With the non-conference slate officially in the rear view mirror, it’s time for Big Ten basketball. The biggest unanswered questions for the Hoosiers’ resume is whether or not they are able to win in true road environments. Their two neutral court wins against UConn and Notre Dame are helpful resume builders that will matter going into Selection Sunday, but their sole road game resulted in a 20-point loss against a 0.500 team.
The resuming of league play begins with a difficult test against the Maryland Terrapins (11-2), who have had an interesting season so far. The Terrapins opened as the No. 7 team in the nation according the preseason AP voting. Mark Turgeon’s team reached as high as third in the AP Poll due to teams at the top continuing being upset, and Maryland fell victim themselves after back-to-back road losses against Penn State and Seton Hall.
This game comes shortly after the announcement of the departures of two freshmen twins: Makhi Mitchell and Makhel Mitchell. There is a lot of drama associated with that whole situation, but there is clearly a dispute between head coach Mark Turgeon and the mother of the Mitchell twins. The pair announced that they would enter the NCAA transfer portal, thus leave the Maryland program.
Maryland does get the return of 7-foot-2 Chol Marial, who has returned back from injury. He debuted in his first game of his college career in Maryland’s last game against Bryant. Marial finished with 6 points in 14 minutes of game action.
The Penn State loss was a bit more explainable. The Nittany Lions have had one of the better seasons in the Big Ten and they were favored to win the game, despite being unranked at the time. Additionally every team in the league has had trouble on the road, except for a lone Michigan State team who currently sits atop with a 2-0 record.
Maryland’s loss against Seton Hall was a bit more troubling for the Terrapins. Yes, the game was on the road; however, the Pirates were without their two best players in Myles Powell (concussion) and power forward Sando Mamukelashvili (broken wrist).
The last time the Hoosiers met the Terrapins, Indiana lost by a single possession in a 78-75 road loss despite having a hot start to take an early lead. They simply do not have the depth to sustain nor did they have the size to stop Bruno Fernando. Luckily for Archie Miller, Indiana comes to College Park with the larger team this time and Fernando now plays in Atlanta for the Hawks.
How to Watch
|Who||Maryland Terrapins vs. Indiana Hoosiers|
|When||Saturday, January 4, 2020 12 p.m. ET|
|Where||Xfinity Center — College Park, Maryland|
|Tickets||Find the Lowest Ticket Prices on SeatGeek|
|Listen||IU Radio Network|
|Spread||Maryland -79, Over-Under 139.5|
Getting to Know the Terrapins
The Terrapins are currently 11-2 overall with a 1-1 record in the conference, and they are led by their focal piece in point guard Anthony Cowan Jr. The 6-foot senior is averaging 16.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game. He ranks in the top 200 players in terms of minutes usage, assist rate, and fouls drawn. Cowan also leads his team with 25 of 68 three point shots, good for 36.8%.
What Cowan Jr. lacks in height, he makes up in his craftiness on the floor and ability to navigate the floor with his speed. He is a constant threat on the floor as he can penetrate to the rim, spread and shoot from deep, as well as use his passing to facilitate the Turgeon offense.
At the shooting guard position, Cowan is supported by Eric Ayala who was once an Indiana target. With Ayala on the floor, the Terrapins have a taller on the floor that can also stretch and play as a wing as needed. He helps give additional defense flexibility for Maryland. The sophomore guard is currently averaging 10.3 points per game for the Terrapins. One note, after shooting 40% from behind the arc last season, Ayala has struggled to find the same success during the 2019-2020 campaign.
Ayala can also play the point guard role as needed during the rare occasions where Cowan is off the floor.
At the wing position, you will see 6-foot-6 Aaron Wiggins and 6-foot-5 Darryl Morsell who have very different game profiles. Wiggins, who is entering his second season with the Terrapins, is more of a shooter that is unafraid to release from deep and in the mid range. He is quick at his size, which makes him an interesting prospect at the next level. He has some draft projections and seems to be the second most draftable on this Maryland roster. Areas that he hopes to improve this season include adding size and making his three-point shot more consistent.
On the other hand, Morsell is more of a rim slasher. He is averaging just shy of double digits in points per game, but averaging over five rebounds per game. Morsell will not necessarily blow you away with athleticism, but he is sturdy body for Mark Turgeon that earns his minutes with his fundamentals around the rim. He is not flashy, but he can find ways to score if he is given the opportunity under the basket.
Donta Scott is a 6-foot-7 forward that has started in two games this season, including Maryland’s recent game against Seton Hall. Scott has played in a limited role for the majority of the season, but he can come in as another capable wing that is also willing to shoot it from deep. For the Hoosiers, they have to keep in mind that anyone on the Terrapin roster is willing to shoot the three.
Maryland’s front court is led by sophomore Jalen Smith who leads the team with 10.1 rebounds per game and 2.4 blocks per game. As a result, the 6-foot-10 forward ranks among the top 50 players in offensive rebound percentage and block percentage. Smith is a very flexible big that can run the floor in transition, handle the ball around the perimeter as needed, and athletic enough to play face up against anyone. On defense, Smith is especially dangerous because of his ability to quickly gap close and make the block.
Smith’s NBA projections are scattered all across the first round with some boards having him as high as the top 10 and others at the very end.
Projected Starting Lineups
|Maryland Terrapins||Indiana Hoosiers|
|G: #1 Anthony Cowan Jr.||G: #1 Al Durham|
|G: #2 Aaron Wiggins||G: #11 Devonte Green|
|G: #11 Darryl Morsell||F: #3 Justin Smith|
|F: #25 Jalen Smith||F: #4 Trayce Jackson-Davis|
|F: #24 Donta Scott||C: #50 Joey Brunk|
What to Watch for
1. The point guard duel between Cowan Jr. and Phinisee
Despite having some of the best plus/minus evaluations against the Razorbacks, Phinisee played limited minutes against the Razorbacks — relatively speaking. He is going to go up against one of the Big Ten’s premiere guards. In fact, Cowan was considered as a potential preseason All-American for the entire NCAA.
The Hoosiers sneakily rely on Phinisee more than any other player on the roster. Jackson-Davis may get all of the attention on offense (which he completely deserves). Phinisee is the one that controls the pace for the Hoosiers, facilitates the sets, and he is definitely the best man-to-man defender on the Indiana roster.
It’s tough to say whether or not the outcome would have been different if Phinisee was on the court longer against Arkansas; however, there is no doubt that the team played smoother with him on the court.
2. How does Indiana balance help-side defense and three-point coverage?
Indiana is going to get pulled and stretch like pie crust dough. That’s been the game plan to beat the Hoosiers and Maryland is going to try the same. All of their players are able to shoot the three point shot, at least enough to garner some respect by the Indiana defense. In positions one through five, Indiana has to be careful not to give too much space outside of the perimeter.
There will be a trade off. Do the Hoosiers once again roll the dice and force Maryland to make their threes to win the game? That worked for 30 minutes against the Razorbacks until they started to get hot in Bloomington.
3. Jalen Smith’s speed versus Jackson-Davis’ strength
While they play different positions on the floor. The two frontcourt stars are going to go head to head for a fun match for fans to watch. Indiana’s Jackson-Davis is a strong, brute-force type player that wants to own everything under the rim. He’ll draw you in the air and punish you if you do not properly hold your stance. He combines his strength with a tremendous ability to hustle in the paint, making him the best rebounder on Indiana’s roster.
On the other hand, Smith has a contrasting style of play. He floats around the floor more, but has the burst speed to beat players around the block. He is unafraid to step out in to the perimeter to stretch out defenses, and he will even taken the occasional three point shot as needed. On the transition, Smith will likely be the most dangerous player on the floor.
The contrasting styles of play may cause Archie Miller and Mark Turgeon to use different defenders assigned to each. It wouldn’t be surprising at all if Jalen Smith is guarded by a wing like Justin Smith or Jerome Hunter. Jackson-Davis, on the other hand, may go up against a smaller Donta Scott who plays more as a bruiser.
4. Chol Marial’s impact to the floor
With the transfer requests of the Mitchell twins and the return to health of Marial, Turgeon now has a 7-foot-2 big that he is able to deploy on the floor. Marial is a top 200 recruit and by no means will he change the outcome of the game alone; however, he has a unique skill set that will create trouble for the Hoosiers that had a bit of a sluggish time on offense against Arkansas.
Marial had 6 points in his debut as a Terrapin. He played 14 minutes against Bryant, where the Terrapins handled them comfortably with a 14-point margin. Expect Marial to see some minutes on the floor, in order to back up starting forward Donta Scott, who will step in for the departing Makhi Mitchell.
5. Who from Indiana’s supporting cast will step up?
One common theme against Arkansas was the impact of Trayce Jackson-Davis. He appeared in the top three of all lineup categories in our line up report on Arkansas. As one of the best freshmen in the nation, there is no doubt that Jackson-Davis is going to have a big game. The five-star recruiting has been absolutely stellar for the Hoosiers.
On the other hand, Indiana has questions about his surrounding cast. When you go down the roster, you can see that nearly every other player has had a big performance. Green against Florida State, Durham earlier in the season, Franklin against Notre Dame, Brunk against UConn – the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, players are unable to find consistency with the exception of Jackson-Davis.
Indiana’s supporting cast needs to have at least one or two players step up. When they don’t, well embarrassing losses like Wisconsin and Arkansas occur.
Featured Photo: Tommy Gilligan / USA TODAY Sports