To say it’s been an up-and-down season for the Maryland basketball team would be a huge understatement.
Still, the Terrapins obtained a six-seed in the NCAA Tournament and No. 11 seed Xavier will await them in Orlando.
Maryland is coming off a quarterfinal exit in the Big Ten Tournament last weekend. The Terps fell to Northwestern in a game that featured several runs for both squads.
The Terps didn’t seem to have a problem scoring the basketball. Three players finished in double figures with Melo Trimble leading the way with 20 points (7-of-14 shooting).
One of the biggest positives was Kevin Huerter getting back on track with a big game. Huerter tallied 19 points, including making three of his seven attempts from beyond the arc.
Anthony Cowan added 13 points, but no other Terp scored more than four points.
Northwestern trailed Maryland by 10 points in the second half. However, the Wildcats rallied back with a 20-2 run to retake the lead.
Maryland’s defense certainly struggled throughout the contest and ended up being their Achilles heel.
Keys to the game
1.) Battle of the do-it-all guards – Trevon Bluiett and Melo Trimble are the straws that stir the drink for their respective teams. Both do a lot of things extraordinarily well. While they can pass and rebound, scoring the ball is where they excel. It’s really going to come down to which defense can slow down these guards. Both certainly have the potential to go off and the one that delivers the better performance may lift his team to victory.
2.) Avoid foul trouble – This may seem self explanatory, but it’s a big deal for Maryland. Center Damonte Dodd can be a very valuable piece on both ends of the floor when he stays out of foul trouble. Dodd averages 3.4 personal fouls per contest and often can get into foul trouble early on. He’s scored in double figures in five games and had three or less fouls in four of those. If Dodd can stay on the floor, he can contribute on both ends of the floor. That also helps considering that the Terps have a fairly limited frontcourt.
3.) Perimeter shooting – Maryland has been successful at times shooting the three this season. On the season, the Terps are knocking down 36.3 percent of their shots from beyond the arc. One of the team’s biggest assets has been Huerter. His 43.1 percent clip leads Maryland and he’s been the team’s most consistent three-point threat all year. Over the past five games, Huerter has hit 34.5 percent of his long-range attempts, but is coming off a productive game in which he hit three of seven shots from that area. If Huerter and perhaps Jared Nickens can contribute multiple threes, Maryland is going to be in great shape.
Players to watch
Trevon Bluiett (guard) – As was mentioned above, Bluiett is one gifted guard. The Indianapolis native can score from just about anywhere on the court and when he’s on, there’s very few that can stop him. Over his last six games, Bluiett is averaging 19.7 points and shooting 33.3 percent from beyond the arc. Bluiett is a high-volume shooter that averages 13.3 field goal attempts per contest, so he isn’t afraid to pull the trigger. Anthony Cowan could draw the assignment of defending Bluiett and that may prove to be a tall task.
J.P. Macura (guard) – Much like Bluiett, Macura isn’t afraid to shoot the ball. He averages 14.5 points, but attempts 11.1 field goals per game. Macura also attempts over five threes per contest despite only connecting on 34.5 percent of those shots. It’s really going to come down to Maryland’s defense in this one. If they can force some bad shots from Bluiett and Macura, it could go a long way in deciding this one.
Quentin Goodin (guard) – The loss of point guard Edmond Sumner really hurt Xavier over the last month. Before the injury, Sumner was averaging 15.0 points and 5.0 assists. Freshman Quentin Goodin has seen significant minutes off the bench throughout the year, but he’s been forced into a starting role. He does average 3.2 assists-per-game and isn’t depended upon a ton for his scoring. Goodin is able to get into the lane and make plays when he needs to. Expectations have increased quite a bit for Goodin, but he certainly has the talent to run the offense.
Maryland is probably one of the toughest teams to predict in the NCAA Tournament. This is a group that has the talent to compete with anybody in the country. However, it’s just a matter of what group shows up.
The loss of Sumner really hurt Xavier late in the year. Maryland fans should be very thankful for what they have in Cowan. The Musketeers certainly haven’t been the same since Sumner went down, so the Terps will win a tight one 66-60 to move on.