Coming off an early-week win over Bowie State, Big Ten play returns for Maryland on Saturday when Wisconsin comes to XFINITY Center.
Here are 5 things you need to know about the 6:30 p.m. tip.
1) Already one win, but now different circumstances
Yes, Maryland has a win over Wisconsin already this season. But that Maryland victory in Madison was part of a stretch where the Badgers lost four of five games. Now, Wisconsin comes in having won six straight games, a stretch that includes victories over Michigan State and Indiana.
It took the Badgers some time to get their footing after the departure of head coach Bo Ryan, but Greg Gard appears to have steadied the ship. When asked on Friday, Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon says even he feels like that Jan. 9 game was a long time ago.
2) You remember the shot, but what about what led to it?
Melo Trimble’s heroics are cemented in the history of this season, but not so much the circumstances that led up to that point. With 1:28 to play in that game, two Robert Carter, Jr. free throws made it an eight-point game.
What followed were two misses on the front ends of Maryland one-and-ones and the Badgers clawed back to tie it. Then came Trimble’s shot.
This time around, Maryland is more confident it could handle a late-game situation better defensively. Trimble said it is maturity. Turgeon has also stressed defense specifically over the past few weeks, which could add to it.
3) The ball question
For the first time publicly, Turgeon responded to talk about the difference between Under Armour basketballs and other brands that other teams use. It is an issue unique to college basketball -- and it’s likely not changing any time soon.
Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes, as part of a larger answer that featured a few jabs at the NCAA’s economic model, said he less than prefers the balls. Turgeon said that anytime a program uses a unique brand, it can provide an edge. Sure, it’s something to adjust to, but does it really affect an outcome?
If Wisconsin’s offense struggles, I’d be more apt to point to Maryland’s improved defense, which has become its strength as it endures some offensive issues itself.
4) Speaking of Nigel Hayes…
Hayes needed 15 shots to get 17 points the first time these two teams met, which was part of the reason Maryland was able to get a win in Madison. But during this winning streak, he has been on a tear for the Badgers.
In the past six games, Hayes is averaging 21.5 points per game and carrying this offense. As far as Maryland’s defensive assignments, expect Carter to get looks against him, as well as senior Jake Layman. Layman has evolved into a proven stopper for the Terrapins this season and he would be the best option to shut down any type of big-time performance.
5) Implications of this game
Entering Saturday, there is a three-way tie atop the Big Ten with Maryland, Indiana, and Iowa all at 10-2 in conference play. The Terrapins control their own destiny.
But if one is looking for places that a loss could occur, it cannot be here for Maryland. Having to go on the road to Purdue and on the road to Indiana, they almost have to sweep the rest of their home contests to put themselves in the best position.
In regards to a bracket, they likely need to win out and make a deep run in the Big Ten tournament to get into the No. 1 seed conversation. One loss in the final six games likely won’t hurt their chances of a No. 2 seed, but again, those road matchups loom and it always feels better to take care of business at home and play with house money on the road.