Maryland goes on the road Thursday to face a Minnesota team that is winless in Big Ten play. Here are 5 things you need to know.
1) The crazy season continues
Maryland’s road to a Big Ten title got a lot tougher after losing to Wisconsin on Saturday. Thanks to Penn State’s upset win over Iowa on Wednesday, though, a win over Minnesota gets Maryland back into a three-way tie with the Hawkeyes and Indiana atop the conference.
What’s even more indicative of how unpredictable this season has been? Iowa was one of three Top 5 teams to lose on Wednesday lone. Oklahoma lost to Texas Tech. North Carolina lost to Duke.
The biggest takeaway from that is this: everyone loses. Maryland’s loss to Wisconsin is far from reason to panic for the Terrapins. This season remains wide open.
2) No Diamond Stone, so how do they react?
Maryland’s five-star freshman will serve his one-game suspension when the Terrapins face Minnesota, taking away a major interior force offensively for this team.
When Maryland is at its best, it works the ball inside and forces the defense to react by either letting Stone work one-on-one on the block or doubling, which frees up shooters on the perimeter. Yes, Robert Carter, Jr. is still in the lineup (and will be a focal point) but having Stone alongside him makes them that much more dangerous.
Now, the bench becomes thinner because Damonte Dodd moves into the starting lineup. Can they avoid the big man issues they have against Northwestern when Michal Cekovsky was sick and Stone was in foul trouble? That game went to overtime before Stone helped them to seal it late.
3) Carlos Morris dismissed
Minnesota’s fourth-leading scorer, Carlos Morris, has been dismissed from the team, head coach Richard Pitino announced on Wednesday.
Though his scoring has been streaky this Big Ten season, he was one of the two players who scored in double figures the last time these two teams met.
4) Melo working toward 100 percent health
Trimble is coming off of his most trying game of the season, going 1-of-14 from the floor in the loss to Wisconsin. Head coach Mark Turgeon said that Trimble is close to 100 percent health. Early this year, he was limited by a back and hamstring injury.
Maryland’s offense, which all starts with Trimble’s diverse set of skills, has struggled in patches of late, like against Northwestern, Ohio State on the road, and against Wisconsin.
Whether or not the injury recovery plays a part, there are more tangible explanations too. One might be found at the free throw line. It has been a point of contention for Turgeon all season, hoping that the sophomore would get more foul calls when getting into the lane.
Being that he hits from the line at such a high clip, free throws mean more efficient stat lines like against Nebraska (20 points on 5-of-7 FG, 7-of-9 FT). Also, don’t forget about the pick-and-roll. Trimble is arguably the best point guard in the country out of that set and Maryland always has it in its back pocket if the offense stalls.
5) Will bench production be there?
Jaylen Brantley played 10 minutes against Wisconsin, perhaps an indication that Turgeon is willing to lean on the junior college transfer to take some pressure off of Trimble and Sulaimon. But with Dodd now in the starting lineup sans Stone, more production needs to come from somewhere.
Could it be Jared Nickens? Or Michal Cekovsky? Ivan Bender may even get some run to patch any need.