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Maryland vs. Rhode Island preview: Terps draw deep Rams team in Cancun Challenge

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Maryland looks to put on a happy cap on a trip to Mexico.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Maryland men's basketball team caps a swing through Cancun, Mexico, on Wednesday night with a game against Rhode Island. The Terrapins and Rams will tip at 8:30 p.m. EST on the CBS Sports Network.

Rhode Island is an interesting challenge. The Rams lost their best player, guard E.C. Matthews, to a knee injury before the season even really got started. When Matthews went down, he left a 17-point, 5-rebound void in Rhode Island's nightly rotation, and the Rams have had to band together in the season's early going to hold up without him.

The Rams have lost to the only good team they've played (a 58-55 defeat to old Maryland friend Valparaiso on Nov. 17), but they're nonetheless 3-1 and have found nice depth scoring without Matthews. Five players average double-figure scoring, presenting a long bench of scoring options for which Maryland must account.

Moreover, the Rams have an elite defense. Maryland isn't likely to cruise in this game.

Rhode Island Rams (3-1)

The coach

Dan Hurley. 48-50 at Rhode Island (86-73 overall). Fourth season at URI. No NCAA Tournament bids.

Players to know

Jared Terrell, sophomore, guard, 6'3, No. 32. The team's leading scorer so far, Terrell isn't actually all that efficient. He has a ghastly 43.6 effective field goal percentage, held down by a 5-of-17 mark (29 percent) on 3-pointers. He uses up more than a quarter of the Rams' shots, but he hasn't been anything more than a volume scorer in the first few games.

Hassan Martin, junior, forward, 6'7, No. 12. The biggest thing to know about Martin is that he's an athletic shot blocker. So far, he's got a top-40 national block rate, having swatted away 11 percent of all opposing shots while he's been on the floor. He's also been a reasonably efficient scorer. He gets to the foul line a lot but shoots sub-50 percent once there.

Four McGlynn, senior, guard, 6'2, No. 4. McGlynn has a great name and a great jumper. He's shooting right around 50 percent on 3-pointers, and he boasts a team-best 119.4 offensive rating.

Kuran Iverson, junior, forward, 6'9, No. 23. Iverson does a bit of everything. He's not an efficient scorer, but he does get his baskets inside and does collect defensive rebounds at about a 20 percent clip. He's the Rams' biggest rotation player, so expect to see him matched against Maryland's centers when Hurley isn't in a zone defense.

Jarvis Garrett, sophomore, guard, 6'0, No. 1. Garrett is small, but he'll get the Rams 10 points per night and play a moderately efficient offensive game. From his point guard slot, Garrett is by far the team's best assists guy.

*Stats haven't been updated to reflect Tuesday night's results.

Strengths

Defense. The Rams don't give many points. Their team-adjusted defensive efficiency has hovered around 91 points per 100 possessions in each of the last two seasons (including the start of this one), both times a top-10 mark nationally. Last season, the Rams held opponents to a hilarious 27.2 percent 3-point shooting rate and blocked an equally outrageous 15 percent of opposing shot attempts. This year, they've given up 21 percent of opposing 3-pointers and blocked 16 percent of opposing shots. This team looks like an absolute defensive juggernaut.

Balance. The Rams have a lot of it. Amid having five double-figure offensive options so far, they only run an eight-man rotation without Matthews. Almost everybody is an offensive threat, with six players shooting on at least about one in five possessions. They share the ball and get looks from players all over the court.

Weaknesses

Foul shooting. Rhode Island is making worse than 60 percent of its foul shots this year, after shooting 66 percent last year. The Rams get to the line quite a lot, as they take 60 foul shots for every 100 shots from the field, which is the sixth-most frequent rate in the country. But once the Rams get to the line, they miss far too often.

Turnovers. Teams steal the ball from the Rams on about 13 percent of their possessions. The national average is 8.6 percent. The Rams were slightly below average in this regard last year, and Maryland could cut some possessions short by aggressively pressuring the ball.

Predictions

KenPom's prediction: Maryland, 66-64. Terps have 57 percent chance to win.

Alex's prediction: Rhode Island does enough things well on defense to beat anybody if it can only get a little bit of scoring. Maryland is 4-0, but the Terps have had close calls. They're due for another one Wednesday.

Rhode Island, 54-52.