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Big Ten Tournament Preview: Michigan State vs. Maryland

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NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Michigan State Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info:

Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana

When: 11:30 a.m., EST, Thursday, Mar. 11, 2021

TV/Radio: BTN/Spartan Sports Radio

Maryland (15-12, 9-11): No. 29 (Kenpom)

Depth Chart:

1 - Eric Ayala (6’5” jr)
2 - Darryl Morsell (6’5” sr), Reese Mona (6’2” sr)
3 - Aaron Wiggins (6’6” jr), Hakim Hart (6’6” so)
4 - Donta Scott (6’7” so)
5 - Jairus Hamilton (6’8” jr), Galin Smith (6’9” sr)

Scout:

After a huge, emotional win over a surging Michigan State squad, Mark Turgeon’s Terrapins ended the conference regular season with a whimper, losing by five points to both Northwestern and Penn State on demoralizing late surges by lesser opponents. These inexcusable losses to inferior teams will cost Maryland seed lines in the NCAA tournament, and leave the Terrapins’ confidence lessened heading into a rematch with the Spartans.

Despite those losses, Maryland remains a stout defensive team, playing a heavy switching, aggressive, gap-denying defense that collapses on drivers and demands that teams shoot perimeter jumpers after slogging through the shot-clock. In both losses, Maryland had good performances from Aaron Wiggins and Darryl Morsell, but notably quiet nights from Donta Scott. While Eric Ayala performed well in one and poorly in another, this two-game mini-slump reiterates the importance of Scott to Maryland’s performance as a team.

Keeping at least one of the perimeter trio — Ayala, Morsell and Wiggins —under-wraps is important, but keeping a relative lid on Scott, preferably by getting him off the floor due to foul trouble, really puts Maryland in dire straights.

Every major contributor can shoot three-pointers, so do not go under on Maryland’s perimeter screens without a significant show from a big. The Terrapins remain more stout than tall, so length can affect them on the glass and defensively in the paint.

Film Study:

In the first contest, Marcus Bingham Jr. played just a few minutes, which simply does not lead to good defensive outcomes for this team. In fact, when Bingham plays 15 minutes or more, Michigan State is 6-1 on the season, with the only defeat being the blowout loss to Rutgers — in which Bingham was one of just a few players to put forth a competent effort.

Take a look at his season so far:

Marcus Bingham Jr. Advanced Stats
Barttorvik.com

When you take out the single-digit minutes outings from Bingham, this team is pretty outstanding. And, as of the Rutgers win, Bingham has been something...otherworldly. It is tough to know or say what had him in a funk through the end of December, but his personal evolution in the second half of the season has, along with Aaron Henry’s brilliance, turned this team around. Or, as I put it the other day, Bingham is one of the biggest defensive weapons in the entirety of college basketball, and would be in the running for national Defensive Player of the Year (if such an award existed), and certainly would have won the Big Ten DPOY award if he had played more minutes:

If Bingham plays against Maryland, it will come at some cost — the team may concede some more three-point attempts that have to suffer merely a late-closeout for a contest —but it will also ensure that the red-carpet parade to the rim and, subsequently, the free-throw line fiesta that Maryland enjoyed in College Park a couple weeks ago will not repeat itself.

The Maryland contest also saw Henry thwarted due to Maryland’s gap-compressing defense, so adding Bingham and getting a better shooting performance from Joey Hauser, Josh Langford, Gabe Brown and Rocket Watts will add some vertical spacing and pull Maryland’s help-defense away from the elbows and towards the corners.

Game plan:

Play Bingham; chase three-point shooters toward the rim protector (Mady Sissoko too should get some minutes). Get better scoring nights and two-way performances from the two forwards in Malik Hall and Hauser, both of whom have played quite well in the last few games. Finally, add another Watts’ defense-breaking aggressive-attacking performance to Henry, Langford and Brown’s steady wing-play.

Prediction:

Darryl Morsell won Defensive Player of the Year in the Big Ten. Aaron Henry will be out to demonstrate unequivocally that he is the better defender and cannot be denied on offense. Expect a number of two-footed jump-stops into the paint from Henry: this will get him to the line, give him time to pump-fake, elevate, finish with craft, and distribute. Maryland caught MSU on the heels of an exhausting two-game stretch that produced consecutive wins against top-five teams in Illinois and Ohio State. The Spartans will be more rested than they have been in weeks heading into this one.

I expect Maryland’s self-doubt to creep in by early in the second half...at the latest. I also expect the Spartans to “get down on it”— expect snarls, flexes and high-level energy.

MSU 68 UMD 60

Players play. Tough players win.

GO GREEN!!!