In what is being described as the most important game in Maryland’s season, the Terrapins welcome Syracuse to College Park Monday. “It’s a big game for us, a big game for the university, a big game for the program,” Maryland guard Nick Faust said. “Everything is on the line for this one. We’re really looking forward to it. It’s kind of a must-win.” The Terrapins need a late run to have any chance of getting an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament, and a marquee win over Syracuse would be an excellent start.
The situation could not be any worse for Syracuse, who lost to Boston College in overtime Wednesday before suffering a heartbreaking loss at Duke Saturday. Meanwhile, Maryland has won four of its last seven games and enters tonight’s contest with ample rest following its 71-60 win over Wake Forest on February 18. Tonight’s game is being described as a “Gold Out” in the sold out Comcast Center as fans are being encouraged to wear gold to create a “Gold Rush” environment.
From a fundamental standpoint, Maryland is averaging 71.8 points per game against teams that would combine to allow 66.8 points per game, thereby making the Terrapins 5.0 points per game better than average offensively. However, Maryland’s offense excels at home where the Terrapins are 10-3 on the season and averaging 76.5 points per game on 46.9% shooting from the field and 38.6% from beyond the arc. The key to Maryland’s offense is the production of Nick Faust off the bench. Specifically, Faust is averaging 11.1 points per game in Maryland’s wins this season, in contrast to 8.8 points per game in Terrapin losses.
While Maryland is only 2.7 points per game better than average defensively (68.5 points per game to teams that would combine to average 71.2 points per game), that should be good enough to contain a struggling Syracuse attack. The Orange are averaging just 62.8 points per game against conference opponents and 58.0 points over their last five games (38.3% FG; 26.7% 3-PT). Overall, Syracuse is a pedestrian 1.5 points per game better than average offensively (69.2 points per game to teams that would combine to allow 67.7 points per game), which actually gives the Terrapins an advantage on the defensive end of the floor.
Syracuse is known for its defense as the Orange are fourth in the nation in forced turnovers (9.2/g) and 19th nationally in steals (8.3/g). However, Maryland should be able to handle the pressure as the Terrapins are 23-9 ATS at home versus teams allowing less than 65 points per game. Let’s also note that Maryland is 8-1 ATS in the month of February, 22-9 ATS at home after covering five of its last six games and 19-5 ATS at home after covering the point spread in three consecutive games. The fact that Maryland is 5-1 ATS in its last six games substantiates what head coach Mark Turgeon has been saying about his team over the last couple of weeks. “It will be nice to have a nice crowd. I think our team deserves it,” Turgeon said. “We continue to get better.”
Pro Edge Sports Pick: Maryland (+4.5) (-110)