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Maryland Tries to Inch Closer to Big Ten Regular Season Title vs. Minnesota

We’ve got road Maryland in the spotlight tonight and that means that we have a lot to discuss as the Terrapins head to Minnesota to take on the Golden Gophers. There are a whole lot of great games on the card for Wednesday, but this Big Ten battle looks like the top one of the night, so we will preview it in a little more detail for February 26.

There are some really good situational spots in play tonight as well, so be sure to check out this week’s college basketball situational spots piece and see which ones are to your liking.

As far as this game goes, Minnesota is the smallest of home favorites at some of the sharper books like Pinnacle and Bookmaker, but the game is also lined pick ‘em at some of the places that are out there. The total on this tilt is 134.

There shouldn’t be a look-ahead factor for Maryland here, as Mark Turgeon’s team needs every road victory that it can scrounge, but the Big Ten regular season championship hangs in the balance on Saturday in College Park. A win there would give Maryland either a two or three-game lead depending on how tonight goes. Winning the Big Ten should mean a top-eight seed in the NCAA Tournament, even though the teams in this conference have all taken their fair share of losses over the course of the season.

Losses for some teams hurt a lot more than others. A loss here wouldn’t hurt a Terps team ticketed for a high seed, but it would add a whole lot of intrigue to Saturday’s game. As far as the setup for Minnesota, the Golden Gophers are not going to the NCAA Tournament barring a late run. A loss here would drop the team to 7-10 in conference play and below .500 overall. A win here could spark some semblance of a late push to get in the field of 68, but the mountain may simply be too tall to climb.

Maryland does so many things well and has kind of been putting that road narrative to rest with a 4-5 record in true road games, including wins at Michigan State and Illinois. The Terps did fall short in Columbus this past Sunday, but played well enough to be in the game for the duration. These teams of games may not mean quite as much in the present, but any win away from College Park is a confidence booster moving forward.

The Terrapins rank 36th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 18th in adjusted defensive efficiency per Bart Torvik. Maryland rates well in that category because of a tough schedule and a low turnover rate, but the Terrapins are not a good shooting team and that will come back to bite them in big games in mid-to-late March. Maryland is only shooting 31.9% from 3 and 49.3% from 2. Those numbers rank 241st and 171st, respectively.

Maryland is 10th in 2P% defense, however, which is why they’ve been able to win a lot of games in spite of those relatively poor shooting numbers.

Minnesota has been all over the map this season, but has some similar hallmarks to Maryland. The Golden Gophers do not shoot it well at all. In fact, they are worse than Maryland from 2 at 48.6% and just ever so slightly better from 3 at 32%. Like Maryland, they grade well with adjusted metrics because of the level of competition and a low turnover rate.

Speaking of low turnover rates, Minnesota ranks 313th nationally in TO% on defense. The worst thing you can do as a team with low shooting percentages is not get extra possessions and extra bites at the apple. That has been an ongoing issue and concern for the Golden Gophers throughout the season and is a concern for me here. Maryland’s offense isn’t much better, but they are likely to have more possessions in a game like this.

The Terrapins are slightly better on the offensive glass and are slightly better at forcing turnovers. It is really interesting to do a side-by-side of the two teams, particularly when you consider this line. Minnesota favored as a 13-13 team over the top team in the Big Ten? This is one that definitely had to catch some people off-guard in a lot of ways. We’re certainly seeing that with some of the sharp and public splits based on the books in the market.

This line stinks. Much like last night’s NC State/UNC line, where the Tar Heels were 3-13 in conference play, but laying a short road number in a rivalry game against a Wolfpack team that had just knocked off Duke. The line appears to be telling us something here. It’s just a matter of whether or not we want to listen.

As for me, well, I’m not listening. I don’t think Maryland looks ahead to Saturday. Because a win here means a chance to end the regular season title chase on Saturday. A win here means another good road win against a team that grades highly because of its spot in the Big Ten. It means I’m on Maryland here.

Pick: Maryland +1

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