It’s a homecoming for one star player and an injury test for another, on top of the fact that games on the road are tough to win in conference play.
Maryland-Wisconsin tips at 1 p.m. Here are 5 things you need to know.
1) Diamond’s homecoming
Much has been written about the path that led Diamond Stone from his Milwaukee home to College Park to play his college basketball. On Saturday, he returns to his home state to face the Badgers and in all likelihood the overall reception won’t be so warm.
Fan bases do that. Maryland did it to former Terrapins commit Justin Anderson whenever he would come to XFINITY Center with Virginia. Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, both former Duke Blue Devils who beat Wisconsin in the 2015 NCAA title game, were booed by Bucks fans when they came to Milwaukee as pros. It happens.
The key for Stone will be taking a page out of Rasheed Sulaimon’s book when he returned to North Carolina with the Terrapins earlier this season. Booed relentlessly as another former Blue Devil, Sulaimon says he tried to play within his limits and not let himself fall into a “1-on-5” trap or make the game about a “personal vendetta.”
2) Two different program trajectories this season
Maryland upset a Top 10 Wisconsin team at home last season before the Badgers went on to the national championship game. The Badgers, now with the Terrapins ranked No. 3 in the country, are hoping to return the favor.
Wisconsin has had to endure the loss of two NBA first-rounders, Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, as well as the in-season retirement of coach Bo Ryan. They are 9-7 on the year. Handing a top-flight team its first loss of the conference season would be nice touch.
3) Concern about Melo Trimble’s injury
Head coach Mark Turgeon used the word “better” to describe Trimble’s condition on Thursday, as compared to Wednesday when he played only 14 minutes because of a hamstring injury that has been an issue dating all the way back to last season.
He is expected to play against Wisconsin, but Turgeon also used the word “concerned,” which likely means concern that there could be some lingering effects of the injury as the season progresses.
Trimble is not an explosive player, so the injury would not affect him in that way. It would be more about lift on his jump shots and his shiftiness being limited when he attacks the basket.
4) The problems Wisconsin has had
Last season, the Badgers were the No. 1 team in the country when it came to offensive efficiency, thanks in large part to Kaminsky and Dekker, and a freakishly low turnover percentage -- just seven total turnovers per game.
This season, both of those strengths have become issues. The Badgers are 102nd in turnover percentage this season and 132nd in points per possession. Combine that with the fact that their pace is one of the slowest in the country and they become susceptible to slipping into holes that are difficult to dig out of.
That is where Maryland can strike. With a collection of three-point shooters and the ability to rip off quick double-digit runs, the Terrapins will always have that card up their sleeve against a team like the Badgers. If their shooters are on, that is.
5) More production from the bench
Stone is an enormous part of Maryland’s bench attack. That’s part of the reason why he’s there, to add a scoring boost. But the Terrapins will need more from the others, starting with guard Jared Nickens and center Michal Cekovsky.
Nickens looked good against Rutgers, approaching a double-double, and is a constant three-point threat. Consistency is the question. Cekovsky does not need to be a Stone-level scorer, but really just be a second-unit Damonte Dodd -- getting rebounds and using his fouls wisely.
The bench might be the last piston that needs to fire for this whole Maryland engine to be running nearly perfectly.