|Who:||Wisconsin Badgers vs. Maryland Terrapins|
|When:||Tuesday Feb 24, 7:00 p.m. ET|
|Where:||XFINITY Center, College Park, MD|
|KenPom Rank:||Wisconsin - 4; Maryland - 41|
|KenPom Line:||Wisconsin -6|
This hasn't been the stereotypical season thus far in the Big Ten. The last couple of years, we were spoiled by not only the tremendous depth in the conference, but the talent at the top as well. Indiana was viewed as the best team in the country for most of the 2012-13 season, only to see Michigan appear in the national championship game. Three teams entered the 2013-14 Big Ten tournament in the Top 15 in the country with Michigan State coming out as one of the favorites to win the national championship.
There are currently two ranked teams from the Big Ten in the latest AP Poll. The question for all the Big Ten fans is - do we root for the best team to keep rolling through the conference? Or, do we root for someone else to grow enough to possibly carry the torch come tournament time?
It was a fight between Michigan State and Illinois on Sunday night. Things started getting chippy in the first half when forward Malcolm Hill received a little bit of a hip check from senior Travis Trice on a block out during a 1-and-1 situation. In the end, the tougher team prevailed. When everyone was getting their arm taken off when going to the basket, the Spartans handled the adversity and looked like a veteran basketball team when things weren't necessarily going the way they planned. I should have known better that Tom Izzo was going to learn a few things and make adjustments after their loss to the Illini earlier in the season.
Tale Of The Tape
5) Wisconsin (25-2, 13-1 Big Ten)
As mentioned in many previous posts, this Wisconsin team is as fun to watch when they are sharing the basketball offensively. The Badgers ever so slightly manipulate a dominant performance even though the casual fan may not see it as a dominating performance. After watching the past couple weeks though, it seems like a loss is on the horizon for this team. Wisconsin's margin of victory on the road in the last four games is 8.5 as opposed to a 14.5 margin in their last four home games. With two of their last three games at Minnesota and Ohio State on top of a home game with Michigan State, it seems like now is the time for a loss and for the final stretch preparations to set in for Bo Ryan's team.
Player to watch: Senior G Josh Gasser (7.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.6 apg)
This is the most unappreciated member in the Badgers' starting five. Part of that may be because Gasser is this year's player that seems he's been in Madison for the last 28 years. Gasser hasn't scored more than eight points since Feb. 3 when the Badgers didn't miss a sot against Indiana. In a hectic environment and a team that is low on depth at the moment, Gasser is a guy that needs to help take the pressure off Bronson Koenig in the backcourt and be much more of a catalyst on offense.
14) Maryland (22-5, 10-4 Big Ten)
Feb. 11 told me a lot about this Maryland team when I wanted to jump off the ship. Against one of the most productive offensive teams in the country, the Terrapins were able to play their game and keep the pace out of the Hoosiers' hands. This may not be the same team we saw in the non-conference and early in January, but maybe some of the miscues are being corrected. All of the Terps' wins in their three-game win streak have been under five points. That tells a lot about a team when the season is winding down especially in a first year of a new conference.
Players to watch: Maryland's front court
I'm calling out sophomore forward Damonte Dodd and of course senior Jon freakin' Graham. I know this isn't the most potent group in the scoring column or on the glass for the most part, but if these two can't make things uncomfortable for Frank the Tank, Maryland is going to be in trouble. The rest of the personnel 1-4 on both teams will cancel each other out in production and this is where the main mismatch rests. Dodd/Graham have to keep up with Kaminsky on the glass and the boards, plain and simple.
PREDICTION: Maryland 70, Wisconsin 67
Freshman guard Melo Trimble is starting to find his niche again averaging 21 points per game in his last four outings and shooting 90.6 percent from the foul line in that span. The three-headed monster of Trimble, Wells and Leyman have to come alive again if Maryland wants to keep this streak going into the tournament. Especially look for Dez Wells to become more of a factor on the perimeter with his 51.4 percentage from outside against one of the slower perimeter defensive teams.
Other Big Ten games to watch this week:
Wednesday, Feb. 25
- Indiana at Northwestern
- Illinois at Iowa
Thursday, Feb. 26
- Minnesota at Michigan State
- Nebraska at Ohio State
Saturday, Feb. 28
- Michigan at 14) Maryland
- Northwestern at Illinois
Sunday, March 1
- Michigan State at 5) Wisconsin
- Purdue at Ohio State