The Big Ten is still up for grabs and Maryland just put its hat in the ring after taking care of Purdue on Tuesday. The problem is that the Terps travel to Michigan and Iowa in their next two Games and they could easily lose both. Michigan is looking to rebound after never fully looking right in its Tuesday loss at Penn State. The Wolverines still haven’t lost at home, though have been in some competitive Games against Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Maryland has a few road wins, but against the better teams in the Conference (Michigan State, Wisconsin), had a few issues. Maryland’s main goal in this Game will be to not turn it over against the most efficient defense in the Big Ten (second in the country). The Terps have it turned it over on more than 20 percent of possessions in league play and that’s not going to work against this defense because UM does a little bit of everything well. That’s how the Wolverines want to win, but their offense will have to come through at some point. The reason it’s had trouble is because the offense gets stagnant and the shots don’t fall.
That’s something Michigan wants to figure out before the postseason and this will be a good test, even at home. Ignas Brazdeikis (14.6 ppg) is the team’s leading scorer, yet has just eight points in the last two Games, shooting 4-for-13 from the floor. Sure, Charles Matthews (13.2 ppg) has picked up the slack with 42 points in the last two, but he’s the only one scoring efficiently. Jordan Poole and Zavier Simpson are both scoring, but Poole is 3-for-14 from three and Simpson is 4-for-17 from the floor in the last two.
The fun matchup will be Brazdeikis and Jon Teske against Jalen Smith (12.0 ppg) and Bruno Fernando (14.6 ppg, 10.7 rpg). The Michigan big men had trouble against Penn State and Wisconsin in recent Games and could be in the same situation against Smith and Fernando, who both provide size and a bit of athleticism. Smith and Fernando will have no trouble defending Brazdeikis and Teske on the perimeter, while Fernando could have some success down low. The big matchup is between point guards Simpson and Anthony Cowan (16.0 ppg). A lot of things run through Cowan, but Simpson is considered one of the best defensive guards in the Conference and even country. If Cowan can’t get anything going, that’s going to put more pressure on fellow guards Eric Ayala and Darryl Morsell, but also on Fernando and Smith to consistently produce.
The biggest defensive problem for Maryland may be trying to stop Matthews and Poole. With how attack-minded Matthews has been, it’s going to be a huge task for Aaron Wiggins and Morsell. Both have the size to deal with Matthews, but Maryland is a young team and defense has been an issue at times.
Even if Matthews has another good Game, the Terps should stick around simply because of Smith and Fernando. Those two have been a problem for most in the Conference and should have some success against Brazdeikis and Teske. Of course, if Brazdeikis figures out his scoring touch again, Michigan gets the advantage in the end.
Our Pick – MD +7