shots from deep, the 339th-best mark in the nation. But no matter where they’re shooting it from, Rutgers isn’t doing a good job of getting the ball in the hoop. The team’s effective field goal percentage of 45 ranks 339th as well, and the team only shoots 62 percent from the free throw line.
Any other offensive stuff. Rebounding is the only positive thing this team does on offense. Rutgers turns the ball over at the 265th-best rate in the nation, and its No. 267 rank in free throw attempts per field goal attempt means the team doesn’t get to the line much either. The team’s adjusted offensive efficiency is 239th on KenPom.
KenPom’s prediction: Maryland 69, Rutgers 65. Terps have a 64 percent chance of winning.
Ryan’s prediction: Maryland 63, Rutgers 55. I think the Terps break the streak here, even if the game might get a little ugly.