Where: Breslin Center, East Lansing, MI
When: 6:00 pm, Saturday, February 15, 2020
TV/Radio: ESPN/Spartan Sports Radio
Maryland 20-4 (10-3): #10 (Kenpom)
1 - Anthony Cowan (6’0” sr)
2 - Eric Ayala (6’5” so), Serrel Smith (6’4” so)
3 - Darryl Morsell (6’5” jr), Aaron Wiggins (6’6” so)
4 - Donta Scott (6’7” fr), Ricky Lindo (6’8” so)
5 - Jalen Smith (6’10” so), Joshua Tomaic (6’10” jr), Chol Marial (7’2” fr)
Maryland is a top-10 team both in the rankings and on Kenpom. They are an excellent defensive team (#5 in Drtg), and a very solid offensive team (#39 in Ortg). They have a great, and consistent, set of wings in Morsell, Ayala, and Wiggins (with Smith a more minor contributor). All 4 wings can shoot (although Ayala has been strangely off from 3 this year), drive, and score; it’s just a very good position-group. Scott plays as the starting 4, and can shoot it pretty well, but Maryland will also go small with Ayala, Morsell, and Wiggins all on the court together.
The real strengths of this Terps team, obviously, are Cowan, who has just had a terrific four-year career, and Smith, who has come a long way from the last time he had to play against MSU. Cowan has played efficiently and superbly as the senior leader - controlling games, hitting timely buckets, and organizing the team. Smith has improved tremendously in his own right, he has added weight and muscle, is shooting the ball terrifically from all over the court, has owned the glass and has defended the rim impressively.
Smith has been in double-digits every game except for two, and has been Kenpom’s game MVP for 9 of the team’s games (Cowan has 7). A similar story to MSU, stopping Cowan (their point guard) and Smith (their big) from having great games is the key to beating Maryland: in Maryland’s four losses, one or both of Cowan and Smith have had games under 100 Ortg.
They aren’t a great 3pt-shooting team (31.8% from 3 on the year, #244 in the country), and they get blocked a lot (11% of their 2pt shots!?!?). They play surprisingly slow, and Scott, Wiggins, and Ayala are the weak-spots of their defense.
The defense is the key in this one: MSU has to stop the Cowan/Smith PnR, have to compete physically with Smith, and have to close-out on every guy on Maryland.
Tillman played really well against Smith last year, and Aaron Henry contributed to a balanced attack with 12 points. MSU will need its wings to out-play Maryland’s, and will need the 4-spot to get at Donta Scott who is a solid player, but a freshman and not the best off-ball defender. Hall and Bingham jr could play big roles, if they can rebound effectively on both ends and finish around the rim.
The energy and environment should carry the Spartans over the top in this one, and I expect Henry, Brown, and Watts to determine the outcome - we know what we will get from X and Cash, but we need Henry, Brown, and Watts to collectively contribute around 30-35 points, about 10 rebounds, and to keep their turnovers under 6 or so. Our wings have to be better in transition than they have been, and need to be aggressive so that Cash can get more space later in the game.
Izzo might kick the entire team out of the locker-room if they lose this one, and I predict the turn-around of the season continues this evening and after the game when the 2000 team and this year’s team get a chance to hang-out at Izzo’s house (I am sure). Hopefully the Izzone has the Breslin Center rocking and Cash can stay out of foul-trouble.
MSU 73 UMD 68