Maryland basketball: Big Ten schedule should be fair, favorable test for Terps
In its first three seasons in the Big Ten, the Maryland men's basketball team has finished no worse than 12-6 overall and no lower than tied for third in the standings.
While it's still a little early to predict where the Terps might wind up in 2017-18, extracting a dozen wins again out of their schedule should not be an unreasonable goal barring any major injuries to their key players.
The Big Ten released the matchups for the upcoming season Monday, though not knowing when the games will fall on the schedule makes predicting the outcome a little more difficult.
Yet based on how the teams are projected to look and the recent history of those matchups, the Terps certainly received what appears to be a more than fair draw.
In the home-and-home meetings, Maryland will face heavy-favorite Michigan State, as well as three other 2017 NCAA tournament teams -- Northwestern, Purdue and Michigan -- that are expected to be in the field of 68 again in 2018.
The Terps have fared well against this group in regular season competition to date.
They are a combined 12-4 overall, including just one loss (to Purdue last season) in eight games at Xfinity Center. Add to that Penn State, another home-and-home opponent, and the record jumps to 15-5 overall, 9-1 at home the past three seasons.
It will be hard to duplicate that kind of winning percentage next season.
With the return of Big Ten freshman of the year Miles Bridges and the arrival of freshman Jarren Jackson, the Spartans could be ranked No. 1 in the country in the preseason. The Wildcats have the school's first NCAA tournament team back nearly intact.
The Boilermakers will have to make up for the loss of Big Ten player of the year Caleb Swanigan, while the Wolverines will have to make up for the loss of Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin, who led the team to a Big Ten tournament title in Washington and a Sweet 16 appearance.
While the departure of point guard Melo Trimble is a big loss, the Terps figure to be no worse than the fifth- or sixth-best team in the Big Ten. Mark Turgeon's team is usually at its best when overlooked.
As for the rest of the Big Ten schedule, of the four teams Maryland is scheduled to play solely on the road, only Indiana projects in the top half of the league standings, largely on the track record of new coach Archie Miller.
While the Terps have played poorly in their two trips to Bloomington, they have never lost at Nebraska or Ohio State (both 2-0) and have split two games at Illinois.
The Cornhuskers, Buckeyes and Fighting Illini figure to finish toward the bottom of the league, with Tim Miles on the hot seat in Lincoln and new coaches in Columbus (Chris Holtmann) and Champaign (Brad Underwood).
Another one of the goals Turgeon will likely set for his relatively young team is to be better this year than it was a year ago at home, where after winning 17 of 18 games the first two years Maryland was a lackluster 5-4 last season.
Only a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Trimble in the regular season finale against Michigan State prevented the Terps from a potential losing record in College Park.
The Terps will also be looking for a little payback against three of the four teams they will face only at home.
Minnesota and Iowa, which handed the Terps 14-point losses in consecutive home games last season, will be back in College Park this season.
The Gophers are expected to be among the group to challenge Michigan State, while the Hawkeyes should be better despite losing Peter Jok, the Big Ten's leading scorer last season.
Another of its only-home opponents, Wisconsin, gave Maryland its first home loss two years ago. The Badgers will be rebuilding after losing four seniors, including Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig.
Rutgers, the other team the Terps will play just at home, has never beaten Maryland since the two joined the league. The Scarlet Knights are still in a perpetual state of rebuilding.
While Maryland is likely not to repeat the seemingly out-of-nowehere 14-4 record it had in its first Big Ten season, the league itself should be better than it was then and this will still be one of Turgeon's more inexperienced teams in his seven years.
The Terps will be counting heavily on sophomores Kevin Huerter, Justin Jackson and Anthony Cowan, as well as two freshmen, Bruno Fernando and Darryl Morsell (Mount St. Joseph) to make up for the loss of Trimble, the team's leading scorer the past three seasons.
But at least on paper, at the end of July, finishing 12-6 for a third straight year does not seem like a stretch.
This article is written by Don Markus from The Baltimore Sun and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.