NCAA Basketball: Maryland/Connecticut Preview, Odds and Prediction - 03/20/2021

by Alec McMordie

Maryland plays UConn in the 7/10 matchup in the East region on CBS at 7:10 PM ET. The winner of this game plays the winner of the Alabama/Iona contest.

The Terrapins stumble into the NCAA tournament with three losses in their last four games. They lost in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament to Michigan by a 79-66 score as a 5.5-point underdog last Friday. Eric Ayala scored 19 points in the loss, with the junior leading the team with a 14.0 points-per-game scoring average. Aaron Wiggins adds 14.0 points-per-game after the junior totaled 11 points against the Wolverines.

Head coach Mark Turgeon lost his top two players from last year in Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith from a team that finished 24-7 and was poised to make a final four run in the NCAA Tournament before the season got canceled. Their next top-four scorers from that group form the core of this team led by Ayala and Wiggins.

Despite losing nine of their last thirteen games, Maryland made the NCAA tournament with a 16-13 record on the season with a 9-11 mark in the Big Ten. Seven of their wins are against teams who made the NCAA tournament: Illinois, Purdue, Wisconsin, Rutgers, Michigan State (twice), Mount St. Mary’s. Nine of their losses are against teams who made the tournament. They rank 33rd in the kenpom ratings.

The Terrapins are 46th in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. The offense operates at a slow pace while protecting the basketball and taking high percentage shots inside the arc. Maryland plays at the 285th slowest tempo in the nation. They only turn the ball over 16.8% of the time, 69th. They make 52.8% of their 2-pointers, ranking 60th nationally, which boosts their effective field goal percentage to 52.6%, 67th nationally.

Turgeon has his team get back on defense instead of going after second-chance scoring opportunities. The Terrapins rebounded only 17.9% of their missed shots in conference play, last in the Big Ten. Their conference opponents grabbed 24.8% of their missed shots, the third-lowest in the Big Ten.

Maryland ranks 27th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They finished second in the Big Ten by giving up 65.0 points-per-game with an opponent’s field goal percentage of 40.9%.

UConn lost in the semifinals of the Big East tournament to Creighton, 59-56, as a 2.5-point favorite on March 12th. James Bouknight only converted 4 of his 14 shots for 14 points. The sophomore averages 19.0 points-per-game with seven games this season where he scored at least 20 points.

Bouknight missed a month of the season with an elbow injury. The Huskies have a 15-7 record, but they were 11-3 with Bouknight healthy. UConn ranks 15th in the kenpom ratings with a victory against USC and two wins against Georgetown to represent their triumphs against teams that made the NCAA tournament. Four of their seven losses are against teams that made the tournament.

The Huskies are 24th at kenpom in adjusted offensive efficiency. They rebound 36.8% of their missed shots which is the sixth-best mark in the nation. UConn is also 24th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. Isaiah Whaley patrols the middle by averaging 2.6 blocks-per-game. The 6’9 senior helps the Huskies block 14.4% of their opponent’s shots, ranking 11th nationally. UConn is 26th in the nation with an opponent’s effective field goal percentage of 46.2%. They led the Big East by allowing 64.6 points-per-game, and their 41% opponent’s field goal percentage was second-best in the conference.

Mackay Arena in West Lafayette is the site of the game. BetAnySports lists UConn as a 3-point favorite with the total set at 129.5.

Computer prediction: Connecticut 65 Maryland 64

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

© 2021 Al McMordie's All Rights Reserved.