Ohio State looks to continue to improve their tournament resume with a win over 16th ranked Maryland tonight in Value City Arena. The Terps are a fantastic team, lead by freshman Melo Trimble, and will be another difficult test at home for the surging Buckeyes. A win tonight would go a long way in solidifying this team's tournament resume and help to assert the Buckeyes as a top team in the Big Ten.
Before Ohio State's most recent win over Indiana, Columbus and the media were becoming concerned over the dearth of quality wins for the Buckeyes. With zero wins inside the RPI top 50, the Buckeyes' tournament resume was looking weak and a bad loss could have demolished any significant post-season hopes. With this tense backdrop, the Buckeyes took charge of their season and put forth their strongest performance all year.
It should not be much of a surprise at this point, but D'Angelo Russell is a superstar. When he plays at the top of his game, the Buckeyes can be a dangerous team. His vision and elite skill were on display against Indiana recently as he led the Buckeyes in just about every major category.
Alongside Russell, Jae'Sean Tate has established himself as a difference maker for the Buckeyes and his 20 point performance was critical in the win over Indiana. While Russell is the best player on the team, Tate is the hardest working player by far. He fights for 50/50 balls, plays much bigger than his listed size, and gives total effort every minute he is on the court. Tate has developed a knack for finding weaknesses in defenses that continue to try and counteract Russell's offensive firepower. Tate shot 9/10 from the field in the win over Indiana and his efficiency is going to be a key to a Buckeye victory tonight over Maryland.
Maryland is currently coming off of a loss to Indiana and a too close for comfort win at home over Northwestern. While Maryland is struggling a bit right now, they are still one of the premier teams in the Big Ten. Melo Trimble, much like D'Angelo Russell, is the freshman leader of the Terps. If Trimble gets hot, Maryland is a difficult team to beat and will give the Buckeyes trouble tonight. This game may very well come down to a shootout between two of the most electric freshmen in the country right now. A win for the Buckeyes could cement their tournament status for March.
Numbers to know
The Buckeyes currently average a shade over 35 rebounds per game. For reference, that is good for 155th best in the country. That is absolutely putrid and unforgivable. It is particularly painful when you notice that Amir Williams is only averaging 4.7 rebounds per game. Thats less than D'Angelo Russell. Amir's struggles on the glass, and really everywhere else on the court, help to explain his current downturn in minutes recently. Ohio State is going to have to find a way to grab rebounds. At the very least, the Buckeyes need to prevent Maryland from grabbing offensive rebounds and getting second chance points.
Maryland is currently only averaging 11.5 assists per game. That is a considerably low figure and is not even good for top 250 in the country. This means that Maryland players tend to create their own shots and the ball has a tendency to die in player's hands. This is a good thing for the Buckeyes. If the Buckeyes can focus on Maryland's premier players, namely Trimble, they can allow tight man defense to force the Terps into bad shots off the dribble. However, the Buckeyes need to keep Maryland out of the paint and prevent drives to the bucket.
The Buckeyes can pick up their second win inside the RPI top 50 tonight with a win over Maryland. While Maryland is a tough team, they are reeling a bit and are ripe for a solid home upset for the Buckeyes. This potential win over one of the Big Ten's premier teams would go a long way in cementing the Buckeye's tournament hopes. However, after Maryland, there aren't many opportunities for the Buckeyes to pull in another quality win. While they catch Wisconsin at home, that is going to be a significantly tough opponent for the Buckeyes. A win against Maryland is important for the Buckeyes and their post-season plans.
Cast of Characters
There is little more to say about Russell that hasn't already been said ad nauseam. The kid can flat out ball and carries nearly this entire team squarely on his back. His ability to score has been well documented, but recently it has been his floor vision and distribution that has shined through. Russell has been able to find many of his teammates, particularly Tate, open on the floor for easy looks at the basket. Russell has completely taken over and it is to the distinct benefit of the entire team. With the senior class largely underwhelming, the Buckeyes can turn to Russell as the floor general.
Although Russell is a wizard offensively, he can't score every single basket for this team, especially when he is off the court. Ohio State needs Marc Loving to continue to supply the team with timely offense. Loving has to continue to knock down open threes at his startling rate of 50%. If Loving can step up and continue to assert himself as a reliable scorer off the bench, significant pressure can be taken away from Russell and the Buckeyes won;t be so leveraged on Russell's abilities.
From the beginning of the year, Melo Trimble has been sensational for the Terps. He leads the team in scoring with 16.3 points per game and is the go to scorer up and down the court. While he can seemingly do it all offensively, Trimble has been solid from beyond the arc all year shooting at just about a 40% clip. Shannon Scott will likely be tasked with limiting Trimble on the court. His above average on ball pressure should help to frustrate the young freshman and prevent him from taking over the game offensively.
Jake Layman is one of the upperclassmen leaders for the Terps and has been essential to their success all year. At 6'8 and 205 pounds, Layman is a bit of a tweener 2/3 combo and has the ability of taking advantage of mismatches on offense. As one of the bigger rotation players for the Maryland, Layman is responsible for grabbing rebounds as well and leads the team with nearly seven a game. Jae'Sean Tate will likely match up with Layman on numerous Maryland possessions and will have to use his tenacity and grit to limit him.