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Maryland basketball vs. Nebraska preview

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The Terps make another attempt at securing a road win.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 29 Nebraska at Wisconsin Photo by Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Maryland basketball knocked off Northwestern by 16 points at home Saturday. Terrapin players and coaches called it one of their most complete performances of the year. However, the win only improved the Terps to 6-8 in Big Ten play, and they’ll need to win out to finish with a winning conference record.

That quest starts Tuesday, when Maryland visits Nebraska at 7 p.m. ET on BTN. The Terps have emphatically struggled away from home, dropping all six road games since the calendar turned to 2018 and sporting a 1-7 away record overall.

Nebraska has been one of the Big Ten’s most pleasant surprises this season, as the Huskers are 10-4 in league play after finishing tied for 12th in the standings in 2016-17. Thanks to the impact of two transfers and several other veterans, Nebraska is on the cusp of the NCAA Tournament field, currently listed as Joe Lunardi’s fourth team out. Maryland is theoretically playing for its postseason life as well, but it might already be too late.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (19-8, 10-4 B1G)

2016-17 record: 12-19, 6-12

Head coach Tim Miles is in his sixth year at Nebraska, and a win Tuesday would give him his first 20-win season. The Huskers have made the Tournament once (2014) in his tenure, and a strong finish would likely send them back to the dance. Miles has been a head coach in Division I since 2001 and in college since 1995, and his overall record sits at 377-314.

Players to know

James Palmer Jr., RS junior, guard, 6’6/201, No. 24. The Upper Marlboro, Maryland, native was a standout at St. John’s, where he played one varsity season with Terps point guard Anthony Cowan Jr. (Georgetown’s Tre Campbell and Alabama defensive end Terrell Hall were also on that team). Palmer played two years at Miami, averaging just 3.7 points as a freshman and 3.5 as a sophomore before transferring to the Huskers. Now he’s putting up 17.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, making him one of the most potent all-around threats in the conference.

Isaac Copeland, RS junior, forward, 6’9/225, No. 14. Copeland’s DMV ties come from playing two seasons at Georgetown before leaving the program in December 2016. He played Maryland twice as a member of the Hoyas, including a 13-point, 13-rebound performance last season. He was granted a medical redshirt for 2016-17 and was eligible for Nebraska at the start of this year; in 27 games, he’s averaging 13 points and a team-high 6.1 rebounds per game.

Glynn Watson Jr., junior, guard, 6’0/173, No. 5. Watson entered the year as Nebraska’s top returning scorer, but he’s taken somewhat of a backseat to the transfers this season. His 11 points per game are third on the team, and he chips in 3.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists.

Strength

Limiting turnovers. The Huskers give the ball away on just 16 percent of their possessions, the 29th-best mark in the country, and their 11.1 turnovers per game rank 25th nationally and third in the Big Ten behind Michigan and Purdue. Before Northwestern’s 13 giveaways Saturday, Maryland hadn’t forced more than 10 from an opponent since Indiana on Jan. 22.

Weakness

Giving up offensive rebounds. Nebraska opponents have a 34.3 percent offensive rebound percentage, which places the Huskers 335th in Division I. Most of Maryland’s success on the offensive glass Saturday came from Darryl Morsell, but Nebraska will have to account for Bruno Fernando and others, as well. On the other end, the Huskers are 150th in offensive rebounding percentage, a shade above the national average.

Three things to watch

1. How big a lineup does Maryland run with? The Terps have made impressive strides of late with their four-guard starting five, which has spaced the floor well offensively and turned in a strong defensive performance Saturday. The lineup was necessitated by Michal Cekovsky’s injury; with him back and Nebraska playing slightly larger, it’ll be interesting to see how Turgeon adjusts his game plan.

2. Can the Terps limit Nebraska’s offensive rebounds? Maryland’s lack of size after a slew of injuries has caused trouble in this realm, as the Terps are giving up 12.6 offensive boards per game in their last five contests. With the full group of centers healthy again, Maryland hopes to keep the glass under control.

3. Can Maryland avoid another road dry spell? One common factor in the majority of its road losses this season has been a prolonged scoring drought, with the coldest points usually coming in the second half. Against Penn State, the Terps didn’t sink a field goal between the 13:03 and 7:54 marks; in between, the Nittany Lions stretched a one-point lead to 10. Maryland will need to be much more consistent if it wants to pick up just its second road win of the season.

Predictions

KenPom: Nebraska wins, 71-69

Me: Nebraska wins, 73-67