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Maryland men’s basketball Big Ten tournament quarterfinals preview: Michigan

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The Terps and Wolverines fight for a spot in the conference semifinals.

Maryland v Michigan Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

With its first Big ten tournament win in five years under its belt, Maryland men’s basketball will face the top-seeded Michigan Wolverines in the conference quarterfinals Friday.

The Terps bounced back after losing their final two regular-season games, beating No. 9 seed Michigan State, 68-57, behind its defense. Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins continued to carry the load offensively, combining for 40 points and 15 rebounds.

Maryland has faced Michigan twice already this season, dropping both matchups in double digits as the team was still trying to develop its identity around the turn of the new year.

With both teams solidly in the NCAA Tournament field, Friday’s matchup will not have as much tension as Thursday’s tilt against Michigan State, but a win would be a huge boost for the Terps’ resume.

Game information

Friday, March 12, 11:30 a.m. ET, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis

TV: Big Ten Network (Brandon Gaudin, play-by-play; Shon Morris, analyst; Rick Pizzo, sideline)

Radio: 105.7 FM (Baltimore) / 980AM (Washington, D.C) (Johnny Holliday, play-by-play; Chris Knoche, analyst; Walt Williams, analyst)

Stream: Fox Sports App

How did they get here?

No. 8 seed Maryland Terrapins (15-12, 9-11 Big Ten)

Maryland was able to save its 2020-21 season after a 4-9 start in conference play thanks to digging in its heels on the defensive end of the floor behind the leadership of senior forward Darryl Morsell, the 2021 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

After dropping its last two contests of the regular season, the Terps got back in the win column with its victory over the Spartans in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.

Maryland fell behind by as many as 12 points early on, but mounted a comeback effort behind a strong defensive performance, along with tough play in the paint that allowed the team to pick up foul calls and notch easy points at the charity stripe.

No. 1 seed Michigan Wolverines (19-3, 14-3 Big Ten)

Juwan Howard’s Wolverines came into the 2020-21 campaign with question marks, but those were all put to bed quickly.

Michigan started the season with 11 wins in a row, including a New Year’s Eve victory in College Park, before dropping its first game on Jan. 16 at Minnesota.

The Terps were the next opponent for the Wolverines, who went on to win seven games in a row — a stretch that included a layoff of over two weeks due to COVID-19 cases in Ann-Arbor. They rose as high to the No. 2 team in the country in the Week 15 AP Top 25 poll.

Michigan ended its regular season with question marks, however, dropping two of its last three games, including the regular-season finale against Michigan State.

With a 14-3 Big Ten record, the Wolverines clinched the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament and earned nearly five days off between facing the Spartans and Friday’s quarterfinal.

A huge storyline for Michigan will be whether guard Eli Brooks plays in the game after injuring his left ankle early on in the team’s regular season finale. The captain was averaging 8.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 31.2 minutes per game before that contest, and two of the Wolverines’ three losses have come in contests he didn’t play in full. His status has yet to be announced.

What happened last time

Tuesday, Jan. 19 — Michigan 87, Maryland 63

After falling to the Wolverines by 11 points in the first matchup of the season, Maryland looked to correct its mistakes in the rematch less than three weeks later, but struggled from the start.

Michigan jumped out to a 17-3 lead that forced a Maryland timeout just 5:44 into the contest. From there, the Wolverines expanded their lead to 42-27 by halftime and were able to keep the Terps at bay in the second half.

The Terps found it hard to compete with Michigan from the jump. They worked to close off the paint, but the Wolverines kept hitting shots from outside in response. An 8-of-14 effort by Michigan from beyond the arc in the first half helped generate the lead, while a 55.6% effort from the floor in the second half maintained it.

Turgeon and his staff were still tinkering with lineups back in mid-January, as 13 Terps saw at least some action in the last matchup between these teams. Only eight or nine Terps have been able to crack the rotation down the stretch of the season.

Three Things to Watch

1. How will part three of the Maryland-Hunter Dickinson saga play out? The main storyline in games one and two between Maryland and Michigan revolved around Wolverine freshman center Hunter Dickinson and his recruitment.

The DeMatha Catholic product spent this offseason and fall crusading against the Terps, claiming they didn’t recruit him, which was simply a lie. This week, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year brought up Maryland again, this time attempting to diss the program when asked about Illinois claiming the Big Ten title.

Dickinson managed to record 26 points and 11 rebounds in the first matchup between these teams, but also picked up a technical foul for his shenanigans and chatter with the Maryland bench and Turgeon. In game two, Dickinson was bottled up and held to just three points and six boards in 21 minutes.

2. How will the Terps handle another back-to-back? While many teams may play back-to-back games during holiday tournaments early on in the season, very few face that challenge again until March. The Terps had a back-to-back in February against Nebraska, which Maryland swept, giving the team and coaching staff a chance to evaluate minute distribution and rest with its best rotation. In beating Michigan State Thursday, all five starters played at least 31 minutes, leaving very little room to rest with a matchup against Michigan less than 24 hours later.

3. Is this the start of a new streak? Well, probably not, but it is March. After dropping two games and seeming down and out, Maryland stepped up and answered the call Thursday to win its first Big Ten tournament game since March 11, 2016. The Wolverines pose a supreme threat, being one of the top teams in the nation, but the Terps have seen two different sides of Michigan already this season. Perhaps, familiarity and March Madness can swing in Maryland’s favor.

The road ahead

The winner between Maryland and Michigan will face off with the winner of No. 4 seed Purdue and No. 5 seed Ohio State, which is the game that follows Friday morning’s contest.

Both the Terps and Wolverines are solidly in the NCAA Tournament field, meaning whoever loses will simply have more rest heading into next weekend’s games. Selection Sunday is set for March 14 at 6 p.m. on CBS.

Predictions

Vegas: Michigan -7.5 (as of Thursday evening)

KenPom: Michigan 70, Maryland 63 (24% chance of Maryland win)

Me: Michigan 68, Maryland 62