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Minnesota Basketball: Previewing Maryland

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Four straight losses mean the Gophers desperately need a win

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The brutal losses are starting to pile up, which means there’s once again a sense of normalcy around here. At least we’ve got that, right?

After another soul-crushing loss on the road to Ohio State, the Gophers are riding a four-game losing streak into a home matchup against #22 Maryland, who currently sits atop the conference standings with Wisconsin. A strong start to the season gave Minnesota a sizeable margin of error, which they’ve used up quite effectively, but they come into Saturday’s game looking to stop the bleeding and get into the win column.

The conference schedule isn’t doing the Gophers any favors, who have been forced through a death march against the B1G’s top teams, while putting them on the road more often than not. Unfortunately, it’s not like the cure is facing a Melo Trimble-led Terrapins team who has lost just twice all season.

The good news? The Gophers have made things close at pretty much every turn. With the exception of a terrible first half against Michigan State, Minnesota has been in every game this season. Their last three losses have been by only eight points TOTAL, which should give an indication of how tight things have been.

Essentials:

Who are the Gophers playing?

Maryland Terrapins (18-2, 6-1)

What time are they playing?

1:15 p.m. CT

Where are they playing?

Williams Arena

Can I watch the game on TV?

Yes, BTN

Can I listen to the game on the radio?

Yes. ESPN 1500.

Tell me more about the opponent.

Let’s talk for a minute about Maryland’s record. They’re 18-2 overall and 6-1 in the Big Ten, which sounds daunting, until you unpack their schedule. And long story short, they just haven’t played anyone. Their best wins are against Kansas State and Oklahoma State, while they’ve inflated their conference record by playing Illinois twice, Rutgers, Iowa, Nebraska, and Indiana. I mean, come on.

So, yes, the Terps are 18-2 overall, but they’re something of a paper tiger. The metrics would agree, as their SOS is second-worst in the conference ahead of Rutgers according to KenPom. The Gophers will be by far the best team Maryland has faced all season, and it comes on the road for a team that hasn’t exactly been rolling through opponents. There’s a reason Vegas has Minnesota as a 5-point favorite.

Schedule aside, the Terrapins do have weapons, though it all stops and starts with junior guard Melo Trimble. Trimble is one of the best guards in the country, averaging a cool 17 ppg to go along with 4 rpg and 3 apg. He’s a had a little Nate Mason in him recently, however, and had a stretch where his shot just wasn’t there and he wasn’t getting to the line. Trimble can be stopped, but it’s not an easy task.

The Terps are a deep team, though, and get 29 ppg and 15 rpg from three freshman.

Keys to the Game

1. Veterans, are you there?

Nate Mason finally reappeared in the Ohio State game after being MIA for a few games. And the promotion of Akeem Springs to the starting lineup has been a great move by Pitino. Maryland is a young team, and three freshman get major minutes, so it’ll be important for the Gophers to have a solid foundation of veterans to rely on at home. Springs and Mason have to be consistent and set the tone.

Remember, the Gophers beat Maryland last year at home, which was one of only two conference wins. The Terps are beatable.

2. Convert close to the hoop

Reggie Lynch finally did a great job of staying on the court in the Ohio State game, racking up a season high 34 minutes. But the Gophers need more than him just being on the court, they need conversions close to the hoop. Lynch gets plenty of easy looks, but a lot of them just aren’t falling. In games that are decided by six points or less every basket counts, and the duffed bunnies are costing Minnesota important points.

Predictions

KenPom likes the Gophers by 5 in this one, 69-64. I like the Gophers to finally get back in the win column in a 3-point victory.