After struggling down the stretch, Maryland is ready to wipe the slate clean when the 2016 NCAA Tournament begins against South Dakota State on Friday.
The Terrapins enter the NCAA Tournament losers of five of their last eight games. Maryland did manage to beat Nebraska in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals, but fell to Michigan State in a hard-fought loss in the semifinals.
One of Maryland’s biggest issues against Michigan State was their shooting. The Terps only shot 33.3 percent (18-of-54) from the field while guards Rasheed Sulaimon and Melo Trimble connected on just five of their 25 field goal attempts.
Trimble looked to be coming out of his funk in the prior three games. Over that period, he averaged 17.0 points-per-game while shooting 45.4 percent from the field. Trimble also has taken better care of the basketball as he only coughed it up eight times in the past five games.
One of the biggest x-factors for Maryland during the NCAA Tournament will be forward Jake Layman.
Case and point was against Nebraska last Friday when Layman was absolutely unconscious from the floor. Layman made his first five shots from the floor, including three from beyond the arc.
Layman led the Terps with 24 points (8-of-13) and six of those makes were behind the three-point line. When Layman is aggressive and has his shot working, there’s few players that can slow him down.
Getting to know South Dakota State
- The Jackrabbits won both the Summit League regular season and tournament titles during the 2015-16 season. They went 26-7 (12-4) and knocked off North Dakota State in the Summit League Tournament final. South Dakota State went 2-1 against the power conferences with wins over Minnesota and TCU. The Jackrabbits drew a No. 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which pits them against Maryland.
- Forward Mike Daum leads the offensive attack for South Dakota State. What’s interesting about Daum is the fact that he comes off the bench for the Jackrabbits. Daum averages 15.2 ppg to go along with 6.1 rebounds-per-game. The Nebraska native is sensational when he has his back to the basket. Daum also has some range to his game as he can step out and shoot the three ball. He is a very determined scorer that can score in bunches. Daum is a high-energy player that oftentimes provides the Jackrabbits with a huge spark off the bench.
- South Dakota State also gets strong production from their backcourt in George Marshall and Deondre Parks. Marshall is a ball-handler that can score the basketball at will. The former Wisconsin Badger averages 14.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, and 2.7 apg for the Jackrabbits and is very crafty in the half-court offense. Marshall also has some range from the perimeter as he can knock down a key three (37.2 percent). As exciting as Marshall can be sometimes, he plays out of control at times and that certainly can lead to turnovers. Parks is equally as talented as he averages 14.7 ppg and 4.7 rpg for the Jackrabbits. This is a guy that has no problem driving towards the basket. If his shot is there, he’ll definitely take it or attack the rim. However, if he spots an open teammate on the perimeter, Parks has no qualms with dishing the basketball. It’s one of the reasons that South Dakota State is shooting 35.7 percent from beyond the arc on the season.
Keys to victory for Maryland
- Win the backcourt battle – As was mentioned above, South Dakota State has a very talented backcourt by Summit League standards. However, Maryland has one of the top guard duos in the nation. When Sulaimon and Trimble are playing their best basketball, there’s not many teams that can hang with the Terps. Trimble just needs to play within himself and run the Maryland offense like many know that he is capable of. Oftentimes when Trimble struggles, he forces jump shots from the perimeter that may not be there. If he can find the likes of Layman and Sulaimon on backdoor cuts or open on the perimeter, the Terps can jump all over the Jackrabbits.
- Use size – While the Jackrabbits do have an extremely productive post player in Daum, Maryland’s size can be towering. Forward Robert Carter and center Diamond Stone have the ability to make life very difficult for opposing teams due to their raw athleticism. Carter’s length can be a huge problem due to the mismatch that he causes. He can stretch the floor while also being able to score in the low post. On the other hand, Stone makes his living around the basket. With his size, who can really blame him? Stone has shown at times this season that when he’s in an offensive zone, it’s almost impossible to slow him down. Maryland also needs to rebound the ball and impose their will on South Dakota State. The size difference is monumental, so the Terps should be a considerable advantage in the rebounding numbers.
- Layman – This was touched on earlier in the preview. Layman is a phenomenal athlete that can really get going in a hurry. With the ability to stretch the floor, Layman could pose a lot of problems for the South Dakota State defense. While he began his Maryland as just a three-point threat, Layman has turned into a more complete player during his four years in College Park. He has the ability to put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket if a jump shot isn’t available. Layman obviously still isn’t afraid to shoot from beyond the arc by any means. On the season, Layman is shooting 40.6 percent from three, which is a career best for the Massachusetts native. If Layman can establish himself early on, the Jackrabbits could be in for a long afternoon.