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Maryland vs. Northwestern preview: Wildcats get second crack at Terps

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The Terps had an easy time with the Wildcats in Evanston, and now the series shifts to College Park.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Maryland men's basketball team hosts Northwestern on Tuesday night. It's the second meeting between the teams in 17 days – an unusually tight window in the Big Ten schedule – and a chance for Maryland to move to 17-2 ahead of two big-ticket games against Michigan State and Iowa. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. EST on the Big Ten Network and BTN2Go.

Northwestern looked to be on the upswing when Maryland visited on Jan. 2, but the Terps' dominating win that night started a Wildcats slide. They've lost two of four games since then, including dueling 9-point home defeats to Ohio State and Penn State. The transitive property doesn't stack up well for Northwestern.

Northwestern Wildcats (15-4, 3-3 Big Ten)

The coach

Chris Collins, in his third year. He is 44-40 at Northwestern, his first head coaching job.

Players to know

Bryant McIntosh, sophomore, guard, 6'3, No. 30. McIntosh is Northwestern's best player and one of the better point guards in the country. He's had some bad games, but he's a reasonably consistent performer as Collins's floor general. McIntosh averages 15.8 points and 7.3 assists, both team bests.

Dererk Pardon, freshman, center, 6'8, No. 5. Pardon burst onto the scene with a 28-point, 12-rebound performance in his first college game a few weeks ago, just days before the Wildcats played Maryland. The shine has come off a little bit from that high, but Pardon still looks legitimate. He's averaging 10.6 points and 6.4 rebounds, and his 127.2 offensive rating is the most efficient on the roster.

Tre Demps, senior, guard, 6'3, No. 14. Demps is a workmanlike veteran guard. He's a good defender who doesn't foul often, and he chips in a 14-3-3 average line playing off the ball next to McIntosh in the Wildcats' backcourt.

Aaron Falzon, freshman, forward, 6'8, No. 35. Falzon is a useful shooter (58 percent on twos, 36 percent on threes) and has emerged a little bit in the past few weeks. He was quiet in Northwestern's loss to Penn State, but he had a 20-point outing in a win over Minnesota on Jan. 9.

Strengths

Interior defense. The Wildcats hold opposing teams to a 43 percent shooting rate on 2-point shots, which is No. 32 nationally. That's made more impressive by shot-blocking center Alex Olah's absence with injury. Pardon and Falzon are both just 6'8, while senior center Joey Van Zegeren is 6'10. Van Zegeren spent considerable time matched against Maryland's Diamond Stone in the teams' last game.

Ball security. It starts with McIntosh, who has a sterling 41 percent assist rate and just a 17.6 percent turnover rate, which is strong for a primary ball-handling point guard. The Wildcats only turn the ball over on 15 percent of their possessions, which is a top-20 mark nationally. They take care of the rock.

Weaknesses

Getting to the line. The Wildcats aren't great at drawing fouls. They shoot 32 free throws per every 100 shots from the field, which is about four fewer than the national average. They got to the stripe 22 times against Maryland in Evanston, and that was abnormally high. It isn't likely the Cats will make that many trips in the rematch.

Forcing turnovers. Northwestern's steal rate is just 6.2 percent of opposing possessions, which is 335th in the country. Maryland had a middling 12 turnovers in the last game, and the Terps should be able to chop that down at home.

Predictions

KenPom's prediction: Maryland, 74-63. Terps have an 87 percent chance to win.

Alex's prediction: Maryland, 82-62.