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No. 17 Maryland men's basketball vs Wisconsin preview

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The Terps will hope to reverse their road fortunes in Madison on Tuesday night.

Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

Following a season-worst loss to Iowa on the road on Friday night, Maryland men’s basketball — which dropped to No. 17 in the latest AP Poll — will look to get back in the win column.

The Terps were absolutely obliterated in Iowa City against the Hawkeyes, losing 67-49. Mark Turgeon’s team was outshot, outmuscled and outhustled, losing its third road game in as many tries.

Unfortunately for Maryland, the road slate is only just beginning. Three of its next four games, including Tuesday against Wisconsin, will be away from College Park.

“We got a tough one tomorrow night obviously at Wisconsin. Older, physical, really good team,” Turgeon said after practice on Monday. “We’ve gotten better. Now it’s just, ‘When the ball goes up and the lights come on tomorrow night, are we going to handle it?’”

Tipoff in Madison is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET, and the game can be watched on ESPN2.

Wisconsin Badgers (10-6, 3-2 Big Ten)

2018-19 record: 23-11 (14-6 Big Ten)

Head coach Greg Gard is in his fourth full season in charge of the Badgers after taking over as the interim in December 2015 after the retirement of longtime leader Bo Ryan. Including the 2015-16 season, Gard has taken Wisconsin to three NCAA Tournaments, including consecutive Sweet 16 bids in 2016 and 2017. Gard has been coaching in Madison since 2001, first as an assistant and later an associate head coach.

Players to know

“They got some guys who can shoot, one through five. They got great depth. They got guys that can come off the bench that can really score for them,” Darryl Morsell said. “We’ll just try and make it tough for them, and we know they’re gonna hit some shots on their home court. But we’ll have to weather the storm. Just make every play and every shot they take tough.”

Nate Reuvers, junior forward, 6’11, 235 lbs, No. 35. Reuvers graduated to a full-time starter last season, helping out senior Ethan Happ in the frontcourt. With Happ now playing professionally overseas, the junior has taken the reins down low.

Despite being a big man, Reuvers can be deadly from deep. Last season against the Terps, he scored 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting from the floor, including 4-of-7 from deep — all in just 13 minutes in the second half.

So far this season, Reuvers has been terrific. He’s currently averaging a team-high 13.7 points per game with 5.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks, the last of which ranks tied for sixth in the Big Ten.

“He’s a tough guard at the five,” Turgeon said. “He’s got more low-post game this year and he’s really defending. ... He’s a good player.”

Kobe King, redshirt sophomore guard, 6’4, 205 lbs, No. 23. King’s true freshman campaign was cut short due to a season-ending knee surgery after just 10 appearances, and he spent last year easing back in off the bench. But now two years removed from his injury and with added experience, King is playing his best basketball yet.

Across 28.1 minutes per appearance — third-most on the team — King is averaging 10.9 points on 50.4 percent shooting from the field, an astounding figure from a wing player. He’s also been on a tear as of late, averaging 14.7 points over his last three games.

Micah Potter, redshirt junior forward, 6’10, 248 lbs, No. 11. Potter began his college career at Ohio State, playing there for two years before transferring to Wisconsin last December. He wasn’t able to play at all during the 2018-19 season due to NCAA transfer rules, and he was also held out of the first semester of this season.

But since making his Badgers debut on Dec. 21, Potter has been terrific. In six appearances, he is averaging 9.5 points per game — third on the team — and 6.5 rebounds, which currently paces the squad. He’s also averaging 1.3 blocks per contest, and he’s doing this all in just 15.5 minutes a night. Once his workload ramps up, he could be the best player on Wisconsin.

Brad Davison, junior guard, 6’4, 206 lbs, No. 34. It may seem like Davison has been around forever, but he’s only in his third season of college basketball. With the departure of Happ, Davison is the on-court leader of Wisconsin, even if he’s not pacing the team in the box scores. On the year, he’s averaging 8.7 points per game — a career-low — while averaging 4.6 rebounds and a team-high 30.4 minutes.

Strength

Defense. As is the case most every year for Wisconsin, the team’s identity is a stout defense. That trend has held true this season, as the Badgers are currently 23rd in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. Opponents are shooting a measly 44.3 percent on two-point shots against Wisconsin (the national average is 49.0 percent) and the Badgers also have an above-average block rate. They also limit opponents to a 23.4 offensive rebounding rate, which ranks 25th in the country.

Weakness

Passing. Wisconsin possesses the fourth-lowest adjusted tempo rate in the country, which means a lot of its offensive numbers are deflated. So while the Badgers rank last in the Big Ten with 11.4 assists per game, that’s not really a fair way to evaluate things. A deeper look reveals that Wisconsin has an assist on just 48.1 percent of its field goals, which ranks 256th in the country, and its 1.05 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks in the bottom half of the Big Ten.

Three things to watch

1. Can Maryland fix its road woes? While three games is still a small sample, the Terps have looked like a drastically different team in all of their true road matchups to this point. Against Penn State and Seton Hall, they at least kept things close, but Iowa completely dominated them en route to an 18-point victory.

With three of the next four games on the road, Maryland will have to figure out how to play away from the Xfinity Center before it finds itself in the bottom half of the Big Ten standings.

“We know we got to get a win on the road,” sophomore guard Eric Ayala said. “It’s important for us to stamp our team and emphasize the road wins. It’s important for us and we’re all buying into it.”

2. Who controls the tempo? While the Terps have slowed down their play as of late, their best basketball has continued to come in transition and when playing with a sense of urgency. Due to an abundance of athleticism, they have the ability to run out past slower teams and attack the rim with ease.

Wisconsin, which ranks 350th in the country in tempo, will likely try to bring the game to a screeching halt and limit the amount of possessions Maryland will have throughout the course of the game. If the Terps allow themselves to be put into a lull early on, they could see themselves down early and struggle to climb out of a hole.

3. Can the Terps assert themselves inside? Against Iowa, Maryland had difficulty keeping Luka Garza — and to a lesser extent Ryan Kreiner — from asserting his will inside on both ends of the court. And while Wisconsin doesn’t have someone with a frame like Garza’s, the duo of Nate Reuvers and Micah Potter will be tough to contain on Tuesday night. Whether or not Jalen Smith can establish his presence in the paint, both offensively and defensively, could be a huge factor in the outcome of the game.

Predictions

Vegas: Wisconsin -2, O/U 124.5 (as of Monday, 4:15 p.m. ET)

ESPN BPI: Maryland 36.8% chance to win

KenPom: Wisconsin 62, Maryland 61 (Maryland 45% chance to win)

Me: Wisconsin 63, Maryland 57