Evaluating Big Ten Resumes Through the Non-Conference Season

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 29th, 2015

The Big Ten non-conference schedule ended on Sunday and conference play begins this evening when Purdue ventures into the Kohl Center and battles a Bo Ryan-less Wisconsin team at 6:00 PM CT. Now that we’re at this natural evaluation point, the Big Ten microsite has rank-ordered the 14 Big Ten resumes using KenPom rankings instead of RPI — which the selection committee uses — because the RPI does not become a reliable metric until later. The table below displays each resume from best to worst and illustrates each team’s KenPom current ranking, strength of schedule, record against different groups of rankings, best win (and whether it was home, away, or neutral game), and worst loss. Below that we provide a few notes of interest on each resume.

b1g resume 2015

Resume Notes

  • Michigan State: The obvious top pick. Not only are the Spartans undefeated but they have three wins against the KenPom top 25: Kansas (KP#2), Louisville (KP#6), and Florida (KP#22). Tom Izzo usually challenges his teams with difficult non-conference schedules, a tactic which usually leads to a handful of early losses. This year, however, Sparty escaped unscathed. If Michigan State can simply manage to tread water while Denzel Valentine is out of the lineup for two weeks, it will be in the running for the overall #1 NCAA Tournament seed in two months.
  • Purdue: The Boilermakers were surprisingly routed by Butler (KP#20) in last week’s Crossroads Classic, but they still have three top 30 wins against Vanderbilt (KP#18), Florida (KP#22), and at Pittsburgh (KP#27). The rest of Purdue’s schedule is generally unremarkable except in that it has dominated its opponents, winning by an average margin of over 20 points per game. Right now, Purdue is headed toward a top-four protected seed in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Maryland: While the Terrapins didn’t play the most challenging non-conference schedule, they did enough with wins against Connecticut (KP#31), Rhode Island (KP#63), and Georgetown (KP#75) to carry a top-three resume. Their only game against an elite team was at North Carolina, where they put up a valiant fight but eventually succumbed to their only loss. Despite the missed opportunity, Maryland is also in line for a top-four protected seed.

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Big Ten Weekend Look Ahead: 12.19.15 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 19th, 2015

After a quiet week for the league, this weekend storms in with some great games. The centerpiece of the next two days will be the Crossroads Classic, an event that takes the four most prestigious programs from the country’s most basketball-rich state and pairs them together in Indianapolis. It’s turned into one of the premier events before conference plays begins. Here is your weekend preview:

The Crossroads Classic

The Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis is upon us once again this Saturday.

  • Northwestern at Depaul (Saturday, 2:00 PM ET, FS1). People may not have noticed, but Northwestern is 9-1 with its sole loss against North Carolina–a game which was at least competitive in the first half. Not many have jumped on the Wildcats’ bandwagon because their schedule as of today has been laughable. Only two of their wins have come from teams ranked higher than #175 on KenPom and both those wins came in overtime. A win at DePaul (5-5) wouldn’t convert many to be believers, but it would represent Northwestern’s best win of the season (given their light schedule thus far).
  • Notre Dame vs Indiana (Saturday, 2:00 PM ET, ESPN2). This is the opener to the Crossroads Classic and Mike Brey decided to turn up the heat to it when he said yesterday that Notre Dame was the most consistent program in the state, “and it isn’t close”. It’s not certain whether his statement was a direct shot at their upcoming opponents, the only blueblood program in the state, or it was just innocuous praise for himself and assistant coaches. Either way, it should be a highly entertaining and frenetic game as both these teams have Top 5 offenses paired with pedestrian defenses. The game might come down to whoever makes the most threes or who has the most transition points. Grab the popcorn before you watch this one.

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Andrew White: The Big Ten’s Most Underrated Player

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 17th, 2015

We’ve written a lot about Nebraska here at the Big Ten microsite, perhaps more than a borderline NCAA Tournament team deserves. But there’s some reasoning behind it, as the Cornhuskers have become one of the most interesting stories in the Big Ten this season. They’ve done so despite losing one of the league’s best players from a season ago, but their offense has actually improved without Terran Petteway’s volume shooting. Another major factor in that improvement has been the emergence of Kansas transfer Andrew White, the Huskers’ leading scorer (16.7 PPG) and second-leading rebounder (5.1 RPG). But the 6’7” junior isn’t just a typical star on a middling team — he’s an All-Big Ten caliber player who is playing efficiently in almost every possible way. White ranks among the league’s top 10 in field goals made (seventh), field goal percentage (sixth), effective field goal percentage (fourth), true shooting percentage (10th), three-point field goals made (sixth), free throw attempts (10th), free-throw percentage (sixth), steals (sixth), and points per game (seventh). He hasn’t received much coverage outside of Lincoln, which gives the Nebraska star an early claim as the Big Ten’s most underrated player this season.

Andrew White has been the biggest impact player on a better-than-expected Nebraska squad. (Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications)

Andrew White has been the biggest impact player on a better-than-expected Nebraska squad. (Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications)

White, the Virginia Player of the Year as a prep senior, was considered among the top 50 prospects in the country when he committed to Kansas in 2012. When he decided to transfer to Tim Miles’ burgeoning program after his sophomore season, White’s career averages of only 2.3 PPG and 1.2 RPG suggested that perhaps he had been overrated. Take a closer look, though, and you’ll see that he lost a lot of potential playing time during his second year to future No.1 pick Andrew Wiggins, an entirely understandable situation. Being recruited over by Bill Self — always a possibility in a basketball factory like Lawrence — forced White to move to a school where he has ended up in a better situation. Miles certainly isn’t upset about it.

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Big Ten M5: 12.16.15 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 16th, 2015

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  1. While most of the country was about to go to bed last night, Bo Ryan decided to shock the college basketball world and announce his retirement, effective immediately. If you remember, Ryan said in the offseason that this would be his last year at Wisconsin, but then backtracked on those comments before the season started. This is a transparent move on Ryan’s part to get his protege — Greg Gard, who will become interim coach the rest of the season — at least a shot to show he can coach this program well into the future. However well Gard does with the remainder of the season, however, look for athletic director Barry Alvarez to see if he can pry Tony Bennett from Virginia as soon as the season is over.
  2. After their disastrous showing at the Maui Invitational where they went 1-2 in the losers bracket, followed by an embarrassing shellacking at Duke on national TV, Indiana has been largely ignored by the media and written off as serious Final Four contenders. But don’t look now, the Hoosier have won three decisive victories in a row (all games won by 30+ points) and are ranked at #23 on KenPom. In the last couple contests, no one has stepped up more than Troy Williams who has averaged 14.0 points, 13.0 rebounds, 3.0 blocks, 2.5 assists, and 2.0 steals–which was good enough to be named CBS Sports Player of the Week. The junior wing has seemed to resurrect his standing within the team after being benched in the St. John’s game. We’ll see if the team as a whole can resurrect itself this Saturday when they play Notre Dame in the Crosstown Classic.
  3. While Williams was named of POTW by CBS, Jarrod Uthoff was chosen for the same honor by the Big Ten thanks to his impressive 32-point performance in a disappointing loss to Iowa State. A few days before, the sharpshooting senior scored 27 points against Western Illinois. While Uthoff is virtually unstoppable when he has his shot going, he still hasn’t found the ability to force his will onto a game. Against the Cyclones, Uthoff scored 30 of his 32 points in the first half; in the second half, when Iowa State made their run to overcome a 21-point deficit, Uthoff was nowhere to be found (until the very end of the game). It’s clear this Iowa team can play with anyone when Uthoff is on fire, but it’s unclear if they’re able to compete when he is having an off-night.
  4. Uthoff wasn’t the only POTW selected by the Big Ten, he shared the award with Melo Trimble. The Maryland point guard has been absolutely stellar and has made a big jump in some important categories from his freshman season. The most important facet of his game that has seen improvement is his ability to distribute the rock. Trimble is averaging over two assists more a game than last season which is vital given that he now has more talented teammates looking to score. Now that Maryland’s point guard, and candidate for National Player of the Year, has developed a complete game–with the ability to score and distribute–the sky is the limit for the Terrapins.
  5. Another high-performing team in the Big Ten has been Purdue, which finds itself at 11-0 going into a much anticipated game against Butler in the Crosstown Classic. The anchors of both the defense and offense has been the Boilermakers three frontcourt players — A.J. Hammons, Isaac Haas, and Caleb Swanigan. How good are they? All three made BTN‘s Jess Settle’s Top 10 player list, by far the most for any one team. With talent like that up front, they are making good on their promise of a special season for Purdue fans.
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Big Ten Weekend Look Ahead: 12.11.15 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 11th, 2015

The college football championships are now in the books, which means basketball has center stage for a while. There are just under three weeks left in the non-conference portion of the schedule, so teams are still looking to notch a few resume-enhancing wins before conference play begins at the end of the month. Luckily for Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Nebraska this weekend, they will have those opportunities against top 100 teams this weekend. Here is your weekend preview of those four games.

Mark Loving (left) leads a very mediocre Buckeyes unit into Stoors on Saturday.

Mark Loving (left) leads a mediocre Buckeyes unit into Storrs on Saturday.

  • Ohio State at Connecticut (Saturday, 12:00 PM ET, CBS). The Huskies are coming off a tough loss at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, possibly because their coach, Kevin Ollie, received an ill-timed technical in the latter stages of the game. They’ll get another shot against a Big Ten team when the Buckeyes visit Gampel Pavilion on Saturday afternoon. Thad Matta’s young squad has looked its age as the Buckeyes commit a turnover in one out of every five possessions so far this season. If Ohio State can’t protect the ball against a very good Connecticut defense, they’ll slip below .500 with a record of 4-5, something that hasn’t happened this late in the season during the Matta era.
  • Marquette at Wisconsin (Saturday, 1:30 PM ET, ESPN2). If you haven’t yet heard, this version of Wisconsin isn’t your typical Bo Ryan team. Rather, this team, to the consternation of its head coach, shies away from three-pointers in favor of mid-range jumpers. Therefore, this rivalry game may rely on which player wins the battle in the paint between the Badgers’ Nigel Hayes and the Golden Eagles’ Henry Ellenson. While the freshman is bigger and more naturally gifted, the upperclassman knows how to take over a game — Hayes scored 32 points and grabbed eight rebounds in a recent loss to Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Look for whoever wins this individual battle to set the tone for the rest of his team.

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A Quick Analysis of Maryland and Purdue’s Frontcourts

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 11th, 2015

Before the season began, both Maryland and Purdue were named in CBSSports.com’s preseason selection of the top 10 frontcourts in America. The Terrapins added two more bigs — Robert Carter and Diamond Stone — to their already strong trio of Jake Layman, Damonte Dodd and Michal Cekovsky, while the Boilermakers added freshman Caleb Swanigan to their duo of A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas. As of today, the two teams have combined to go 18-1 with the sole loss by Maryland coming in Chapel Hill against the nation’s preseason #1 team. No matter how you slice it, the Terps and Boilermakers largely owe their excellent starts to their respective frontcourts. So how do their performances compare with the other eight selected by CBS? Let’s take a closer look. [Ed Note: All data was collected before Wednesday and Thursday’s games.]

Caleb Swanigan's addition to Purdue has taken this team to new heights in the early season. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

Caleb Swanigan’s addition to Purdue has taken this team to new heights in the early season. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

The most basic function of any frontcourt is to grab rebounds and protect the rim. The four bar charts below compare these 10 teams’ total rebounding percentages, block percentages, offensive rebounding percentages and defensive rebounding percentages.

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Bradley Hayes Helping Georgetown Reach Its Potential

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 6th, 2015

On Saturday, college basketball was treated to a revival of one of its most revered historic rivalries when Syracuse went to Washington, DC, to face its former Big East foe, Georgetown. The Hoyas — after a shocking season-opening loss to Radford — are in the midst of climbing their way back to respectability. Since that first night, Georgetown has beaten Wisconsin and put forth admirable if not losing performances against top 10 teams Duke and Maryland. One of their strengths is how deep, talented and young they are, but the biggest surprise on this season’s roster might be the sharp improvement of senior Bradley Hayes. After spending two years mostly on the bench, the seven-footer has proven himself not just as a serviceable component but as a crucial cog in John Thompson III’s offense. In Georgetown’s 79-72 win over the Orange, Hayes was very often the best player on the court.

Bradley Hayes was the star of Georgetown's 79-72 win over Syracuse. (Chris Bien/The Hoya).

Bradley Hayes was the star of Georgetown’s 79-72 win over Syracuse. (Chris Bien/The Hoya).

Coming into the season, the Hoyas were unsure of what to expect from a senior who spent most of the last two seasons as a backup, averaging only 0.9 PPG in a handful of minutes. There was also the added pressure of replacing Joshua Smith, an offensively talented big man who averaged 10.8 PPG and 5.8 RPG last season. In the first six games of this season, though, Hayes has filled Smith’s big shoes, averaging 10.3 PPG and 6.0 RPG and acting as a noticeable improvement on the defensive end of the floor. His rebounding rates, per KenPom’s metrics, rank within the top 300 nationally (11.9% OR; 19.8% DR), and his block percentage is also excellent (3.5%; 364th nationally). Those are laudable numbers from a player who was not heralded coming out of high school and was an afterthought until this season at Georgetown.

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Big Ten Weekend Look Ahead: 12.04.15 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 4th, 2015

The weekend after the Big Ten/ACC Challenge is probably one of the weakest slates of the year. After coming out of all the Feast Week tournaments followed by playing formidable competition in the challenge, most teams are looking to take it easy with opponents from low-major conferences this weekend. And with the Big Ten season arriving soon enough, it’s hard to blame them. At this point in the season, coaches just want to give their guys a break and pick up a few easy wins. It makes for a fairly boring first weekend of December in the Big Ten, but here is a preview of the best games of this quiet weekend.

A.J. Hammons and Purdue have the toughest matchup this weekend against New Mexico. (Brian Spurlock/USA Today)

A.J. Hammons and Purdue have the toughest matchup this weekend against New Mexico. (Brian Spurlock/USA Today)

  • Temple at Wisconsin (Saturday, 12:30 ET PM, CBS). This matchup with 3-3 Temple (which was picked to finish sixth in the American) doesn’t excite at first blush, but it represents the Big Ten game this weekend with the highest thrill score (according to KenPom), so perhaps the Owls have an extra gear in store for their trip to Madison. The Badgers surprised everyone on Wednesday when they went into the Carrier Dome and upset Syracuse, so maintaining momentum through this weekend will be crucial for Bo Ryan’s crew. If Bronson Koenig can prove to be more consistent in his production, the Badgers still have a great shot at making a 15th straight NCAA Tournament. Temple, a team that has already taken down a B1G squad earlier this season (Minnesota), has a formidable defense that is capable of slowing down good offenses. That defense could be even tougher on an offense that’s been as ineffective as Wisconsin’s (46.3% eFG) this season. If the Badgers have an off shooting afternoon, then a second home loss is definitely in play here.

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A Deeper Dive Into Iowa’s Offense

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 2nd, 2015

Another year of college basketball must mean another mixed start to the season for Iowa. After thumping Marquette on November 19 and moving to 3-0, the Hawkeyes lost two of their next three games during Feast Week and walk into their Big Ten/ACC Challenge tonight sitting at 4-2. But things aren’t all bad for Frank McCaffery as their two losses are to Dayton and Notre Dame, a pair of likely NCAA Tournament teams next March. Furthermore, Iowa is currently performing well both on the offensive and defensive ends, ranking #19 and #29 in efficiency on KenPom, respectively. The high offensive rating on offense is especially notable after consecutive years of losing All-Big Ten players like Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White. In this post, I’ll take a deep look at the Hawkeyes’ offense and see how they’re living up to the two previous seasons.

Iowa seniors (from left) Jared Uthoff, Adam Woodbury and Mike Gesell have lead the offense to its high level. (AP)

Iowa seniors (from left) Jared Uthoff, Adam Woodbury and Mike Gesell have sustained the offense to its highly efficient level of performance. (AP)

Last season, McCaffrey had the challenge of replacing Marble, a career 1,000 point scorer, and did so effectively thanks to the emergence of White. This year, the Hawkeyes are once again replacing their leading scorer now that White graduated with Jarrod Uthoff as the presumptive next star. Thus far, the senior wing has stepped up to the challenge and leads the team in scoring with 18.2 PPG, but he hasn’t done it alone. Iowa has seven players getting a majority of the minutes and all have averaged over six PPG: Uthoff, Peter Jok (12.0 PPG), Adam Woodbury (9.7 PPG), Mike Gesell (8.8 PPG), Anthony Clemmons (7.5 PPG), Brady Ellingson (6.8 PPG), and Dom Uhl (6.3 PPG). When compared to the two previous seasons, these Hawkeyes are certainly more balanced. But does deeper mean a more productive offense? The table below compares the performances in the first six games from each of the last three seasons. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big Ten M5: 12.02.15 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on December 2nd, 2015

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  1. I’ve grown numb to feelings of empathy for John Groce and Illinois. No man or program who has undergone so much bad fortune in such a short period of time can be innocent of prior wrongdoing. The Basketball Gods have proven angry with the Illini and they’ve recently claimed yet another soul with the likely season-ending injury of Mike Thorne. The graduate senior tore his meniscus in the Iowa State game on Saturday and subsequent surgery has left him out of the lineup indefinitely. Look for Leron Black and maybe even Malcolm Hill to fill in for his time spent at the four, while Michael Finke and Maverick Morgan try to replace his big shoes at center.
  2. Scoring is up this season, which was the goal of this year’s rule changes designed to create a more free-flowing game. But not everyone is happy with these changes. After Michigan State’s Sunday night victory against Providence at the Wooden Classic — a game in which the two main stars, Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — ran into early foul trouble, Tom Izzo criticized both the officiating and the new rules. It’s not a total surprise that Izzo would react unfavorably to this shift since his style of play isn’t frenetic, but Sparty seems to be adjusting just fine with a 7-0 record and a #3 ranking in the latest AP Poll.
  3. Speaking of the Spartans, Denzel Valentine has erupted onto the national stage with his incredible early performances against Kansas and Providence. Through a couple weeks, he has jumped out in front as the early favorite for National Player of the Year by averaging 19.9 PPG, 8.6 APG, and 8.9 RPG. Yahoo Sports‘ Jeff Eisenberg writes about how the Lansing native has gone from begging Izzo for a scholarship to a legitimate NPOY candidate. The way it’s looking now, Valentine will join a couple of other famous Michigan natives in Mateen Cleaves and Draymond Green who also rose to national prominence under Izzo’s tutelage.
  4. We’re in the midst of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge this week and the leagues are deadlocked at 4-4 with six games remaining. One of the nicer Big Ten wins last night was Michigan notching a 66-59 victory at NC State. The road victory represents a potential resume-enhancing win, but an ankle injury suffered by guard Derrick Walton may be the most lasting outcome from the game. If the junior needs to miss any significant time, it could spell trouble for the Wolverines as Spike Albrecht, the backup point guard, is coming off a hip injury of his own and is not thought to be fully healthy (although he did play some minutes last night).
  5. Finally, Purdue had the most impressive win of the night when it went into the Pete and defeated Pittsburgh by 13 points. The star of the evening was senior center A.J. Hammons, who recorded a double-double (24 points and 12 rebounds) and came up with several key buckets in the second half to help the Boilermakers close out a tight game. The big man has been coming off the bench since he missed the first few games this year because of an off-court issue. It’s no guarantee that Matt Painter will give him a starting spot back — his replacement Isaac Haas has been outstanding — but it also doesn’t much matter because he will get the bulk of the available minutes. Hammons is so integral to the success of this team that whether he’s technically starting is irrelevant.
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Big Ten M5: Thanksgiving Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 26th, 2015

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  1. Coming into this week’s Maui Invitational, Indiana was selected among the favorites to win the whole thing. But what was once a highly-anticipated event for the Hoosiers has turned into an early season meltdown as they finished 1-2 which for a sixth place finish. This has reignited dour discussions about the direction of the program and Tom Crean’s future. Indiana started the first round with a shocking four-point loss to Wake Forest, came back with a 10-point win over St. John’s, but ended the event on Wednesday with a three-point loss to UNLV. This is a devastating blow Indiana’s hope for a Final Four, as their resume has taken a hit with losses to two marginal opponents.
  2. To add injury to insult, the Hoosiers have also had to deal with some offcourt issues as well. After Indiana’s loss to Wake Forest, Crean decided to change his lineup and bench Troy Williams. While this adjustment may have worked in its goal of motivating the players — they defeated St. John’s after the change — it did not sit well with Williams’ mother, who shared her displeasure on Facebook. She later apologized for the incident, but the whole situation was embarrassing for all involved and just added more publicity to what seems to be a deteriorating situation in Bloomington.
  3. This has been a season full of early upsets, but a few Big Ten teams have already racked up two. Ohio State lost its second consecutive game of the season when they were defeated 82-74 by Louisiana Tech on Wednesday to move the Buckeyes to 2-2. This has been the worst start for Thad Matta in his entire 12 seasons at Columbus and follows what was a pretty middling season last year (at least compared to the usual lofty standard of Matta and Ohio State). All of the sudden, the trajectory for this program seems to be pointing downward after a long period of Big Ten success in the earlier half of this decade. The Buckeyes will have a chance to turn things around when they play Memphis on Friday.
  4. On Wednesday, Maryland defeated Rhode Island, 86-63, to win the Cancun Challenge. The Terrapins may be 5-0 but they didn’t get there in dominating fashion; in fact, this was the first time since the opener that Maryland won with a comfortable lead. I’ve pointed out before how their defense has become an issue, but another major factor has been their pedestrian shooting from the three-point line — 30.1 percent before Wednesday’s game. The Terps may have turned the corner on their poor shooting against the Rams as they hit 10-of-17 attempts from long distance. Next they’ll see if they can keep up the good play versus Cleveland State on Saturday.
  5. Finally, many believed this year’s Michigan team would bounce back from the disappointing and injury-plagued 2014-15 season, but things have not played out exactly as hoped. In addition to losing to Xavier on Friday, the Wolverines were easily handled by Connecticut in a 74-60 loss. While Caris Levert has been good as advertised, the rest of his teammates have yet to catch up. As of right now, this team looks closer to squad that lost to NJIT last year as opposed to the Michigan teams that won consecutive Big Ten titles a couple years ago.
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Maryland Vulnerable Defensively In Early Season

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 21st, 2015

We are a week into Maryland’s most anticipated season since the early 2000s and as of this post, the Terps are 3-0 and will remain the third-ranked team in the nation when the AP Poll comes out on Monday. But with three contests under their belt, their defense — typically a strength for any Mark Turgeon-coached team — has emerged as a vulnerability. On Friday night, Rider (0-3) came into the Xfinity Center, ripped the Terps interior offense to shreds, and almost completed the upset; Maryland pulled out a 65-58 win in the final five minutes. If the Big Ten favorites can’t get back to playing stellar defense like they did a year ago, their season will fail to meet all the hyped expectations.

Rasheed Sulaimon has been great on offense, but struggled to integrate defensively with Maryland.

Rasheed Sulaimon has been great on offense, but struggled to integrate defensively with Maryland.

Last season, Maryland was Top 40 in defensive efficiency allowing only an adjusted 95.1 points per 100 possessions. The Terps accomplished this by putting pressure on shooters which kept their opponents to 31.9 percent shooting from the three-point line and limiting easy buckets in the paint–under 30 percent of their opponents’ shots came at the rim. But this has not been the case this season. The Maryland newcomers — Rasheed Sulaimon and Diamond Stone — have been a boost offensively, but have struggled to fully adapt to Turgeon’s defensive philosophy. On Tuesday, the Terrapins nearly lost to Georgetown because they allowed the Hoyas to get off good shots (61.2 eFG%) which led to an offensive rating of 111. Three days later against Rider, Maryland got torched off the dribble as the Broncs hit 20 of their 36 2-point field goals–an overwhelming majority of which were at the rim. It should alarm the Maryland coaching staff that a team from the MAAC exposed their interior defense in such easy fashion. Read the rest of this entry »

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