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Maryland basketball vs. Michigan preview

The Terps look to follow up a big win at home with another on the road.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland basketball is riding high after a 70-56 win over No. 12 Purdue on Tuesday in College Park. The No. 24 Terps snapped the Boilermakers’ eight-game winning streak by outscoring them 40-18 in the second half. The win moved Maryland to 10-4 in the Big Ten, currently good for fourth place but just one game out of first.

Now it’s time for another ranked team on the road. The Terps visit No. 6 Michigan on Saturday afternoon.

The Wolverines are still co-leaders in the Big Ten, with an 11-3 conference record. After making a run to the title game last year, Michigan started this season 17-0 and reached No. 2 in the country. Even with three losses coming in the last month, including Tuesday’s stunning upset at Penn State, the Wolverines are undefeated on their home floor.

If Maryland wins, both teams will be 11-4 in conference. If that happens and Michigan State and Purdue also lose, the Terps will be in a three-way tie for first. But that’s a long, long way from happening. It’s well-known that Maryland hasn’t beaten a ranked team on the road in 11 years, and the Wolverines won’t make it easy to snap that drought.

Saturday’s game tips off at noon ET on FOX.

Michigan Wolverines (22-3, 11-3 Big Ten)

2017-18 record: 33-8, 13-5, NCAA runner-up

Head coach John Beilein is in his 12th year at Michigan, 27th season in Division I and 41st season total as a college or JuCo head coach. He’s got 270 wins at Michigan and 821 over those 41 years. The Wolverines have been an incredible postseason team during his tenure, winning the last two Big Ten tournaments without receiving double byes and reaching the national title game in 2018 (their second in six years). The only thing he’s missing is a national title, and this team seems as qualified to capture that as any he’s had.

Players to know

Ignas Brazdeikis, freshman, forward, 6’7/215, No. 13. The rookie from Oakville, Ontario, has wasted no time becoming a high-level impact player, as he leads the Wolverines with 14.6 points per game and pulls down 5.2 boards a night. He’s scored just eight points total in the last two games, but notched 23 right before that and could take over at any time.

Charles Matthews, RS senior, guard, 6’6/205, No. 1. After transferring from Kentucky, Matthews emerged as a frontline starter last season, averaging 13 points per game for the national runners-up. This season, he’s posting averages of 13.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.2 steals.

Jordan Poole, sophomore, guard, 6’5/195, No. 2. Poole might still be best known for his NCAA Tournament game-winner against Houston, but he’s taken a step forward as a sophomore. He scores 13 points per game and is always a threat from deep, launching 5.6 threes per game and nailing 38.8 percent of them. Poole has been more aggressive as of late, taking 66 total shots and scoring 73 points over his last five games.

Only those three average double-figures, but the Wolverines have six players who can ruin your evening. Junior point guard Zavier Simpson averages nine points, 5.9 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals. Junior center Jon Teske also scores an even nine points per game and averages a team-high 6.5 boards. And sophomore forward Isaiah Livers averages just 7.5 points, but he’s the team’s most deadly three-point shooter at 43.8 percent. Sophomore forward Eli Brooks rounds out the seven-man rotation, averaging 2.6 points in 14 minutes per game.


Defense. The Wolverines are second in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom. They allow 57.8 points per game, and their opponents shoot 39.9 percent from the field and 30.7 percent from deep. Everyone in the top six has at least 19 steals this season (Simpson leads with 36) and they’re all athletic enough to finish in transition.


Rebounding. Michigan has a minus-1.3 rebounding margin in conference play (plus-1.3 for the season), and Teske is the only rotation player taller than 6’7. The Wolverines are particularly poor on the offensive glass, sitting 268th in the country in offensive rebound percentage. Maryland allowed a staggering 17 offensive boards to Purdue, and while the Terps somehow limited the damage to 11 second-chance points, they know they have to improve in that area this time around.

Three things to watch

1. Which offense finds a rhythm? Michigan’s defense is stifling, and Maryland has held three of its last four opponents under 31 percent shooting, with the highlight being Tuesday’s second-half shutdown of Purdue. But both offenses are strong, too—Maryland ranks 21st in adjusted efficiency while Michigan sits 34th. Each team has a bevy of players who can go off on short notice, and someone’s breakout game could be the turning point.

2. Who wins the battle down low? While Maryland’s big men have had their way in the last couple games, Teske (7’1/260) has the size and ability to make life difficult for Bruno Fernando. It’ll also be interesting to see how Jalen Smith matches up with Brazdeikis at the four. The Terps’ rookie has a three-inch height advantage, but Brazdeikis could easily give him fits.

3. Can Maryland keep the turnover margin close? Don’t expect the Terps to force many Michigan turnovers. They’re third-worst in the country at forcing them, while the Wolverines are fourth-best in avoiding turnovers and the best at avoiding steals. Maryland is also well below-average in giveaways, and as mentioned above, Michigan will take advantage of those mistakes. In a tough road environment, the Terps won’t be able to dig themselves much of a hole.


KenPom: Michigan 67, Maryland 60

Me: Michigan 66, Maryland 58