The Michigan Wolverines will take on the Maryland Terrapins on Friday to kick off the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals. The top-seeded Wolverines had a bye to the quarterfinals and found out who their opponent was after Maryland defeated Michigan State 68-57 on Thursday afternoon.
This will be the third meeting between Michigan and Maryland with the Wolverines sweeping the first two matchups. This came in the form of an 84-73 victory on the road on Dec. 31 and an 87-63 decision in Ann Arbor on Jan. 19.
The Terrapins have been a Jekyll and Hyde team all year. They started as a team that was built around its offense that could not play a lick of defense. Their offensive potency took a hit once they started to figure things out defensively in the second half of the season.
Maryland seems a bit early era John Beilein-ish in that they do not have a ton of size and have a starting lineup that features four guards and a stretch forward. They do not have a true point guard, but the trio of Darryl Morsell, Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins all measure in around 6-foot-5/6-foot-6. Donta Scott and Jairus Hamilton have both hit over 40 percent of their attempts from three this year.
What Maryland does not have is an answer for Hunter Dickinson if Michigan can get him going. He has hit a bit of a wall recently, but there was a palpable boost from him in both of the regular season meetings. Feeding him early and his ability to smartly react to the looks Maryland throws at him defensively is going to be a major key in this game.
Brooks remains day-to-day with his ankle injury, but it is not a stretch to think he may not suit up this weekend. Michigan needs him as functional as he can be in the NCAA Tournament if he can return. There is not a ton to lose in terms of falling off the one-seed line, so Michigan can afford to tinker its lineup and prepare for a potential run without him This means that extended roles are coming for Chaundee Brown directly and a hopeful uptick in performance from everyone else.
Maryland might look to exploit the size advantage it has over Mike Smith, who will also be critical in offsetting the loss of Brooks. The good news for Smith and Michigan is that this is a matchup that may suit him on the offensive end. Maryland does a poor job defending ball screens and does not have much to speak of in the post. The Wolverines are going to be problematic if Smith stays comfortable and aggressive as both a scorer and distributor. This applies tenfold if Dickinson gets going.
The Wolverines have the length to give Maryland’s offense a hard time with Franz Wagner, Isaiah Livers and Brown capable defensively. The loss of Brooks goes beyond what he gives them on the stat sheet, but this should be a good test for the rest of the roster. The Wolverines have looked hapless in the two games where he was unable to play, but they came on short notice. It will be interesting to see how they fare with a few practices and days to prepare for life without him.
The key to this game simply is to make shots. Michigan will almost certainly have wide-open looks from the perimeter and if they don’t, it will mean Maryland has made a grave mistake in not defending Dickinson. There could be games coming up where the loss of Brooks is a massive negative for Michigan, but this feels like one where they may be able to get by. Then again, all bets are off if Michigan goes cold offensively and cannot move the basketball.
KenPom predicts a seven-point win for the Wolverines and that feels about right.
Prediction: Michigan 75, Maryland 67