NCAA Friday Night Basketball: Maryland/Penn State Preview

by Big Al Staff

An FS1 college basketball doubleheader tips off at 7 PM ET between two Big Ten teams looking to take advantage of the small break in their conference schedule with the rare opportunity of not playing a nationally-ranked opponent.

Maryland has won four of their last six games despite playing six-straight ranked opponents. The Terrapins scored the final six points on Tuesday to eke out a 61-60 victory against Purdue in College Park as a 3.5-point favorite. Eric Ayala’s two free throws iced the game for Maryland. His 13.6 points-per-game scoring average is tops on the team. Aaron Wiggins led the way with 18 points while adding 11 rebounds. His 12.8 points-per-game scoring average is second-best on the club.

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.

Maryland is 10-8 on the season with a 4-7 mark in the Big Ten. They have registered quality wins against Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and the Boilermakers earlier this week. Their losses are against Purdue, Rutgers, Indiana, Iowa, the Badgers, and twice to Michigan. Their non-conference loss to Clemson is their worst loss on paper despite the Tigers ranked 56th in the nation in the current kenpom rankings.

The Terrapins rank 33rd 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 306th slowest tempo in the nation. They only turn the ball over 16.2% of the time, 44th. They make 53.0% of their 2-pointers, 66th, which boosts their effective field goal percentage to 52.8%, 66th.

Turgeon has his team get back on defense instead of going after second-chance scoring opportunities. The Terrapins only pull down 18.4% of their missed shots in conference play, 13th in the Big Ten. Yet they limit conference opponents to rebounding 25.2% of their misses, 4th best in the Big Ten. Maryland ranks 56th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They do not give their opponents many freebies as they rank 29th in the country in opponent free throw rate.

Penn State has lost two of their last three games after losing at Wisconsin, 72-56, as an 8.5-point underdog on Tuesday. Myreon Jones led the team with 14 points in a losing effort. His 15.6 points-per-game scoring average is the best on the team. John Haram added 10 points with five rebounds. The 6’9 senior center had been averaging 10.3 rebounds-per-game over his last seven contests before that game.

Head coach Jim Ferry has three starters and an additional three contributors (including Jones and Haram) from the 21-10 last season that was likely to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time for this program since 2011. Losing two impact seniors in Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins was always going to be a challenge. The Nittany Lions are 6-8 this season with a 3-7 mark in the Big Ten. Their “worst” loss was in non-conference play against a Seton Hall team that kenpom ranks at 37th in the country. Penn State has lost two Illinois twice, along with Michigan, Indiana, Purdue, Ohio State, and the Badgers earlier this week. The Nittany Lions have also defeated Wisconsin once this year, along with Rutgers and Virginia Tech.

Penn State ranks 17th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. They make 35.8% of their 3-pointers, 80th in the country. The Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten with a 33.6% offensive rebound rate. Ferry’s team is 86th in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They are second in the conference with a 10.6% steal rate which helps them force turnovers in 19.2% of their opponent’s possessions with both marks second-best in the Big Ten.

BetAnySports lists Penn State as a 2.5-point favorite with the total set at 143.5.

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

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