The Maryland Terrapins continue to move at a relatively steady climb up the rankings. Coming into the season at #25, they faltered, winning close games against much lesser opponents, and losing two games at home to Pittsburgh and Nebraska.
Since that Nebraska loss on New Years Day, the Terps have been rolling, winning their last six games, including some solid victories at Minnesota, at Iowa and at Michigan. They have climbed up from the 25th spot two weeks ago, to the 22nd spot last week, and now have moved up to #17 but face a tough week ahead of them.
The first test comes at Columbus, tonight at 7:00PM on ESPN. The Buckeyes have been up and down this season, currently sitting outside of the tournament looking in, 13-9 and 3-6 in Big Ten play. The Buckeyes really fail to have a quality win, despite close losses at UCLA and against Purdue.
The Buckeyes are led by Jae’Sean Tate, a Junior who averages 14 points and just over 6 rebounds per game and JaQuan Lyle, a Sophomore who averages 12 points and 5 assists. They will most likely be matched up for most of the night by two freshman for the Terrapins: Justin Jackson and Anthony Cowan.
One of the big injuries in the Big Ten was suffered by Buckeyes’ Keita Bates-Diop, a 6-7 grinder down low who fights on the glass, as he suffered a stress fracture in his leg earlier this month. The Terrapins being rather weak in big men, Ohio State could have taken advantage of a matchup like that.
The Terrapins have a clear advantage when it comes to shooting beyond the arc. Not only are the Terrapins 5th in the Big Ten in three point percentage, but are also 4th in defending the three, a place where Ohio State normally struggles. Ohio State also struggles from the foul line, shooting just over 66% as a team, while Maryland is just under 71%, so if this game comes down to crunch time, Terps will have the odds in their favor.
Ohio State needs to get a run going or they will be staring at two straight seasons missing the big dance in March. They will have their chances, with games @Maryland, @Michigan, @Michigan State and home vs. Wisconsin still on their schedule.
The Terrapins are sitting relatively pretty right now, with a projected #5 seed in the tournament according to Bracketologist Joe Lunardi. The Terrapins schedule toughens up starting Saturday vs. Purdue and continues with road trips to Northwestern and Wisconsin later in February.
This game could be a trap game for the #17 team in the country, but if they continue to go out and play with the type of chemistry that they have possessed these past road games, they will not drop this one.