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Penn State at No. 4 Maryland Preview: The Terrapins Are Really Good

Penn State's first conference game of the season is one of its toughest: a road game against the 4th-ranked team in the country.

Rasheed Sulaimon was offered a scholarship by Mark Turgeon after being kicked off of Duke's team following sexual assault allegations.
Rasheed Sulaimon was offered a scholarship by Mark Turgeon after being kicked off of Duke's team following sexual assault allegations.
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Who: Maryland Terrapins (11-1)
When: Wednesday, December 30 - 5 p.m. ET
Where: Xfinity Center (College Park, MD)
KenPom Rank: 15
Vegas Line: Maryland -15.5
Enemy Blog: Testudo Times

With non-conference play wrapped up and Penn State men's basketball sporting a 9-4 record, it's time for the Nittany Lions to head out on their 18-game Big Ten schedule. That slate of games begins Wednesday night, with Penn State busing to College Park to face the University of Maryland Terrapins. Maryland is one of the top teams in the country in the 2015-16 season by any measure, so it is not the ideal starting opponent for the Nittany Lions.

Scouting the Opposition

The Terps are loaded, and they're constructed in a way that makes them a very tough matchup for Penn State. Sophomore point guard Melo Trimble is a dynamic scorer and an excellent distributor. Sophomore backup guard Jaylen Brantley is a capable lead guard as well, and sophomore wing Jared Nickens has been very good shooting the three-pointer.

The real matchup problems, of course, are in the frontcourt. There were a number of games in the non-conference where Penn State had a distinct size advantage, which is something they definitely do not have against Maryland. Freshman center Diamond Stone, at 6-foot-11, is a dangerous offensive threat, both as a post player and on the boards. 6-foot-9 forward Robert Carter is similarly effective inside, and brings defensive rebounding and shot blocking ability as well. 6-foot-9 senior Jake Layman is also a good inside-outside presence, and there is talent on the bench as well.

Maryland also has Rasheed Sulaimon starting at shooting guard. Sulaimon transferred to Maryland after being dismissed from Duke's team for an unspecified failure to live up to team standards. That failure was ultimately revealed to be multiple allegations of sexual assault, allegations which Sulaimon denies. Turgeon secured Sulaimon's commitment over offers from more than a dozen schools. After graduating from Duke in the summer, he became immediately eligible and has been a regular part of Maryland's lineup this season.

What to Watch For

As we have talked about a lot recently, Penn State is having a hell of a time trying to defend without fouling. It seems that every game nearly half the roster is on the bench with foul trouble by halftime. This is going to be a big problem in trying to defend a Maryland team that makes a living at the line (6th in the nation in team free throw rate, per KenPom). Really the only way for Penn State to compete in this game is if they are able to finally defend well without fouling, and doing so in a road game against a top-five team.


This one could very easily get out of hand in the first half. Penn State does not have good depth, especially in the backcourt, and foul trouble is going to force the bench to contribute on both ends if the Nittany Lions want to have a chance. There is no shame in losing a road game to a top-five team, especially when you are Penn State, but it would be nice to see the Lions put up a fight. Maybe they could if this game was later in the season and things really broke right for this unit, but I do not see it in the conference opener. Maryland 76, Penn State 58.