Maryland plays the first of its two games in the Cancun Challenge Tuesday night in Mexico against Illinois State.
Here are 5 things you need to know to get ready for the matchup.
1) A chance to get away
Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon has continued to stress that this trip to Cancun will be crucial for his team as a way to get away and have his players bond with one another. The Terrapins have been on a fast track when it comes to building chemistry after not being together as a full unit for much of the summer.
That team chemistry shows itself in different lineups, especially on offense when this team can look like an elite point-scoring machine when it’s clicking.
2) Don’t want to keep it close
Maryland’s last two games have been come-from-behind victories over Georgetown and Rider. The Hoyas are proving themselves to be a quality opponent -- as we saw with how they were able to push Duke to the brink on Sunday -- but the Rider win is still alarming in many ways.
Turgeon has made the point that every team will give Maryland its best shot because of the ranking next to their name. Allowing teams to stay in it give them confidence and that snowballs to the point that you see the results you saw last week. First priority vs. Illinois State? Get them in a hole early.
3) The Redbird to watch
Turgeon was highly complimentary of Illinois State senior DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell, who is the team’s only double-digit scorer and its biggest offensive threat.
Expect Rasheed Sulaimon -- brought in to be the team’s perimeter stopper defensively -- and Jake Layman to both see time guarding him. Not only is he a volume scorer, but he is efficient as well. He shooting 53 percent from the floor, 40 percent on limited three-point attempts, and 70 percent from the line on about five attempts per game.
Take Akoon-Purcell out of the game and the rest should take care of itself on that end of the floor. Overall, the Redbirds are 265th in the nation in offensive efficiency, scoring just 0.906 points per possession.
4) Let’s look at Melo Trimble
Melo Trimble has to be the quietest leader in points per game of any team in the country. I say that for this reason -- he has averaged 16.3 points per game on efficiency numbers far below what we saw from him last season.
So far this year, he is shooting about three percentage points lower from the field, about eight percentage points lower from three, and a whopping 17 percentage points lower from the free throw line.
Imagine what he’ll do when he kicks it into gear. Maybe that starts in Cancun. My guess would be that if it does, this Maryland offense fully gets going as well. “Fully gets going” is a scary thought, too, because the Terrapins are already 35th in the nation in offensive efficiency.
5) Figuring out the rotation
The domino effect of Dion Wiley’s injury is having more of an impact than probably originally anticipated. Unable to as easily go small, there is a clear drop-off in production when lineups that include Damonte Dodd or Michal Cekovsky are heavily leaned upon.
What’s the solution?
It’s tough because when Layman is allowed to shift to the power forward spot, it totally changes the dynamic of the offense because of his versatility. He can score on the block or kick to shooters. That has to be used sparingly, though, because Layman at the four means Jared Nickens at the three, but Nickens is the most reliable relief option for the much-taxed backcourt of Rasheed Sulaimon and Melo Trimble.
Junior college point guard transfer Jaylen Brantley being able to take on significant minutes would make things easier, but it’s difficult to say when that will happen. For now, these are the cards Turgeon can shuffle.