Maryland comes off an emotional loss to North Carolina to face St. Francis (PA) on Friday night at XFINITY Center in College Park.
Here are 5 things you need to know.
1) Avoiding another trap game
This has seemed to be the rhythm of Maryland’s season. They opened the year against a tough mid-major Mount St. Mary’s squad, hoping not to overlook them with Georgetown on the horizon. They had to face Rider before a trip to Cancun. Same thing. They had to play Cleveland State before a showdown in Chapel Hill.
Now they face St. Francis on Friday night before going to New York City next week to face Connecticut. The good news for Maryland is that they have gotten through each of these trap games so far this season. We’ll see again on Friday.
2) Back to the mid-major issues?
Maryland was in its element against North Carolina. The Tar Heels were a big team who matched up straight up with two bigs, a wing, and two guards. Their play reflected it.
Now Maryland goes back to facing a mid-major that is built like teams that have given them trouble in the past. The Red Flash will show you a smaller lineup, which means Maryland bigs will have to chase around smaller players and that has given them trouble in the past.
The key is cutting off driving lanes and rotating crisply when the ball is moved on the perimeter to get a hand in shooters’ faces. One positive? St. Francis is shooting just 31.9 percent from three-point range. That’s 223rd in the nation.
3) Team building paying off?
Maryland had travel problems on the way back from Chapel Hill, ultimately being forced to take a bus home after Tuesday’s loss. That’s a long ride for a team coming off an emotional loss. They watched film and bonded, head coach Mark Turgeon said.
Can they bottle up that energy, especially from the second half against North Carolina, and carry it over?
4) Expect more second-half Melo
Melo Trimble was out of sorts to start the game, partly because referees were letting the two teams play (and he predicates his game on being able to get to the line) but also because he looked a bit rattled by North Carolina’s pressure early.
That second half was a different story. He was pulling up from all over the floor and going shot for shot with North Carolina’s Marcus Paige. That’s the Melo we know and the one I’d expect to see going forward.
5) Building guard depth
Turgeon said after Tuesday’s loss that he needs to continue to build guard depth in the backcourt. That starts with Jaylen Brantley most prominently, but also includes finding ways to use Varun Ram in defensive situations to shield Trimble from foul trouble.
St. Francis is the type of team where we could see Brantley get extended minutes. The junior college transfer said on Thursday that the next step is feeling that he is getting full confidence from Turgeon to be out on the floor. Will Friday be a big step?