Who: #8 Maryland Terrapins vs. Indiana Hoosiers
What: The Big Ten Championship Quarterfinals
Where: The House that Jordan Built (The United Center in Chicago), BTN
When: 6:30 PM ET
Line: Maryland -2
Tonight at 6:30 Maryland will be playing Indiana in the quarterfinals of the Big 10 tournament? I was going to write a full preview on this, but I remembered that I wrote one just a few months ago about this very Hoosiers team. In fact, astute observers will note the Terps have seen the Hoosiers twice already, neither of which were necessarily pleasant encounters; the Blowout in Bloomington and a Nailbiter in College Park. Point being, this is the third fight in the trilogy, all of the tricks are out of the bag and no one is anonymous anymore. So, I’ll just offer a quick refresher course here:
Three Cylinder Engine
The smallest threat to me here comes from Blackmon, which is saying something because he’s averaging 15.8 PPG and just torched Northwestern for 25/6/7 Thursday night. In Round 1 in Bloomington, Blackmon made a similarly hefty contribution with 22 points. However, he was nearly invisible in the rematch in College Park, hoisting up 14 shots only to produce only a meek 5 points.
He’s a good – not great – shooter at 38.5% from deep, but where he really killed Maryland in the first game was getting easy buckets on drives. Realistically if the Terps can keep him out of the paint (which shouldn’t be too difficult considering he’s only an average athlete), and get a hand in his face, he should be the least of their problems.
The award for biggest matchup problem goes to forward Troy Williams, who will be the best athlete on the floor any time he’s in the game. Also, after an unfortunate and nasty looking injury to IU big man Hanner Mosquera-Perea on Thursday, Williams is the Hoosiers primary source of rebounds.
Turgeon has thrown the gauntlet of Terps big men at this guy all to no avail because none of them are athletic enough to stay in front of him. The smartest option to me would be to just forget about the height difference and let the 6’5” Wells guard the 6’9” Williams. In order to take advantage of the height difference, Williams would need a good outside shot or post up game, neither of which he has.
But obviously, public enemy number one in this game is Yogi Ferrell who has torched the Terps unlike any opponent in recent memory. Yogi laid siege to the Maryland defense in the first two games, knocking down an absurd 13 out of 17 three pointers and driving the lane for numerous acrobatic layups. He’s had Trimble’s number in both games, and you would have to think that even with the other two threats on the floor, Turgeon will be keying his defense toward the junior point guard.
There are other ancillary pieces to this attack. Freshman Robert Johnson has had his moments this season, and the Terps now know they have to cover stretch big Collin Hartman outside the three point line, but Indiana usually lives and dies by the Blackmon/Williams/Ferrell troika. If Maryland can force one of those pieces to falter, they should be able to move on to the semifinals.
The Rebounding Battle
What makes winning the rebounding battle so important in this game is that whichever team does it will dictate the pace. Maryland occasionally likes to get out in transition, but I don’t think that will be in the cards today. Indiana excels at playing fast and pushing every defensive rebound they get, and they love feeding shooters on the secondary break before the defense has a chance to get back and get organized.
This means that the more offensive boards the Terps can grab, the easier this game will be defensively. It’s tough to push after made baskets, and forcing Indiana to downshift and play in the half court takes them out of what they do best. Maryland on the other hand is perfectly comfortable playing a full game at a slower pace, and the advantage would shift to them if that’s what happens.
How Maryland Wins
Attacking the heart of the Hoosier defense is an obvious play. Williams will need to function as the big man, leaving an unqualified defender on Wells, Trimble, or Layman. Layman is actually the most interesting to me in this one, because if he’s shooting well, it could pull whatever big man will be guarding him away from the basket, and that might as well be ringing the dinner bell for Trimble and especially Wells. If Troy Williams stays on Layman, it would leave an overmatched Blackmon guarding either Wells or Trimble. If Williams has to switch onto Wells for example, Layman can either post up or shoot over whatever smaller defender matches up with him.
Defensively, obviously the Terps know that a barrage of threes is coming and they’ll need to make sure they don’t suffer a repeat performance from Bloomington where they looked lackadaisical for long periods of time. Run everyone off the three point line and force Indiana to settle for two pointers more often than they would like.
Maryland – 72, Indiana – 69
I have too much respect for Indiana (particularly Ferrell) to say that Maryland will win this by any more than a possession, but it boils down to whether Indiana is running hot or not tonight. Indiana’s offensive ceiling is scary, and Ferrell has shown that the Terps can play good defense and still get buried under a pile of threes. Turgeon will need to figure out how to shut down one of Indiana’s three man scoring attack, and the Terps need to dominate the boards to mold this game into the type that they like to play.