Maryland welcomes Michigan to College Park on Sunday at a critical juncture in the 2015-16 season. After losing two straight, including a bad loss to Minnesota, the Terrapins need a victory before they enter the stretch run of the regular season.
Here are 5 things you need to know.
1) The worst stretch of the season
Losing at home in Big Ten play for the first time since joining the conference was tough, but Thursday’s loss to a Minnesota team that had previously not won a Big Ten game was inexplicable for the nation’s once-No. 2 team.
Damonte Dodd said the plane ride home was hard. Rasheed Sulaimon is confident that the team is trying to get back to normal. Mark Turgeon said he just wants his team back to playing basketball because they love the game.
There is a mental hurdle to get over when trying to return to full normalcy. It’s tough that the first real, extended adversity of the season comes in February. The good news? It’s not single-elimination time yet.
2) Getting Melo back on track
Point guard Melo Trimble steers the ship for Maryland. But in the past two games, Trimble has gone 4-of-25 from the floor and in the past four games he has nearly twice as many turnovers (13) as made field goals (7).
There may be lingering effects of an injury still, but some of the mistakes he has made down the stretch of the past two games have been simply uncharacteristic decision-making errors, like trying to force a pass into a closed window, losing control of his dribble, or taking inefficient jump shots.
Turgeon and senior guard Rasheed Sulaimon both said they have spoken with the sophomore in hopes of helping him to turn it around. Maryland’s offensive success is tied directly to Trimble because so many possessions start with the ball in his hands.
3) What Diamond’s return means
Diamond Stone’s suspension was not the reason they lost to Minnesota, but there’s a chance that if Stone had played the Terrapins would not have lost to the Gophers.
Remember, Maryland’s offense had been struggling even with Stone, so once he was taken out of the rotation it cut the post options in half and forced Dodd into 32 minutes. The junior shot blocker filled in with a valiant effort, but he cannot be expected to provide everything Stone does offensively.
When Stone is on the floor, either in the starting lineup or off the bench, he can be trusted to get the ball in the post and go to work one-on-one or be used in the pick-and-roll with Trimble. That can change the dynamic of the offense as a whole.
4) Anything from the bench?
Maryland’s bench has combined to score six total points in the last two games. If this team wants to make a deep run in March, they will either need production from those currently on the bench, or find a way to rearrange the units so that scoring is more spread out.
Lineups with Carter and Stone on the floor at the same time mean a lot of offensive weapons with only one ball to go around. Lineups with Dodd and Cekovsky don’t give Trimble a consistent pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop option. What would be the solution?
Maryland needs more from the bench on the perimeter, too. Jaylen Brantley is capable of scoring the ball, as is Jared Nickens. Brantley is sometimes tentative, though, and Nickens has never fully broken out of the slump he slipped into earlier this season.
Somehow, the Terrapins will need an answer.
5) Second time around
Maryland has already lost to Michigan once, a game on the road that marked the Terrapins’ first Big Ten loss of the season. The Wolverines exploited what has been one of Maryland’s biggest weaknesses at different points this season -- perimeter defense.
Michigan rained 12 threes on Maryland, led by 5-of-9 shooting from Duncan Robinson. The first 10 minutes of Sunday’s game will be telling. If the Wolverines are hot from the perimeter like Minnesota was, it will be a long afternoon for Maryland because this Wolverine team is far more skilled than the young Gophers.