From Friday’s sport at Purdue (6-3, 1-1 Large Ten) onward, the Terps will face one convention opponent after one other, all the way in which till the NCAA match, in the event that they make it that far. The Large Ten touted its high quality and depth final season, and the convention’s stature stays unchanged. However this time, Maryland (5-2, 0-1) seems up at its Large Ten friends from the underside tier of most projections and rankings quite than navigating the load of expectations that surrounded final season’s squad, which shared the convention title.
The Terps started their convention slate with a loss in opposition to No. 11 Rutgers on Dec. 14 earlier than a week-long layoff. In opposition to La Salle, the staff set to work on its drawback areas and luxuriate in a win following a two-game dropping streak. Now Maryland plunges into the Large Ten, which leads the nation with seven groups ranked in the AP poll, together with 4 within the high 12.
Maryland will play Christmas Day for the primary time since 1984, and the street journey to Purdue marks the primary of six difficult video games in a span of simply over two weeks. After the Boilermakers, the Terps face No. 9 Wisconsin (a staff that returns practically its complete rotation from final season’s crew that gained a share of the Large Ten common season title), No. 19 Michigan (which boasts the highest freshman class within the convention) and Indiana (led by sophomore ahead Trayce Jackson-Davis, who’s averaging 21.1 factors per sport). Maryland’s opponents after that? The No. Four Iowa Hawkeyes and star heart Luka Garza, an early candidate for nationwide participant of the yr, then No. 18 Illinois and Ayo Dosunmu, one other one of many nation’s finest gamers.
That stretch will likely be daunting, exhausting and revealing. By Jan. 10, when the Terps head residence from their sport in Champaign, Sick., they may have a significantly better sense of how properly they will compete within the convention and whether or not they can generate the performances wanted to drift across the center of the Large Ten standings.
“I believe we realized quite a bit about ourselves,” senior guard Darryl Morsell stated after the 74-60 loss in opposition to Rutgers. “One of many largest takeaways is each possession issues at this degree. You’re taking a foul shot one possession, you may find yourself dropping by one or two [points], and that possession may have modified the sport. … I believe everyone knows and all see the Large Ten is hard.”
To compete on this league, Coach Mark Turgeon stated his staff should enhance defensively. In Ken Pomeroy’s analytics-based ratings, Maryland completed with a top-25 protection in every of the previous two seasons. Via seven video games this season, the Terps’ protection is ranked 81st. La Salle hit 14 three-pointers on 29 makes an attempt in opposition to Maryland. Each Rutgers and Clemson, the 2 groups that beat the Terps, shot not less than 45 p.c from past the arc.
“Our protection hasn’t been as much as par in any respect within the final couple video games,” stated Wiggins, referring to the 2 losses earlier than the win over La Salle. “Even when pictures aren’t falling for us, protection actually wins video games. And if our protection is at its finest, we nonetheless have an opportunity to win each sport we play.”
Turgeon thought the defensive effort in opposition to La Salle confirmed progress. He stated the ultimate 5 minutes of the primary half had been the perfect he has seen his staff play on that finish of the ground this season. However Large Ten play will likely be a “completely different animal,” Turgeon stated, as a result of most of these opponents could have a dominant heart who will check Maryland within the paint.
Purdue leans on 7-foot-Four freshman Zach Edey, who’s scoring 10.Three factors per sport, and 6-10 junior Trevion Williams (13.eight factors). Maryland stays in quest of rim safety, a weak point that may be exploited by the convention’s high huge males, together with Garza, Kofi Cockburn of Illinois and Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson. Maryland sophomore Chol Marial, a 7-2 heart coming back from a prolonged damage layoff, nonetheless lacks the sport expertise wanted to compete with gamers of that caliber. This upcoming stretch in convention play ought to unmask the extent to which these frontcourt questions could harm the Terps this season.
Maryland’s roster has expertise and seasoned gamers, however the staff’s begin to the season supplied a mixture of regarding weaknesses and promising indicators. The Terps have restricted turnovers currently, however they’re nonetheless struggling from three-point vary. The staff’s athletic guards have countered the current taking pictures stoop by driving to the rim, although that will likely be a harder process in convention play. Wiggins (elbow) and Morsell (shoulder) gained’t blame their accidents, however each have handled nagging points that affected their taking pictures.
The coaches, Turgeon stated, can’t work to unravel each drawback without delay, so they may take it one piece at a time. And now each few days a brand new convention opponent will stand able to measure Maryland’s progress.
“In the event you’ve ever coached or ever handled younger folks, you simply attempt to do it slightly bit at a time and get higher,” Turgeon stated. “Sadly, we’ve got fairly a bit to get higher at. However we’ve got some veteran guys which have achieved it earlier than. We’re in a greater place than we had been. We really feel like we’re getting higher. Now whether or not it can present up within the outcomes, we’ll see.”