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Maryland basketball vs. Purdue preview: Terps face gigantic Big Ten test

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The Boilermakers have one of the best players in the country in Caleb Swanigan.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland basketball will face its toughest test so far this season Saturday against Purdue. The No. 23 Boilermakers are the highest-ranked team the Terps will host this season, and bring one of the country’s best players.

Maryland’s off to its best start in school history through 22 games, and could put to bed concerns about its relatively weak strength of schedule with a win.

Caleb Swanigan leads a triple-headed monster in Purdue’s frontcourt. He’s recorded 19 double-doubles this season, and Maryland will have to throw everything it’s got at him. The game will be televised at noon on ESPN. Dave Flemming and Dan Dakich are on the call.

Purdue Boilermakers (18-5, 7-3 Big Ten)

2015-16 record: 26-9

Head coach: Matt Painter, who’s 256-139 in 12 seasons as Purdue’s head coach.

KenPom ranking: 12 (Maryland is 38)

Players to watch

Caleb Swanigan, forward/center, sophomore, 69/250, No. 50. Swanigan’s added more muscle since his freshman season, and he’s putting up Player of the Year-like numbers. He’s shooting 55 percent and scoring 19 points per game. He pulls down an outrageous 13 rebounds per game thanks to his added quickness:

It started with 15 minutes on the stair climber. Bonhotal then took him through a series of medicine ball throws designed to strengthen his core. After that, Swanigan moved on to the hang snatch, an Olympic lift that has him pick up a bar from the ground and thrust it over his head. The hour-long session ended with some squatting and overhead presses before both men were finally done for the night.

Everything for Swanigan circles back to work. It’s a mindset instilled in him by his adoptive father Roosevelt Barnes, the sports agent who saved him from an early life spent shuttling between homeless shelters in Utah and Indianapolis. It’s work that helped Swanigan drop his excessive baby fat. It’s work that made him a McDonald’s All-American, Indiana Mr. Basketball, and the biggest recruit in Purdue history. Today, it’s work that shaped him into one of the best players in college basketball.

Isaac Haas, center, junior, 7’2/290, No. 44. Haas is still a giant, and his massive frame should give Damonte Dodd, Michal Cekovsky and Ivan Bender plenty of work down low. He’s Purdue’s second-leading scorer at 13 points per game. He only pulls down five rebounds in his 20 minutes per game, though. Haas doesn’t start, but is one of Purdue’s first options off the bench.

Vince Edwards, forward, junior, 6’8/225, No. 12. Edwards starts at power forward, and he’s another solid post scorer. He averages a solid 3.4 assists and 4.9 rebounds to go along with 12 points per game, and leads the team with a 118 offensive rating on KenPom.

Strengths

Shooting. Purdue has the 4th-best effective shooting percentage in the country (57 percent). The Boilermakers are especially deadly from three, where five of their top seven rotation players are shooting above 40 percent from deep.

Defense. Their opponents are shooting an effective field goal percentage of 46 percent, 30th-best in the country. They get the ninth-most offensive rebounds (by percentage), and keep people away from the foul line — Purdue’s second in the country in free throw attempts per field goal attempt.

Weaknesses

Forcing turnovers. This is pretty much the only thing the Boilermakers are bad at. They’re No. 310 in block percentage and No. 323 in steal percentage, and force the 298th-most turnovers in the country. But that’s about where their issues end.

Prediction

KenPom’s prediction: Purdue 76, Maryland 73. Terps have a 40 percent chance of winning.

Ryan’s prediction: Purdue 79, Maryland 71.