Who: #13 Maryland Terrapins vs #23 Indiana Hoosiers
What: The most difficult road game of the season
Where: Assembly Hall and ESPNU
When: 9:00 PM
Well let’s get this out of the way, that Michigan State game was awesome. I thought heading into that game, that if Maryland and Michigan State played 10 times, it would be five point game in eight of them. Well, despite their record, I underrated the Terps. Their defensive numbers aren’t the product of playing a few questionable offenses, they’re just very good defensively. Good enough that they forced a legitimately talented Spartan team into another horrendous shooting performance.
And then there’s Melo Trimble, who – after having his name dropped in a few national columns in the past few weeks – grabbed headlines all over the country by setting the Spartans defense ablaze. Going into Saturday, the Terps had already checked off plenty of items on the “How to make a deep run in the tournament” shopping list. Great rebounding, low turnover numbers, plentiful perimeter shooting. Check, check, and check.
But Trimble’s performance may have given them that secret sauce something that’s not on the list. It’s the same thing that UConn had with Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier, and what Maryland almost had with Greivis Vasquez in the 2010 tournament . For those of you that didn’t take Forget Me Now’s after that Terps – Mich St. tilt in the 2010 tournament, Maryland was getting housed nearly the entire game. By all accounts, they should have lost by fifteen.
But Vasquez was so much better than anyone on the court, that in the last six or seven minutes when he started heating up, Vasquez unleashed his full offensive arsenal and the Spartans had no answer. Trimble showed that ability on Saturday. The storyline going into that game was who would win the Trice – Trimble PG battle, and Trimble mopped the Comcast Center floor with a quality guard.
When he’s knocking down three’s, Trimble is a guy capable of torching game plans. Too good of a shooter to leave open, too quick to get up on, and too automatic at the line to foul. It was a problem Vasquez presented, a problem Stoglin presented (without any help unfortunately), and a problem Dez Wells presents when he’s completely healthy, which he’s not. With his deadeye shooting and lightning quickness, Trimble has singlehandedly vaulted the ceilings on what was already a very good Terrapin team. Now, it’s on to Indiana and an insane Assembly Hall crowd for a very difficult road test.
What To Know About Indiana
If you know one thing, know that this will be Maryland’s biggest test until the Badgers come to town in a little more than a month. Ohio State is a nice team with an exciting freshman and little else. Iowa’s brief stint in the rankings is a product of beating that fringe Top 25 Buckeyes team twice and little else. In my opinion, Indiana is firmly slotted in as the third best team in the Big 10, and playing them in front of a fully charged Assembly Hall will provide by the far the toughest test of anyone this season.
The Hoosiers identity is that they are pure concentrated scoring, and they achieve that by mirroring Maryland’s troika of offensive options. Where the Terps have Trimble firing away from the point guard spot, Indiana has junior Yogi Ferrell. In his sophomore campaign, Yogi was the focal point of the offense. This season, he has added distribution to his operation (5.0 assists up from 3.9 in 2013) at the expense of some scoring (14.9 PPG down from 17.3 PPG). He’s still a dangerous three point shooter (38.5%) and terrific from the line (88.6%), but he’s slumped in Big 10 play, only scoring more than 10 points once in five league games. If he struggles again, Indiana would need one of Maryland’s three engines to fail to even things out.
Dez Wells will look across at another streaky shooting guard in the form of freshman James Blackmon Jr. Along with D’Angelo Russell and Trimble, Blackmon Jr. is a strong contender for NCAA Freshman of the Year, and just like those two he can fill up the box score in a hurry. Blackmon is a good not great athlete, but Maryland might not see a more deadly shooter all year. Just watching the highlights of his game against Georgetown on YouTube make it clear that Maryland’s perimeter defense will need to be at its best against the Hoosiers backcourt combo.
Ferrell and Blackmon Jr. are definitely threats, but they are by no means unguardable. Trimble and Ferrell should be one hell of an entertaining showdown, and Wells’ athleticism could definitely give Blackmon trouble. Unfortunately, any athletic advantage Maryland may have at the shooting guard spot will surely be negated by trying to figure out how the hell to guard Troy Williams. Williams is an insane athlete who specializes in the put back dunk, and as improved as Jake Layman has been on defense this season, Williams may be a bridge too far. He’s not a deep threat (25% from three), but staying in front of him may be the biggest test Maryland has.
The weakness for this team is down low, where 6’9” Hanner Mosquera-Perea is the only big guy they have that resembles a threat. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, Mosquera-Perea has missed the last two games with a knee injury and his status for Thursday night is very up in the air. In his absence, Indiana went very small with Williams as their biggest guy in the floor in Sunday’s win against Illinois. Maryland has routinely outrebounded teams this season, and that should be their biggest advantage in this game.
Maryland – 79, Indiana – 71
It’s impossible to pick against the Terps after their demolition of Michigan State on Saturday, even in a game this tough. The Hoosiers shot making ability is on par with the elite offensive teams in the country, so Maryland’s defense will need to be on high alert all night to prevent a quick run from the home team. Ironically, it’s the ugly win over Michigan State that gives me confidence in this game, because although the Terps couldn’t throw it in the ocean that night, they played their best defense of the year in a tough environment. I think Melo and Layman play well, and Maryland wins the rebounding battle in a landslide.