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Michigan State basketball: Scouting report, prediction vs. Maryland

Michigan State is looking to get to .500 in conference play.

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Michigan State basketball
© Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland and Michigan State basketball will face off in College Park on Sunday afternoon. Here’s what you need to know.

With the eyes of many fans on Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan State basketball will look to provide Lions fans with a satisfying appetizer on Sunday against Maryland. Michigan State is still looking for its first road win as they look to get back to .500 in league play.

Here’s a scouting report on the Terps and a prediction of Sunday’s outcome.

Scouting Maryland

There may not be a more unbalanced team in the Big Ten than Maryland. Per KenPom, the Terps come in with a top 25 defense and an offense that lies outside the top 150. To put it simply, Maryland cannot shoot the basketball. They rank 346th in America shooting 28 percent from three. That’s with Donta Scott enjoying a career-best season at 38.5% from deep. Believe it or not, the numbers get even worse in Big Ten play. Maryland is shooting a staggering 25 percent from three in conference play. The numbers in the paint and at the free throw line are a little better. But by and large, Maryland struggles to score.

Kevin Willard has recognized his team’s offensive struggles and has emphasized offensive rebounding and drawing fouls. Maryland is grabbing 34 percent of their misses while getting about 25 percent of their total points from the free throw line. They haven’t done a very good job at cashing in on their opportunities, shooting just 70 percent from the line on the season.

Defensively, it’s a completely different story. Maryland currently owns the most efficient defense in conference play. Their roster has great length, and they’ve used it to effectively force misses from their opponents. The Terps rank second in the Big Ten in block percentage and first in effective field goal percentage. They don’t force a ton of turnovers and they are an average defensive rebounding team. But they do a fantastic job of contesting shots and playing defense deep into the shot clock.

When Maryland is going right, it’s usually because Donta Scott finds some rhythm offensively. In Maryland wins, Scott is averaging 12 points per game compared to just eight in the Terps’ losses. He’s a scoring threat at all three levels because of his size. As mentioned, this is the best he’s ever shot the three. Julian Reese is another name to watch. All of his work is going to be done in the paint, and he’s not a good free throw shooter. But he has an array of moves he can use with his back to the basket.

But it’s impossible to talk about Maryland without mentioning Jahmir Young. The Maryland point guard has scored in double figures in every game this year except one. He’s coming off a 36-point performance in a loss against Northwestern. The game before that, against Illinois, he had 28. Young is a throwback player in the sense that he isn’t a very good 3-point shooter. Typically, high-volume scorers in today’s game put together big nights because of the three-ball. Young does most of his damage in the paint and at the free throw line. He’s drawn almost six fouls per game and hits free throws at 90 percent when he gets to the line. He’s not going to come off the court much, and he’s going to have the ball a ton. He’s the type of player that can drag a team through offensive lulls and close out games with his finishing ability and free throw shooting.

Michigan State update

In many ways, Michigan State’s result from Thursday was the best-case scenario for Tom Izzo. His team got the win but played poorly enough to give him their full attention heading into Sunday. Michigan State basketball let an undermanned Minnesota team hang around for far too long at home. Most importantly for MSU, they got another solid outing from Malik Hall. The Spartans are so reliant on their guards, and anything they can get out of their role players to take some pressure off of Tyson Walker and A.J. Hoggard is much needed.

The story from Thursday was Michigan State’s horrendous showing from the free throw line. MSU was able to pull away in the closing minutes because it finally started making their freebies. After starting 8-for-16, the Spartans made their final seven to close it out. It’s been an underrated storyline this season that finally showed up on Thursday. For the season, MSU is now under 70 percent as a team. That’s not a recipe for success on the road. It could also loom large against a Maryland team that is going to make their share.

On Sunday, the key for Michigan State is getting contributions from their role players. At home, the Spartans have gotten healthy contributions from everyone. On the road, far too much has fallen on Tyson Walker. This is another tough matchup for MSU because of the length that Maryland is going to put on the floor.

Look to see if Malik Hall and Tre Holloman are aggressive early. Getting either or both of them involved early could be positive signs for the Spartans.

Prediction

KenPom projects Michigan State as a 3-point favorite with a total of 131. Given how much home court has meant in the Big Ten, I’d expect this to open around a pick. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Maryland close as a favorite.

Maryland’s offensive rebounding presents a problem for Michigan State basketball. The Spartans have been at their worst this season when they don’t take care of the defensive glass. Offensive rebounding is Maryland’s primary source of offense. Jahmir Young is also going to be a problem at both ends of the floor. That’s going to take a lot of energy out of Walker.

This is going to be a slow, grinding game. Maryland and Michigan State rank 12th and 13th, respectively, in the Big Ten in tempo. Maryland’s offensive deficiencies are well documented. Michigan State is not exactly immune to ugly stretches of play on that end of the floor either. With points at a premium, this is going to come down to the little things like 50/50 balls, boxing out, and defending without fouling.

Maryland’s only loss at home this year came against Purdue. Michigan State hasn’t won a game outside the state of Michigan. At some point, if MSU wants to make something of this season, they’re going to have to put one in the win column on the road. I think Sunday is the spot. Michigan State has the depth at guard to slow down Young. Maryland’s inconsistencies on offense are going to be exacerbated by Michigan State’s defense. It should be tight. It won’t be pretty. But Maryland’s offense is by far the worst unit in this game. That’s the difference. Go Spartans. Go Lions.

Final score: Michigan State 68, Maryland 66

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