With one week remaining in the regular season, the Maryland women’s basketball team is an unfamiliar position. The past three seasons, the Terps have been putting the finishing touches on a Big Ten title and fixing some small problems before March.
This year, Maryland finds itself needing a reboot with the postseason right around the corner. It couldn’t hold a lead Thursday against Purdue, and was crushed by Minnesota on Sunday. Now, the Terps could find themselves without a share of the Big Ten regular season title for the first time since joining the conference in 2014.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Although Maryland hasn’t technically clinched a double bye, it’s almost guaranteed that it will end up with one. The Terps are also still in position to host the first and second round of the NCAA Tournament, coming in at No. 14 in the selection committee’s rankings Monday.
Their opponent Thursday will be another team looking to right the ship. Michigan reached No. 13 in the AP Poll on Jan. 29, but has lost four of five since and is getting dangerously close to the NCAA Tournament bubble. It could find themselves in a similar position to last year, when it had a late-season slump and missed out on the Big Dance after being a near-lock weeks before. As if Michigan didn’t have enough motivation, Thursday is also Senior Night in Ann Arbor.
Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET and the game will be broadcast on BTN.
Michigan Wolverines (20-8, 9-6)
2016-17 record: 28-9, 11-5
Head coach Kim Barnes Arico is 131-69 in six seasons at Michigan. The Wolverines have won 20 games every year since she’s been in Ann Arbor, but only made the NCAA Tournament in 2013.
Players to know
Katelynn Flaherty, senior, guard, 5’7, No. 3. Flaherty is one of the best players in Big Ten, averaging 23.7 points and 4.2 assists per game, and also makes 41.1 percent of her three-point attempts. Her 2,657 points are the most by any men’s or women’s basketball player in Michigan history.
Hallie Thome, junior, center, 6’5, No. 30. Thome is a solid post scorer, averaging 16.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game on 61.2 percent shooting. She’s become much better from the foul line this year, shooting 78 percent from the charity stripe after shooting under 70 percent as a freshman and sophomore.
Nicole Munger, junior, guard, 5’11, No. 10. Munger has emerged as an outside shooting threat, averaging 9.6 points per game while shooting 42.1 percent from beyond the arc. She and Flaherty combined have taken 78 percent of Michigan’s three-point attempts.
Jillian Dunston, junior, forward, 5’11, No. 11. The Silver Spring, Maryland, native has been called Michigan’s Swiss Army knife. She scores just 3.4 points a game but leads the team in rebounds (9.3) and steals (1.68), and is second on the team with 3.7 assists per game.
Controlling the glass. Michigan leads the Big Ten with a plus-9.5 rebounding margin. It is strong on both ends, with an offensive rebounding percentage of 38 percent and a defensive rebounding percentage of 72.3 percent.
Turnovers. The Wolverines turn the ball over more than 16 times a game and give it away on 19.7 percent of their possessions. If Maryland is playing at a high level, those mistakes could lead to a sizable deficit in a hurry.
Three things to watch
- Does either team get back on track? Both teams are slumping, and have a lot to play for. For Maryland, this starts with a better all-around performance, especially at the defensive end of the floor. The Terps’ five worst defensive performances have come in their five losses this season.
- Will Katelynn Flaherty have a Senior Night to remember or forget? Last year against Maryland, Flaherty scored 30 points through three quarters before going scoreless in the final frame. The nation’s fifth-leading scorer will want to finish the game strong this year, especially since it could be her last in the Crisler Center.
- Does the unbalanced scheduling have an impact? While Maryland has to play four games in its last two weeks, Michigan has to play just two. By the time both teams take the court, the Wolverines will have not played in eight days, which gives them a rest and homecourt advantage.
Maryland wins, 78-75.