Game 16: Maryland at Michigan Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
on
Basics
Who: Maryland (13-2) at Michigan (11-4) Maryland_Terrapins_Basketball_Logo[1]
Where: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI
When: 3:15 p.m., Saturday, January 7th, 2017
TV: ESPN2

Last year Michigan picked up one of its best wins of the season as it knocked off the Maryland Terrapins at home in early January. Maryland was ranked third in the country as the Wolverines rode Zak Irvin and Duncan Robinson to a critical upset win.

This year, Maryland and Michigan are two teams that seem to be searching to rediscover their identities. The Terps are are 13-2, but their non-conference schedule was littered with a handful of narrow wins over average competition, a home loss to Pittsburgh and one impressive neutral court win over Kansas State. Like Michigan, they’ve started Big Ten play with a 1-1 record. Maryland steamrolled Illinois at home, then allowed Nebraska to march into College Park and leave with a 2 point victory.

Melo Trimble is still around, but he starts next to three freshmen and a sophomore — a far cry from last year’s starting lineup which featured two seniors, a redshirt junior and a freshman All-American.

The Terrapins

Mark Turgeon won 26 Big Ten games in his first two years in the conference, but he hasn’t done it with offense. Maryland ranked 10th in the league in offensive efficiency in 2015 and 7th last season. Its defensive efficiency ranked first or second in the league in both seasons.

This year’s Maryland squad appears to follow a similar recipe. The Terps are ranked 91st in adjusted offensive efficiency and 51st in adjusted defensive efficiency. Through two Big Ten games, they’ve managed to score 1.05 PPP (8th) but only allowed .89 (1st).

Maryland’s defense does a good job of defending threes — 31.7% 3PA/FGA and 31.2 3P% allowed — and twos — 44.5 2P% allowed — for a defensive eFG% of 45.2%. While it is partially competition induced, the Terps have the best eFG% defense in Big Ten games (42.2) and held Illinois and Nebraska to just 23.5% 3-point shooting. Michigan has had three sub-par perimeter shooting games in a row and things shouldn’t get much easier against the Terps.

Maryland hasn’t been great on the defensive glass — a weakness that Michigan failed to exploit against Penn State — and is just average at keeping its opponents off of the foul line. The Terps last four opponents have also given the ball away once every five possessions, but again that might be a product of playing teams like Nebraska, Illinois, Charlotte and Jacksonville State.

Offensively, the numbers aren’t nearly as impressive. Maryland is just an average shooting team — 50.4% on twos (122nd), 35.4% on threes (149th) for a 51.5 eFG% (119th) — but it shoots the three-ball quite a bit (42.4% of FGA). Turnovers have been a major concern, with giveaways on 20.4% of possessions (264th), while getting to the free throw line has been an equalizer.

The Terps have attempted 44.2 free throws per 100 field goal attempts, 22nd best in the country. That well has dried up a bit in league play as they’ve only managed a 27.4 free throw rate while shooting 56% at the line through two conference games.

Personnel

You know Melo Trimble by now. The junior point guard is a great pick-and-roll point guard who has had the knack for making plays in the clutch. His numbers regressed a bit last season while surrounded by so much talent and his junior numbers are closer to his sophomore year than his ridiculous freshman year. The primary culprit has been his three-point shooting (35% this year compared to 41% as a freshman) and turnovers (21.7% turnover rate compared to 18.3% as a freshman).

6-foot freshman Anthony Cowan joins Trimble in the backcourt this year and he leads the country in free throw rate. The 170 pound guard has attempted 82 free throws to just 87 field goal attempts, a free throw rate of 94.2%. Cowan has been turnover prone, but his assist numbers are good and he’s shooting 52% on twos and 33% on threes.

6-foot-7, 225 pound freshman forward Justin Jackson is a load as a combo. He starts at the four and can draw fouls (44% FTA/FGA), shoot threes (43%), attack the offensive glass, block shots and slash to the hoop.

Former Michigan target Kevin Huerter is the shooter to track. Two-thirds of his shot attempts are threes and he’s made 37.5% of his long range efforts. Those numbers are boosted by a 7-of-11 3-point shooting performance in his last game against Nebraska which boosted his season 3-point numbers by 5%.

Maryland’s big man rotation has been damaged by injury. 7-foot-1 Slovakian Michal Cekovsky started 4 games when healthy, but has missed the last two with a sore ankle. 6-foot-11 rebounding force Damonte Dodd missed five games with injury leading into the new year, but returned to play 13 minutes off the bench on Jan. 1.

6-foot-9 sophomore Ivan Bender has played additional minutes in their absence. He’s a solid finisher (67%) and rebounder, but he’s struggled with turnovers and isn’t a shot blocking threat. Of the trio, Cekovsky is the guy that will get the ball with his back to the basket on the block while Dodd appears to be the best defender and rebounder.

6-foot-8 graduate transfer LG Gill has also seen recent playing time at the five spot. The former Duquesne player is just 10-of-33 inside the arc this season and has played limited minutes

Three Keys

  • Ball screen defense: Similar to Michigan, you know you are going to see a lot of high pick-and-roll when facing the Terps. Just over a quarter of Maryland’s offensive possessions end in shots out of ball screen action and the Terps grade out slightly more efficient in ball screen offense and defense than the Wolverines.
  • Three-point splits: Michigan’s first two Big Ten opponents have combined to shoot 50% from three-point range while it has made just 32.1% of its threes. It’s hard to win games like that. Both teams shoot a lot of threes and the Wolverines will have a hard time winning if they can’t flip that stat.
  • Wilson vs. Jackson: Justin Jackson’s frame and profile remind me a bit of Lamar Stevens, Penn State’s 6-foot-7 freshman who gave the Wolverines fits. Michigan will need to do a better job against Jackson, rather than hoping he ends up on the bench with foul trouble. Conversely, the Wolverines need DJ Wilson on the floor defensively and will need him to stay out of foul trouble against a Maryland team that’s very adept at drawing fouls.

Bottom Line

Before the conference season started, I wrote that these first five games were critical for Michigan to build some positive momentum because the schedule becomes so difficult in February. That hasn’t changed and this would be a great chance to build off of the Wednesday comeback against Penn State.

KenPom projects a 68-61 Wolverine win, giving Maryland a 27% shot at the road upset.

  • Chezaroo

    Man there are a bunch of nice contributing Frosh in the B1G this season.

    Not to mention a plethora of very very overall young teams.

    • That’s what happens when a lot of the league’s key players are lost from the year before, freshmen are bound to play. Maryland, Iowa, MSU, etc. were gutted in terms of seniors/draft entries.

      Not a lot of one-and-done type of freshmen either as far as I can tell, but guys that will earn some valuable experience this year and be around for a bit.

      • Chezaroo

        Attrition necessitates replacement, but doesn’t guarantee production. A lot of very young teams playing extremely well.

  • eddieben

    Hoping DWalt picks up where he left off at the end of the PSU game. He played so well vs Tremble last year and it would be great to see him put together a string of good play.

  • bobohle

    I’ve seen several Maryland games on TV this year and your analysis is very accurate. As usual a great assessment. Thank you for this site.

  • AA7596

    Just a 27% Kenpom shot of Maryland winning—that is fascinating.

    Starting to wonder if Kenpom is overrating U-M due to its bludgeoning of its Kennesaw-level opponents. Obviously, Kenpom factors in SOS, but nobody’s perfect. The site has notoriously had issues over the years assessing Wisconsin—another ultraslow team that destroys weak opponents.

    In its 5 games against 200+ opponents (Howard, MSM, Kennesaw, Central Arkansas and UMES), Michigan averaged 1.31 ppp on offense and 0.82 on defense. For context, that scoring margin (0.49) crushes what Kentucky (0.37) and UCLA (0.35) did against their 200-and-worse opposition. (Granted, this is a pretty crude analysis: It should be noted that opponents in the 230s and the 330s aren’t the same thing.)

    That said, this is clearly a distortion. My guess is Michigan’s style of play (tons of 3s, very few possessions) is a recipe for efficiency gold in games where you can get any shot you want, as we saw against Central Arkansas and UMES, but that this is probably leading to a little ranking inflation.

    • More simply: Michigan crushed SMU and Marquette (two teams that KenPom thinks is pretty good on a neutral floor). It only has two losses by more than a possession (both on the road). And yes, it doesn’t hurt to blow out bad teams.

      But those are all things that KenPom is designed to account for…

      Add in homecourt advantage against a team that has played a weaker schedule and won a bunch of games by single possessions and there you have it.

  • A2MIKE

    The team that wins the transition battle will win the game, specifically points off turnovers and fast break points.

  • Mattski

    Welp, facing Jackson is an opportunity to apply the lessons of Penn State to Maryland; let’s see how they do. In retrospect, one clear plus of Penn State was winning when the threes were not falling. Hopefully they are on Saturday, and in front of a nice crowd. BTW, did anyone notice how sparse the crowd was at Pauley Pavilion for last night’s UCLA game? I really wonder whether that doesn’t start to even hurt your TV audience; I found myself wondering how I could take the game seriously with no one there.

  • Amaizeman

    Thumbs up to *Three-point splits key to the game. It seems like this years team, and recent past Michigan teams, accelerate or stagnate based on made threes. The team does a good job at creating open looks, and I think making those open threes is especially important. In the Iowa game, in particular, there seemed to be a couple of missed open threes towards the end of the second half that were critical.

  • gobluemd16

    This is a tough situational spot for Michigan — coming off a very close game just two days ago that expended a ton of energy to come back and win. Maryland will have had a week off and should be highly motivated after blowing a game down the stretch at home against Nebraska. We need to display the same urgency we did in the last 12 minutes against Penn State, if we want to beat the Terrapins.

    • A2MIKE

      speaking of which… 4 teams get to play Michigan coming off a bye, which seems like a lot. I am not great at understanding the schedule, but shouldn’t each team only have to play 2 teams coming off a bye?

  • Fab 5 Legends

    Must win these home games early in the season against similar bubble teams. I would love to go 2-1 in the next 3 – Maryland, IIinois, Nebraska, if we get 3-0 even better heading to the gauntlet of th big ten afterwards: Wisco, MichState, Indiana…

    Walton was a big reason we won last year and he stepped his game up against preseason naismaith candidate in Melo Trimble…I expect the same in order to get the W…we need to win in the guard position

    Hope Wilson & Wagner continue their strong play but Walton needs to have a big game