Maryland travels on the road to West Lafayette on Saturday to face a Purdue team that they have already beaten once this season. But the enormous Boilermakers now get to play one in their own house as they fight for seeding in the Big Ten tournament.
Here are five things you need to know about the 4 p.m. tip.
1) Winning out means at least a share of the Big Ten title
It’s just the way this season is. You can lose back-to-back games late in the conference season -- including one to a sub-200 RPI team -- and still be in contention for a share of the league title. Mark Turgeon says that is the team’s singular focus right now.
Maryland controls its own destiny in its quest for a share of the title, meaning it needs no help from anyone else. Win the next three and at least a part is yours. There is another side to the coin, though.
2) But it could go in the other direction too
This much parity within a conference means there’s a fine line between having a chance to win the conference and slipping out of contention for a double bye all at the same time. That’s where Maryland finds itself.
Because Wisconsin beat Iowa, the Badgers enter what is likely a six-team race for four spots that earn double byes in the Big Ten tournament. With two ranked teams (including Purdue) still left to play, Maryland has one of the least-favorable schedules remaining and a win over the Boilermakers would be huge.
3) Another step for Melo?
Melo Trimble’s seven turnovers against Michigan are still a red flag, but the win was a step in the right direction for him mentally. Now he faces a Purdue team that, with the help of Robert Carter, he diced up with the pick-and-roll the first time around.
The Boilermakers could adjust, but Trimble leaned on that two-game and helped to make it the offensive engine in the team’s win earlier this season.
Rest might help him as well, considering the minutes load he has been under. Having six days between games can be a plus.
4) Combatting size again
Carter said it plainly when talking to the media on Friday. Purdue runs its offense through the post and that’s smart because they’re huge. Correct.
The combination of A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas is a duo unlike any other in the country. If one gets in foul trouble, the other is brought off the bench like the Boilermakers are reloading.
That puts a lot of pressure on players like Diamond Stone and Damonte Dodd to defend without fouling. Stone did an especially notable job early in the last meeting between these two games and it can be pointed to as the game that helped him to turn the corner defensively.
5) Going on the road
Purdue shot just five free throws the last time these two teams met. Granted, some of that had to do with the way they were launching threes instead of driving the ball, but part of it has to do with playing on the road.
Now, the tables turn. Maryland is the road team and they consistently feed off of getting to the line -- starting with Trimble. Can they be effective if there end up being less attempts from the line?
The remedy for that is hitting shots. Carter did earlier this year against them and stretched the defense as a true stretch four. This is a game where Trimble’s offense comes in handy. Jake Layman and Rasheed Sulaimon may also be part of the solution as big shot makers.