Maryland opens its Big Ten schedule on Wednesday afternoon in College Park against Penn State at the atypical time of 5 p.m.
Here are 5 things you need to know about the matchup.
1) Entering league play
After an 11-1 finish in the non-conference slate, Maryland now opens the Big Ten portion of its schedule against Penn State. Despite being a highly ranked team, there is a good deal of internal progress that has been made so far this season.
Diamond Stone has taken big strides, now in a new role as the team’s sixth man. Jaylen Brantley has gained confidence in himself and instilled confidence in the coaching staff and his teammate to make himself a good backcourt option. Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon have become elite complementary pieces.
Now comes the night-after-night test in the Big Ten.
2) Battled-tested now
The way Maryland structured its schedule was key. By having games against Georgetown, North Carolina, and Connecticut, the Terrapins have had to play on three national television stages in three close games to begin the year.
Trimble even went so far as to say that the Terrapins were “glad” they lost to the Tar Heels because in doing so they learned just how high their ceiling might be this season.
3) A versatile Penn State lineup
Maryland has struggled against smaller lineups this season that force Terrapin bigs to chase guards around the perimeter. Penn State can give you a little bit of that, though head coach Mark Turgeon said he expects them to try to match his team’s size.
Brandon Taylor is the team’s biggest threat, averaging 16.2 points per game as an undersized but powerful 6-6 power forward. He can step out toward the perimeter, too, which will test Robert Carter, Jr., who will likely defend him.
Fortunately for Maryland, DJ Newbill has graduated. He torched the Terrapins last year. Now the backcourt focus is Shep Garner, who is second on the team in points while leading the Nittany Lions in assists and steals.
4) The Melo Switch
Melo Trimble has been much more able to flip the offensive switch this season. By that, I mean he can be a dominant, takeover scorer when he needs to be, but he can also sense when others are hot and find ways to get them the ball.
Part of that development is thanks to Sulaimon, who is such a good distributor off the bounce that it has rubbed off on Trimble.
The fun part is, you never can really know which Trimble will come out of the gate, but you tend to get a feeling over the first few minutes which way he will lean.
5) Production from the alternative bigs
Diamond Stone has been terrific, as has Robert Carter, Jr. Where Maryland needs some supplementary production -- in some form -- is from Damonte Dodd and Michal Cekovsky. It does not need to be offensive. The Terrapins have plenty of scorers for that.
But Dodd and Ceko are averaging a combined 4.7 rebounds and one block in 28.7 minutes per game. Does it begin to shift into gear tonight?