Basketball Preview: No. 17 Maryland at Ohio State

By Tim Shoemaker on January 31, 2017 at 8:35 am
Ohio State forward Jae'Sean Tate.

Right when it looked like Ohio State turned a corner, as winners of three of four games, the Buckeyes took a giant step backward.


Ohio State played arguably its worst game of the Big Ten season Saturday night in an 85-72 loss at Iowa. The Hawkeyes were without star forward Peter Jok, who sat out with an injured back, and yet the Buckeyes could not get anything done at either end of the floor.

Maryland (19-2, 7-1 B1G) Value City Arena 7 p.m. ESPN

It was as poor a performance as a Thad Matta-led team has had in recent years.

"Iowa was really good, make no mistake about that, but we just weren’t as sharp as we needed to be," Matta said Monday. "Too many empty possessions, too many wasted possessions. We broke our system in terms of what we were supposed to do. Guys were switching when we don’t switch and they didn’t switch when they were supposed to."

"It was one of those games where you have these and you don’t like them.”

Now sitting at just 13–9 overall and 3–6 in the Big Ten, Ohio State begins the second half of conference play Tuesday night. All that's on deck for the Buckeyes? No. 17-ranked and league-leading Maryland.

Not exactly ideal for an Ohio State team which now essentially has zero margin for error. The Buckeyes need to win the rest of their home games and pull a few upsets on the road in the second half if they want to even think about the NCAA tournament again.

Let's break down Tuesday's matchup between Ohio State and Maryland a little further.

Opponent Breakdown

After losing four starters from last season's team, many expected Maryland to take a step backward this year despite the return of All-Big Ten point guard Melo Trimble. But while the metrics still don't necessarily love the Terrapins, the record speaks for itself. Maryland enters Tuesday's game tied for the Big Ten lead with a 7–1 conference mark and a 19–2 record overall.

This is a huge challenge for Ohio State.

"We have to play our best basketball all night," Matta said. "To quote Jim Tressel many years ago, ‘We have to be better than we are.’ To this day, I still don’t know what that means but it’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard in my life."

"With that said, we have to come out and play energized and passionate because we’re playing a great basketball team. Not a good team, a great team.”

Despite its impressive record, Maryland sits at just No. 40 overall in Ken Pomeroy's advanced statistical ratings. The Terps rank 36th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency (95.2 points per 100 possessions) and just 60th in adjusted offensive efficiency (110.7 points per 100 possessions). 

Everything for Maryland still runs through Trimble, the junior point guard who has been one of the Big Ten's best players for the last three years. Trimble averages a team-high 17.1 points and 3.4 assists per game.

The addition of a pair of instant impact freshmen, however, helped Maryland avoid a rebuilding year. Justin Jackson, a 6-foot-7 wing, gives the Terps 11.0 points per game while Anthony Cowan, a 6-foot guard, adds 10.8 per contest.

It's a much different look than last season's Maryland squad outside of Trimble, but the Terps are good and they've proven they're plenty capable of winning tight games and winning on the road.

Maryland is a perfect 8-0 this season in games played outside College Park and the Terps are 4-0 on the road in Big Ten play with wins over Michigan, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota.  

"I think Trimble is one of the best guards in college basketball with everything that he does," Matta said. "They’re going to be really aggressive defensively and they shoot the ball really well. They’ve got a lot of guys that have had a lot of really big games and a lot of times we’ve sort of been that get well card for guys. We’re going to have to be a lot more aggressive defensively, a lot more active and we’ve got to rebound the basketball better than we did the other night.”

Buckeye Breakdown

There weren't a ton of bright spots in Ohio State's 13-point loss at Iowa on Saturday night. The Buckeyes were seemingly run off the floor against a team playing without its best player.

After winning three of four, essentially not showing up for the game against the Hawkeyes was the most disappointing thing for Ohio State. That shouldn't happen.

"You hope that there’s a certain standard that guys are going to hold themselves and their teammates to in terms of 109 practices today and this team has had a tendency to go back and we sort of start over," Matta said. "I think that’s been sort of one of the challenges with this group of just continuing to demand as much as we possibly can." 

"But, I’ve said it all along: We’ve played some excellent basketball; there’s no doubt about it."

The Buckeyes played arguably their worst defensive game of the season as Iowa carved up Ohio State with consistency. The Hawkeyes shot 50 percent from the field and made 10 attempts from 3-point range. Essentially, Iowa got whatever it wanted whenever it wanted.

For a team that hung its hat on defense in the nonconference, the Buckeyes have been wildly inconsistent on that end of the floor in Big Ten play. Ohio State allowed at least 74 points in all six of its conference losses. In their three wins, the Buckeyes allowed 67, 66 and 72 points.

Ohio State's offense isn't nearly good enough to keep up when the Buckeyes aren't defending. That has to change in the second half of the Big Ten season.

"I always say five guys connected and at the beginning of the game we had that," Matta said. "You look at the first possession, we get driven and we rotate to stop the drive, they kick it and we block the shot. There were three guys that weren’t involved in the play that helped the play and we had a flow to what we were doing." 

"[Later], we weren’t high enough on screens, we weren’t active enough, we didn’t have ball pressure. We were like orange cones out there in terms of what they were able to run against us.”

How It Plays Out

As mentioned above, the metrics, for whatever reason, still aren't sky high on Maryland this season. Case in point: KenPom gives Ohio State a 53 percent chance to win Tuesday night and projects a one-point win for the Buckeyes.

After Saturday's performance, that doesn't seem like it makes much sense.

Still, Ohio State usually plays much better at home so the Buckeyes should put on an improved performance. But Maryland, perhaps more than anybody in the league, has already proved it can go on the road and come away with wins.

This will be another close game for Ohio State, but the Terps find a way to get it done down the stretch. 

Tim's prediction: Maryland 75, Ohio State 71

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