I am tempted to use a photo of Michael Barrett’s strip-sack against Taulia Tagovailoa, as football gives me happy feelings and basketball...does not. The Michigan Wolverines have plenty of basketball games left on the schedule, but in many ways it feels like this is a lost season already.
That is a bummer because the Big Ten is very weak this year. A double-bye in the conference tournament does not seem hard to earn, yet Michigan is nowhere close to a top-four spot, and actually will likely end up playing on Wednesday in Minneapolis. With losses against the two worst teams in the conference per Kenpom, postseason hopes are all but gone.
Michigan draws another bottom-feeder in the Maryland Terrapins on Thursday who are struggling like the rest of the Big Ten. They, too, have losses against Indiana and Minnesota, as well as to Purdue. Kenpom has this team 81st in the country, which is still lower than the Wolverines, but this game is in College Park. With Hunter Dickinson and Mark Turgeon gone, this one lacks any real spark.
Michigan Wolverines (6-9, 1-3) at Maryland Terrapins (9-3, 1-3)
Date & Time: Thursday, Jan. 11, 7 p.m. ET
Location: Xfinity Center, College Park, MD
Four games is a little early to be focusing on conference-only stats, but for Maryland they are hard to ignore. No Big Ten team has a lower adjusted offensive efficiency than the Terps, thanks to a league-worst effective field rate and three-point percentage, with two-point shooting and turnover rate not much better. Maryland does grab a bunch of offensive boards and draws some free throws, but those are the only positives on offense.
Defensively, the story is quite the opposite, as the Terps are pretty solid with a top-30 unit nationally. The defense is really good interiorly, and while there may be some threes to be had, this has not shown up much in conference play. This game really profiles to be strength-on-strength, or maybe weakness-on-weakness, with both teams having a glaring weakness on one end of the floor.
There have not been many positive surprises this year, but the improvement of Terrance Williams is certainly high up that list. After three up-and-down years in Ann Arbor, the senior has taken a huge step forward, averaging 12.7 points per game on 34 minutes, shooting 41.5 percent from three. He has always displayed a high motor, and that has been even more noticeable this season.
Williams is far from perfect; his development feels a year late, and his defense is not exactly elite. Still, now is the time to focus on the positives! As the Maryland native returns home on Thursday, he is coming off two 20-point performances in the past three games. Another big offensive night would go a long way, especially with Dug McDaniel converting to a part-time attendee. It is anyone’s guess how a terrible Maryland offense will fare against the porous Michigan defense, but either way the Wolverines will need to score.
For a defense that is not porous...