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Maryland vs. Minnesota preview: Without Diamond Stone, Terps face terrible Gophers

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Even without their five-star freshman, there's no good excuse for the Terps not to roll.

Sung-Min Kim/Testudo Times

The Maryland men's basketball won't have center Diamond Stone for Thursday's game at Minnesota. If that turns out to matter in the slightest, the Terps have bigger problems than the one-game suspension of their five-star freshman.

The Golden Gophers are terrible. They're 6-19 for the season and a sterling 0-13 in Big Ten play, and anything less than a cruising victory will be a Maryland disappointment, even without Stone. Tip is slated for 8 p.m. EST on the Big Ten Network. Let's meet Maryland's opposition:

Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-19, 0-13 Big Ten)

The coach

Richard Pitino, son of Louisville coach Rick, is 49-47 at Minnesota and 67-61 for his career, which includes a year as the head coach at Florida International. This is his third – and worst – season leading the Gophers.

Players to know

Nate Mason, sophomore, guard, 6'1, No. 2. Mason is the Gophers' leading scorer at 13.7 points per game and also their leading assist-getter at 4.5. The Gophers are not good, but he's got a fine-for-this-team 103 offensive rating and has been fine as the starting point guard. He's not a great shooter, with a 3-point percentage of 30 percent.

Jordan Murphy, freshman, forward, 6'6, No. 3. Murphy is a sub-30 percent shooter from deep, but he's good around the basket (55 percent on twos) and averages 11 points and 8 rebounds as a freshman. That's nothing to sneeze at.

Joey King, senior, forward, 6'9, No. 24. The veteran only averages 3.5 rebounds per game despite being 6'9, but he's second on the team behind Mason in scoring at an 11.3 average. He's a 41 percent 3-point shooter, making him by far the Gophers' most serious threat from beyond the arc.

Carlos Morris, senior, guard, 6'5, No. 11. Morris chips in 10 points and 3.5 boards per game from the backcourt. He shoots 35 percent from deep, making him potentially dangerous if Maryland isn't in the mood for perimeter defense.

Update: Never mind.

Strength

Ball security. The Gophers don't commit many turnovers. They give the ball away on 15.5 percent of their possessions, which is 24th-best nationally. Given Maryland's general inability to get steals, expect the Terps to have to defend out the string on nearly every possession.

Weaknesses

There are many, but we'll pick three:

Shooting and scoring. The Gophers are 293rd in the country in effective shooting percentage and 200th in adjusted offensive efficiency. If you prefer raw numeric stats, their 69.3 points per game are 271st.

Offensive rebounding. Maryland has struggled horrendously to secure its defensive glass at times this season. If that happens here, it's a bad sign. The Gophers grab back just 25.4 percent of their missed shots, which is 300th in the country. They get 9.4 offensive rebounds per game, which, come to think of it, means they should be excited to face the Terps, who give up 10.8.

Playing defense. The Gophers are pretty easy to score against. They're one of the worst defenses in any power conference, giving up a putrid 1.13 opponent-adjusted points per possession in Big Ten play. For the season, they're giving up 74.6 points per contest, which is 252nd in the sport.

Predictions

KenPom: Maryland, 74-64. Terps have an 85 percent chance to win.

Alex: Maryland, 70-65, in a game that's a lot more frustrating than it ought to be.