A confluence of factors led to Michigan State toppling No. 9 Maryland in College Park over the weekend.
Whether it was the team being a little too excited to play in such a monumental game, their slow starts, or Cassius Winston, the Spartans showed that they were a superior team that evening. Another issue though, that has drawn criticism throughout the season, was the Terps' depth.
"We need to be a deeper team if we’re going to beat a team like [Michigan State] and I mean they were terrific tonight,” Mark Turgeon said in his postgame press conference.
A glance at the box score would show you their depth was significantly lacking. Jalen Smith had 20 points and 12 rebounds, followed by Anthony Cowan Jr.'s 13 points and Donta Scott's 10. Michigan State had four starters pour in 13 points or more. Maryland's next three on the depth chart, including two starters, combined for 15 points on 5-for-19 shooting. That's not going to win a team too many games in March.
The issue of Maryland's depth though extends further than just the one game.
On the offensive end, nearly 44% of their production comes from Smith and Cowan. Aaron Wiggins is the only other player that consistently scores 10 points a contest and he comes off the bench.
Rather, he is the only player that comes off the bench.
Maryland routinely runs a six-man rotation. Ever since the Mitchell twins transferred, Turgeon has limited playing time to a select few. That can be problematic on the offensive and defensive ends
If production comes from primarily Maryland's two stars, it's hard to piece together enough points to remain competitive against a high-paced offense. If Maryland plays an aggressive brand of defense that Turgeon has been emphasizing all year, players are going to get burned out.
Which is the case. Throughout the year, several players have sat out practices to get rest in-between games. This isn't uncommon among high-level programs this time of year, but it does limit the capabilities of preparation. Perhaps it has caught up with them as the only thing that prevented the Terps from having a three-game losing streak is a buzzer-beater from Darryl Morsell last week against Minnesota.
Michigan State, which has a nine-player rotation, isn't going to be the only team with depth they face in March. It will be hard to find a team in the NCAA Tournament, mid-major or Power 5, that doesn't go far down its bench. A common expectation is for teams to be eight or nine players deep. Games every day (Big Ten Tournament) or every other day (NCAA Tournament) will wear on a short rotation.
An easy solution isn't exactly obvious. Ricky Lindo Jr. and Chol Marial have seen larger stretches, but filling in every handful of minutes makes it hard to get into a rhythm. Maybe the answer is Hakim Hart, whose minutes have grown in the past two games and has shown an ability to hit shots.
Smith and Cowan are phenomenal and together can put together a great run through the postseason. But they'll need others to produce on occasion and more than a random 15-point night from Wiggins.
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