4 p.m. ET marks the most intriguing game of the Big Ten slate of basketball games this coming weekend as the Spartans of Michigan State travel to College Park to take on the Maryland Terrapins.
Maryland enters this game as the No. 14 ranked team in the country, and a 16-2 overall record, something that has shocked many experts throughout college basketball. This is Maryland’s first season in the Big Ten, which led many to believe that they would have trouble finding success at the early stage of the season.
A few weeks into their conference schedule, Maryland is holding their own. Besides a loss on the road against Illinois, the team has won games on the road against Michigan State and Purdue, along with home games against Minnesota and Rutgers. Maryland’s only other loss this season came against then No. 7 Virginia on Dec. 3.
Michigan State enters this game with a 12-5 overall record, and a 3-1 conference record. Three of their five losses this season have come in overtime, including a double-overtime loss at home to Maryland on Dec. 30. Three of their losses also came against No. 12 Maryland, No. 11 Kansas, and No. 4 Duke.
This has been a trying season for Michigan State. It is no easy task to replace last year’s powerful trio of Adreian Payne, Keith Appling, and Gary Harris. However, this team has been playing better basketball as of late, and a Tom Izzo-coached team can never be counted out come postseason play.
On Dec. 30, these two teams squared off in East Lansing, in what was each team’s first Big Ten game of the season. Maryland came away with the win in double-overtime, by a final score of 68-66. Michigan State was led by senior guard Travis Trice, who scored 26 points, to go along with six assists. Senior forward Branden Dawson also added nine points and 11 rebounds.
Maryland was led by freshman guard Melo Trimble, who scored 17 points, including 12-for-14 from the free throw line. Senior guard Dez Wells added 16 points, seven rebounds, and five assists, and former Michigan forward Evan Smotrycz contributed nine points and eight rebounds off the bench. Neither team shot the ball well in this game. Maryland shot 33% from the field, including 4-for-22 from three-point land, while Michigan State shot 32% from the field, including 5-for-22 from three.
Maryland won the first meeting due to their ability to knock down free throws when they mattered most. The team shot 32 free throws in the game, connecting on 26 of them, while Michigan State shot only 68% from the line (19/28). Maryland also out-rebounded Michigan State in this game, 52-36.
The key to this game for Maryland is to establish a flow offensively from the beginning of the game. Maryland relies heavily on freshman guard Melo Trimble, who comes into this game averaging nearly 16 points per game. They will need to get him involved in the offense early. They also have been getting solid production from junior forward, Jake Layman, who is averaging 14 points and nearly seven rebounds per game, and senior guard Dez Wells, who is averaging 14 points and five rebounds per game.
The key to this game for Michigan State is to out-hustle Maryland. Tom Izzo’s teams are always extremely physical, and this year’s team is no different. Branden Dawson and Denzel Valentine are the epitome of hustle, and Izzo needs both players to put up a solid effort for Michigan State to come out with a W. They need to effectively rebound the basketball, and avoid turning the ball over on offense. Michigan State always hangs tough in games, even in contests where they are the severe underdog, and I expect this game to be no different.
The Big Ten is starting to play better basketball after some non-conference struggles early on. This game should be a good one. Again, tip-off of this game is at 4pm ET! Getting ready for another exciting Saturday afternoon of college basketball!
*Section Photo credit to Nate Shron, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Mike Carter, USA Today Sports.