Maryland basketball went 2-1 in its first week of the new year, moving to 3-2 in Big Ten play. The Terps picked up home wins over Penn State and Iowa, losing in between at Michigan State. It was a productive week, and Bruno Fernando was rewarded for his efforts at the end of it.
Ohio State had an even better week, though. The Buckeyes beat Michigan State, which looked impossible when the then-No. 1 Spartans were thrashing Maryland. Ohio State is one of just two teams unbeaten in Big Ten play (joining Purdue), and the Buckeyes’ four losses are to three top-25 teams and Butler.
These teams met twice last year, with the Terps earning a sweep. Justin Jackson shined during Maryland’s victory in Columbus, tallying 22 points and 12 rebounds. As you probably know, Jackson is out for the season and won’t get the chance to repeat that performance this year. But both squads seem to be in the “second tier” of the Big Ten behind Purdue and Michigan State, so a road win would be somewhat of a statement for the Terps.
Thursday’s contest tips off at 7 p.m. ET on either ESPN or ESPN2.
Ohio State Buckeyes (13-4, 4-0 B1G)
2016-17 record: 17-15, 7-11
Head coach Chris Holtmann was hired in June after coaching Butler for three seasons. He replaced Thad Matta, who steered the ship for 13 years in Columbus. The Buckeyes have been perhaps the best surprise in the Big Ten, and that’s thanks in no small part to the new man in charge.
Players to know
Keita Bates-Diop, RS junior, forward, 6’7/235, No. 33. Bates-Diop is having a monster year, averaging 20 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 1.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He’s boasting a .525/.388/.821 shooting line, making him one of the Buckeyes’ best weapons in nearly every aspect of the game. He’s tallied 32 and 27 points in Ohio State’s last two contests.
C.J. Jackson, junior, guard, 6’1/175, No. 3. The Buckeye point guard has seen his role increase dramatically this season; his minutes have risen from 19.1 to 29.4 per game. He’s responded by averaging 13.5 points, 4.2 assists and 4.1 boards a night. Jackson also leads Ohio State in three-pointers made; he’s shooting 44.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Jae’Sean Tate, senior, forward, 6’4, No. 1. Tate is in his fourth year as a key contributor in Columbus, and this is his third straight season averaging double-digit points. With Bates-Diop having a breakout year, Tate’s scoring and rebounding averages are slightly down, but at 12.9 points and 5.8 boards per game, he’s still a threat every time he takes the floor.
Two-pointers. The Buckeyes live mostly inside the arc, as 55 percent of their points come from two-point shots (52nd in the country) and they shoot 56 percent on such shots (29th nationally). The three-pointer isn’t really a weakness—they shoot 36 percent on those—but Ohio State likes to get a little closer than that.
Size. Ohio State has zero players taller than 6’9. Maryland will start two, including 7’0 Michal Cekovsky. Bates-Diop and others have done plenty to keep size disparities from mattering this season—Ohio State has a plus-4.4 rebounding margin—but Maryland had 56 points in the paint Sunday, and it could be tough for the Buckeyes to keep the Terps from doing the same.
Three things to watch
1. How does Maryland start? The Terps have stumbled out of the gate three times in their last four games; the only exception was against Michigan State, when they faceplanted after a strong first 15 minutes. If Maryland falls behind Ohio State, it’ll certainly be tougher to make up ground than it was against winless-in-conference Iowa.
2. Who guards Bates-Diop? Ohio State’s top scorer is bigger than Kevin Huerter and quicker than any of the Terps’ bigs. With Jackson out, Fernando might be tasked with containing Bates-Diop and somehow staying out of foul trouble. Joshua Tomaic is a wild card possibility, but he’s still far from a sure thing.
3. Does Dion Wiley play—and if he does, can he make an impact? Wiley scored 10 points in a flash against Iowa, but was poked in the eye early in the second half and didn’t return. Mark Turgeon said after the game that it shouldn’t be serious, which is good for Maryland, as the Terps can hardly afford another injury now. If Wiley can provide a spark off the bench again, he’ll make his team that much tougher to take down.
KenPom: Ohio State wins, 74-70
Me: Ohio State wins, 79-73