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Maryland vs. Rutgers preview: Terps host a struggling Big Ten opponent

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Maryland stumbled in a close win against Penn State, but it should cruise past a weak Scarlet Knights team.

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers hasn't made the NCAA tournament since '90-91, and it's been 10 years since the program has even had a winning basketball season. It looks like the drought is set to continue.

The Scarlet Knights don't appear on paper to be much of a threat to the No. 3 Terrapins as it will travel to College Park winless in 8 tries against KenPom top-100 teams, and winless in general on the road. In fact, in a tough Big Ten conference, KenPom projects Rutgers to lose every conference game; even the advanced numbers don't do this team justice.

The game tips at 7 p.m., on the Big Ten Network and BTN2Go.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-9, 0-2 Big Ten)

The coach

Eddie Jordan, in his third season. He is 28-52. Born in D.C., Jordan attended Archbishop Carroll High School, before spending four years at Rutgers as a player and was ultimately drafted No. 33 overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1977. Terps fans may best remember Jordan as the Washington Wizards head coach from 2003-08.

Players to know

Corey Sanders, freshman, guard, 6'2, No. 3. One of the best freshmen in the Big Ten, Sanders has been a bright spot for the Scarlet Knights. The four-star recruit chose Rutgers over offers from LSU, Memphis, UNLV, West Virginia and Xavier. In 14 appearances he's scored double-digits in points 10 times, including four games where he's hit three or more 3-point attempts. He averages 13.4 per game to go along with an impressive 3.6 assists and leads his team in both categories.

Deshawn Freeman, junior, forward, 6'7, No. 33. It's unclear if the team's second-leading scorer will play, as he's missed seven consecutive games with knee soreness, but he's due for an evaluation on Wednesday. Before missing games he averaged 13.1 points per game on 54.4 percent shooting and pulled in 5.3 rebounds. The Scarlet Knights need Freeman to play to have any sort of chance in this game.

Mike Williams, sophomore, guard, 6'2, No. 5. In a 22-point loss to Wisconsin on Saturday, Williams poured in 20 points on 7-12 shooting, his second highest scoring total of the season. He's the team's second leading shot-taker, but by no means shoots the ball efficiently, hitting just 38.1 percent of his attempts this season. His volume shooting makes him a constant scoring threat at 11.7 per game.

Strengths

Keeping teams off the free throw line. Rutgers holds its opponents to the 74th-best free throw attempt per field goal attempt margin in the nation per KenPom. Getting to the line is one of Maryland's strengths, and the Scarlet Knights' defensive discipline could frustrate the Terps.

Free throw defense. This is a joke people, but it's worth noting that teams shoot the fifth-worst free throw shooting numbers in the country against Rutgers. Maybe they tell really funny jokes to distract shooters or maybe this is a meaningless stat.

Weaknesses

Offensive efficiency. Out of 351 teams, Rutgers places at No. 301 in this category, which is poor news considering they'll be facing the Terrapins' No. 31 defense at College Park. Much of the Scarlet Knights struggles on offense have to do with their inconsistent shooting from inside the arc, where they fire at an ice cold 44.5 percent.

Turnovers. Rutgers is the Big Ten's second-leading team in turnovers and ranks in the bottom third in the nation in turnover percentage per KenPom. One of the younger power conference teams in college basketball, Rutgers is prone to coughing the ball up, and its leading scorer, freshman Sanders, leads the team at 3.1 per game.

Predictions

KenPom's prediction: Maryland 81 - Rutgers 59. Terps have a 97 percent chance to win.

Matt's prediction: Maryland 74 - Rutgers 56.