USA Today

Maryland pregame

While suffering through a four game losing streak Minnesota is home tomorrow and will face 22nd ranked Maryland who is 18-2 on the season, 6-1 in Big Ten play.

The Storyline

As if things weren’t tough enough already having lost four straight games the Gophers welcome a scorching hot Maryland Terrapins team tomorrow at Williams Arena.

Maryland has definitely had a fortunate scheduling start with Illinois twice, Iowa, Rutgers, and Michigan early in the year but they also beat Indiana, Georgetown, Richmond, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State this year.  The losses came to Pitt and Nebraska (both at home).  Maryland has won all three of their league road games.

Melo Trimble still can’t stop turning the ball over (63 assists, 63 turnovers) but he’s been outstanding with 17.4 points, 3.1 assists, and 3.6 rebounds a game.  Trimble is also shooting 45 percent from the floor and 37 percent from the arc as he’s having an All Big Ten caliber season.

Is Minnesota still confident?  It sure seems like it.  Today Richard Pitino spoke about how the Gopher resume is still very strong and how Amir Coffey has played like a freshman maybe twice in 21 games. Minnesota has also played the second toughest schedule in the Big Ten (Maryland’s schedule is ranked 11).

The Terrapins remember last year quite well as they came into Williams Arena versus the only winless Big Ten team and left listening to the famous Joey King postgame speech all the way home.

The Numbers

Teams are not scoring against Mark Turgeon’s defense.  In seven Big Ten games the Terrapin opponents are shooting just 39 percent from the floor and only 31 percent at the arc (6 for 20 average).  The Terrapins are an even league rebounding team (a plus 0.7) and they are using a deep ten man rotation with nine guys getting at least 15 minutes a contest.

Minnesota opponent numbers? Very similar to that of Maryland.  Gopher opponents are shooting 29 percent from the arc and 39 percent overall for the season.  Minnesota is a plus 0.6 on the glass and the Gophers use a nine man rotation.  Minnesota is not deep as Maryland but the Gophers actually start an older group.  The teams are quite similar in size except Minnesota’s backcourt is bigger because of the 6-foot-4 Akeem Springs height.

Six-foot, 170 pound guard Anthony Cowan has been excellent next to Trimble giving the Terrapins 11.5 points per game in Big Ten play and he’s shooting 47 percent from the floor.  Six-foot-7, 225 pound freshman Justin Jackson is the third double figure scorer plus he grabs a team high six boards a contest plus he’s a 40 percent three-point shooter.

Add in 6-foot-7 freshman wing Kevin Hueter’s eight points and five boards a game and you have an excellent freshman crew competing with Trimble.  Six-foot-11 senior Damonte Dodd starts at center.

The Match-Ups

Starting Guards.   You have Cowan and Trimble starting against Mason and Springs at the outset.   Nate Mason is coming off a game that broke him out of a shooting slump while Akeem Springs has been Minnesota’s most consistent player as of late.  Springs should be able to get his feet set and get looks over the smaller Terrapin guards but will he be able to move his feet with the 6-foot-3 Trimble?

Melo Trimble is a very aggressive attacked minded guard.  His first step is quick and he will pull-up quickly before a defender can react to sink.  But Trimble will also over force his offense and turn the ball over as well as good on runs of bad field goal attempts.  Minnesota needs Springs to keep him in front and fluster Trimble while Mason needs to use his experience edge to have another solid shooting game.

Freshmen Three.  Both teams have a long freshman three but they are very different.  Amir Coffey is an explosively skilled 6-foot-8 guard who excels putting the ball on the deck and attacking.  Huerter is a spot up shooter who will take two out of every three shots from the arc.  Coffey’s length has to be in front of every Huerter attempt.

Bigs.  Jordan Murphy had a better game last weekend but is still struggling this Big Ten campaign.  Jackson will face Murphy and he brings similar size with more skill facing the basket but not as explosively strong around the hoop.  Jackson has also had some struggles in league play like Murphy has.

At center Minnesota’s Reggie Lynch leads the Big Ten in shot blocking.  He will give up size to Damonte Dodd but Reggie is the better offensive player with his back to the basket.  Dodd is bigger but Lynch more talented.  Seven-foot-1 Michael Cekovsky is starting to get more time after missing ten games and he’s Maryland’s third or fourth leading scorer when playing. He’s the ex-factor.

Bench. The Gophers have the best bench player in the game in Dupree McBrayer who is Minnesota’s third leading scorer.  Dupree was the starter and handled the bench role well versus Wisconsin but did little at Ohio State this past Wednesday.

Maryland has much more talent off the bench than the Gophers do starting with Cekovsky and continuing with 5-foot-11 junior guard Jaylen Brantley, 6-foot-9 sophomore big Ivan Bender, 6-foot-7 junior big Jared Nickens, and 6-foot-8 senior big LG Gill.

Prediction

If Minnesota plays with the same putrid effort they took the court against Ohio State with in the first half they will lose.  If they compete for most of the game like they did in the second half it will be a home win.  You would think this isn’t about competing as the team is trying to avoid a five game losing streak but for whatever reason Minnesota was uninspired and flat in Columbus early. That can’ t happen again.

Why is college basketball so skeptical of Maryland?  Their non-conference schedule wasn’t that tough and they have had a lot of fortune luck in who they have played so far in Big Ten play (no Wisconsin, no Purdue, no Michigan State, no Northwestern).  This game has all the signs of an upset and third loss for Maryland but they won’t come in here overlooking Minnesota.  That happened last year and Minnesota upset Maryland.

I can’t pick Minnesota right now.  Not when you can’t count on them to play hard for most of the game.  Especially when they are facing an 18-2 team.

Maryland 77 Minnesota 71.


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