Who: #14 Maryland Terrapins vs. Michigan State Spartans
What: A chance to sweep a perennial powerhouse at home
Where: Comcast Center and CBS
When: 4:00 PM
The first four games of Maryland’s Big 10 schedule have elicited a lot of different emotions from me. Obviously the base feeling is excitement, because hey, the results are there. The Terps 4-1 start has provided a comfortable cushion for any bumps and bruises this team may incur during the rest of the schedule.
Along with the excitement, there’s a heaping helping of frustration mixed in. The team that convincingly blew through the Cyclones and Cowboys in the out of conference has only made brief cameos through the first four games. These wins are barely covering over my increasing skepticism about Turgeon’s ability to plan an effective offense.
Ultimately, the frustration and excitement are both powerful but fleeting, disappearing just a few hours after each game. After those feelings subside, I’m left with the best feeling of all regarding this team: a quiet confidence. Because although this team still has some rough edges, the silver lining is that they’ve gotten to play in five pressure packed games. Games where the outcome was usually in doubt late into the second half, and in four of those five games, this team has prevailed. That’s because as maddening as this team can be for the first 30 minutes, they’ve routinely played clutch in the last 10.
What To Know About Michigan State:
Since earning a Best Supporting Actor nod in “The Ugliest College Basketball Game You’ve Ever Seen”, Sparty has run off three convincing wins, and this shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone. As always, and as I mentioned in the first preview: Michigan State will always be one of the best coached teams in the country, and they certainly have Top 25 talent, if not a little more than that.
The most impressive (and therefore troubling) win came immediately following the Maryland game when the Spartans held a high powered Indiana team to 28% shooting in a 70-50 blowout at the Breslin Center. They also massacred the Hoosiers on the boards, nearly doubling their output with 50 rebounds against Indiana’s 28. Izzo’s calling cards are defense and rebounding, and that game shows that Michigan State is no short supply of either.
What this game will really test is Michigan State’s offense. In the first game, I thought Maryland missed plenty of makeable shots while the Spartans barely took any. Outside of a few Brandon Dawson post feeds, it seemed like the Terrapin defense contested everything and forced Michigan State’s guardsvinto some really awkward looking heaves late in the shot clock.
The numbers say that the Spartans are a premiere offensive team (top 50 in field goal percentage and points per game, 3rd in the country in assists) who simply had a rough night at the office. The other possibility is that maybe Maryland’s defense is just really freaking good. Only 4 out of 18 opponents have shot over 40% from the floor against the Terps, so this is in play. If they can hold a competent Michigan State under that number again, it certainly bodes well for a tough next week against Ohio State and Indiana.
In terms of the offense, little has changed for the Spartans. It’s still a three-headed attack from Dawson, Denzel Valentine, and Travis Trice. Valentine was a complete non-factor last time due to foul trouble, and is still probably the most dangerous option. Trice was the bulk of the Spartan offense in the first matchup and provided a difficult matchup for Trimble at the point, but the biggest concern I have is Dawson.
For whatever reason, Dawson barely saw the ball in the second half in East Lansing, even though he embarrassed every defender Maryland put in front of him early on. Really the only adequate matchup for him turned out to be Damonte Dodd, which left a Terrapin power forward guarding a Spartan center. That might not be tenable for 40 whole minutes, so it should be interesting to see how Turgeon chooses to defend the 6’6” Dawson.
Two Key Points For Maryland:
1. Keep Attacking The Basket
It’s an obvious point, but Maryland’s offense is significantly more effective when they can draw fouls and get to the free throw line. It’s not the most free-flowing, visually pleasing style to play, but it’s a huge advantage that they have over almost any opponent. Because there are so many good shooters on the roster, the offense can occasionally get a little three heavy. The three’s look great when they’re going in, but the three point shot is by it’s nature a low percentage one.
Maryland knocking in a few threes early is great, but eventually it’d be great to see someone pump fake a three, drive to the basket and draw contact. Take the free two points, and keep racking up fouls, that’s how this offense will start scoring 75 a night.
2. Repeat Performance On The Glass
Michigan State is very good at rebounding the basketball, even if they are a little undersized. In the last matchup, Maryland dominated them inside grabbing 52 rebounds to Michigan State’s 36. The Spartans don’t force a lot of turnovers on defense; the way they win games is by forcing teams into one
and done possessions by grabbing the first available defensive rebound. If the Terps win the rebounding battle, that could completely swing the game.
Maryland – 78, Michigan St. – 76 OT
These teams are so evenly matched I can definitely see this one taking a few extra minutes to resolve yet again. With a difficult slate on the horizon (the road games against Indiana and Ohio State are sandwiched around a tricky home game against Northwestern), Maryland could do themselves a lot of favors by sweeping Michigan State. If they lose, it would put a lot more pressure on the team to come up big next week, whereas if they win they could probably afford a loss or two in those three games.