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Minnesota Basketball: Previewing Maryland

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Gophers try to keep the good times rolling at home

NCAA Basketball: Seton Hall at Maryland Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The planets have aligned in a very strange way recently, which has resulted in things like 40-degree temperatures in January and wins over Wisconsin IN MADISON in football and basketball. What a time to be alive folks.

If you didn’t catch the game last week, it was simply glorious. There were so many itches to scratch. A first half of pouting from Badger players and fans alike. Tons of missed free throws from Ethan Happ. A technical foul ON Brad Davison for being a chirping idiot, Brad Davison scoring only four points (two of which were meaningless in the final seconds), Brad Davison losing, Brad Davison losing to his home state school, Brad Davison having more fouls than assists, Brad Davison getting benched for being ineffective. It was quite a night!

Okay, but enough screwing around. Actually, wait. One more. Did you see this one?

That could sustain me for decades. But seriously, at the end of the day it was a fantastic and unexpected win in an extremely unfriendly environment for the Gophers. They once again showed an ability to rise to the occasion down the stretch when they appeared to be on the ropes, which is becoming a theme this year. Maybe a solid veteran presence is helping? I dunno, it’s very strange and creepy.

The win gives Minnesota some breathing room and a chance to really help themselves in the first half of the conference schedule, which is markedly less aggressive than the back half **shivers**. Maryland is the next test.

The Terps are good, but beatable, and hosting them at Williams Arena gives the Gophers some cushion in what is sure to be a game of haymakers. A win vaults the winner to an enviable 4-1 in conference play and sets a tone as a force to be reckoned with for the foreseeable future.

Essentials:

Who are the Gophers playing?

Maryland Terrapins (3-1, 12-3)

What time are they playing?

Tuesday, Jan. 8 @ 6 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, KTLK 1130-AM/103.5-FM

Tell me more about the opponent.

The Terps have had a successful season so far, but have lacked the big-time win that would vault them into the conversation of potential Big Ten champs. They’re claim to fame so far this year is a home win over Nebraska, but other than than they’ve played a fairly innocuous schedule with losses to Virgina, Purdue and Seton Hall. Long story short, they’re a beatable opponent. As of today, the Gophers have received more votes than Maryland in both polls, though KenPom has them 20 points higher.

Maryland is led by junior standout Anthony Cowan Jr., who is averaging a cool 16.5 ppg and while dishing out four assists per game. He’s become one of the better scorers in the conference and has risen to become a leader for the Terps. He can light it up from anywhere on the court and is especially adept at shooting threes and free throws. He’s a dangerous dude.

He’s joined by Bruno Fernando, a versatile forward who is averaging a double double this year en route to 14.5 ppg and 10 rpg. He rolled up 18 points and 17 rebounds in the Maryland win over Nebraska, He also leads the Big Ten in blocks, and will be clogging up the middle all night against Minnesota.

Freshman forward Jalen Smith is the third of a three-headed Maryland scoring monster, and hasn’t missed a beat since joining college ball. An electric dunker, Smith is averaging more than 12 ppg and while pulling down nearly seven boards.

They’re an athletic team that can score a lot of points in a hurry and are one of the better scoring teams in the nation. Their kryptonite, however, has been turnover margin, where they rank near the bottom of the conference in both forcing and committing turnovers.

What to Watch For

Where is Isaiah Washington?
Jelly didn’t play a single minute against Wisconsin, in a game where Richard Pitino decided to roll with senior guard Brock Stull instead of the exciting, but unreliable Washington. It paid off, with Stull hitting two crucial three pointers and playing largely mistake-free basketball. But that was the game plan for Wisconsin. To beat Maryland the Gophers will need to be a little more aggressive and up-tempo, a game where Washington has opportunity. Still, zero minutes is anything but a show of confidence, but has he been completely written off?

Jordan Murphy’s ability to stay on the court
A win masks a lot of drawbacks, but one glaring one this season has been Jordan Murphy’s inability to stay on the court in big games. He’s taking far too many dumb fouls for a senior leader, and has racked up four or more fouls in six games already this year, and fouled out early against Wisconsin. The Terps are one of the best rebounding teams in the conference and Minnesota will need all of its firepower to battle with them. Part of that is Murphy staying on the court and knowing when to back off a bit.

Predictions

Are we having fun yet? KenPom likes Maryland by one, which isn’t a vote of confidence for the Gophers by any means. Still, they tend to win when I pick them to lose, so I’m taking the Terps by two in a barn-burner.