After beating Nebraska on Friday night, Maryland has something of a short turnaround when it faces Michigan State at approximately 3:30 p.m. in Indianapolis in one of the two Big Ten tournament semifinal games.
Here are 5 things you need to know.
1) Rematch on a neutral floor
Maryland did not get Michigan State in College Park this year, instead only going to East Lansing to face the Spartans. Head coach Mark Turgeon has been casually pointing out every once in a while the fact that his team, in general, had tough road opponents this conference season.
Now the Terrapins get their chance to avenge that loss on a neutral floor, this time with a spot in the Big Ten tournament title game on the line.
It will likely be a Michigan State-heavy crowd just because of Indianapolis’ proximity to East Lansing, but Turgeon said before the team left for the trip that there is something about neutral site games that give both teams the feeling they can win when they walk onto the floor.
2) The Denzel Problem
The National Player of the Year race is the kind of two-man battle that we don’t often see. Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield has continued his unbelievably efficient scoring season in the Big 12 tournament, while Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine continues to do a lot of a lot of different things for the Spartans.
Maryland’s focus on Saturday is Valentine, who enters the game averaging 19.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 7.5 assists per game while shooting 45 percent from three-point range. He nearly posted a triple-double the last time these two teams met.
Valentine makes the entire Michigan State machine work by both taking it himself and helping to get others involved. Maryland could throw different looks at him, whether that be an athletic, long wing like Jake Layman, or a fast perimeter defender like Rasheed Sulaimon.
3) The rebounding battle
Michigan State was +10 on the glass last time out against Maryland and grabbed 17 offensive rebounds. Aside from Valentine, center Matt Costello was the biggest reason for that. His relentlessness on the boards helped him to tally 12 in total, with six on each end of the floor.
Even if first-shot defense is good for Maryland, that can all be negated by allowing an offensive rebound. Allowing an offensive rebound forces a team to either defend for another exhausting 30 seconds, or they find themselves so far out of position that second-chance points for the opposition come easily.
A positive sign for Maryland? Freshman Diamond Stone looked as engaged and active against Nebraska as he has been all season.
4) Have to improve defensively
Turgeon even admitted it after Friday night’s win over Nebraska. Maryland will need to defend better if it wants to beat Michigan State. The Huskers managed to shoot 47 percent from the floor and make 11 threes on Friday, despite losing.
Allow that against the Spartans and you’ll be buried.
Too often Maryland seemed lost on the perimeter defensively, usually when smaller lineups got loose behind the arc. That falls on players like Robert Carter, Jr. and Melo Trimble to close out on shooters. The Spartans are the nation’s No. 1 team when it comes to three-point shooting at 43.6 percent -- an entire percentage point higher than the nation’s No. 2 team in that category, Oklahoma.
5) Seeding implications
Maryland is somewhere on the line between a No. 4 and No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament heading into Saturday’s game. A win would be a signature victory -- one it needs since the team’s victory over Iowa has lost its luster with the way the Hawkeyes finished the season.
It would also add Top 25 and Top 50 wins, which Maryland desperately needs as it trails other teams in the country in those categories. The Terps also missed out on the chance at a Top 50 RPI win because Nebraska upset Wisconsin, making Saturday’s game even more critical.