The #22 ranked Indiana Hoosiers will travel to College Park on Friday night to take on Maryland in a battle of one loss Big Ten teams. Indiana’s sole Big Ten loss came at the hands of undefeated Michigan last Sunday, while Maryland fell at Purdue in December. Here are some things to watch for in what looks to be a closely contested contest.
Battle of the big men
Maryland has been dominant on the interior thus far. Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith have been blocking shots and owning the boards all season long (Maryland has the fifth best rebound differential in the country), but Indiana’s Juwan Morgan will provide the Terps with a new kind of challenge. Morgan is a 6’8” forward that can score with his back to the basket, but he is also a capable three point shooter, hitting threes at a 44 percent clip. At 16.7 points per game, he is one of the most underrated forwards in the country. A few weeks earlier, Morgan had a career high 35 points in a win over Butler.
Morgan’s ability to stretch the floor will drag Fernando out to the perimeter, which is uncommon for him. Indiana is not the biggest team in terms of height, but they make up for it in speed and athleticism. As a result, we might see coach Turgeon deploy some of the smaller lineups he used earlier this year.
On the other end, Fernando possesses a height advantage over Morgan. If the Hoosiers leave Morgan one-on-one, Fernando needs to be aggressive and score. If they decide to double team, Fernando will need to continue to pass out of the double to open shooters. Fernando and Morgan are crucial to their respective teams, so if one gets in foul trouble or has an off night, that could be the deciding factor.
Stopping Romeo Langford
Romeo Langford is one of the best pure scorers in all of college basketball. The 6’6” guard is a likely lottery pick in this year’s upcoming NBA draft. He is not the quickest, but his patience and length allow him to get to the rim at ease.
Maryland’s Darryl Morsell will likely have the task of guarding Langford. Morsell is slightly undersized, but is a solid on-ball defender who will make Langford work. Langford is proficient around the rim, but is shooting an abysmal 22 percent from three. If Maryland wants to throw more size at Langford, then Aaron Wiggins or Ricky Lindo Jr. might get a shot at him as well.
To stop Langford it is going to take more than one person. With Indiana’s lack of scoring outside of Langford and Morgan, Maryland’s other defenders should be packing the paint to prevent the guard from driving and forcing him to shoot from deep. Indiana does not have anyone else averaging over nine points per game.
Maryland could also look to use its 3-2 matchup zone to slow down the Hoosiers. The Terps used the zone in the win over MInnesota and it swung the game around. Indiana only makes 6.3 threes per game, so using a zone that encourages them to shoot more could be effective.
Which X-Factors step up?
We know about Indiana’s dynamic duo and Maryland’s big three (Fernando, Smith and Anthony Cowan), but this game may be determined by who else plays well. Indiana was short on depth to begin with due to injuries, and that was before they lost freshman point guard Robert Phinisee (who is not expected to play Friday) to a concussion. The Indiana bench did not score a single point in the Hoosiers’ last contest. Guards Devonte Green and Aljami Durham will need to hit shots in place of Phinisee if Indiana is going to pull this one out.
For Maryland, the production from role players has been impressive recently. Freshman guard Eric Ayala has been heating up and is now shooting 48 percent from three. Meanwhile, Jalen Smith and Anthony Cowan are playing some of their best basketball, coming off season highs in points.
With Michigan and Michigan State looking dominant to start Big Ten play, this is a key game for Indiana and Maryland to keep pace. Given Maryland’s recent hot streak and home court advantage, I believe the Terrapins will come away with the victory.