Maryland basketball vs. Denver: Previewing the NIT second round


(Associated Press)

THE INFO

Who: Maryland (23-12) vs. Denver (22-9).

When: Thursday, 7 p.m.

Where: Comcast Center.

TV: ESPNU.

DMV radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM, 1300 AM.

Coaches: Terps — Mark Turgeon (second season, 41-26). Pioneers – Joe Scott (sixth season, 102-83).

Pomeroy ratings: Terps 55th, Pioneers 39th.

Final RPI: Terps 71st, Pioneers 65th.

THE SCRIPT

It waddles like a lacrosse game and quacks like one, too (Maryland is No. 1 and Denver is No. 5 in the latest men’s lax rankings). But this second-round NIT matchup is actually fairly enticing as a basketball game. After a slow start Tuesday, Maryland drubbed Niagara at Comcast Center, while Denver needed some late buckets to dispatch Ohio at home. Now the Pioneers receive an NBA-like road trip to the East Coast, with the winner just one victory away from a trip to Madison Square Garden and the tournament’s semifinals. Denver has won 11 of 12 and 18 of 20, and enters among the nation’s best in effective field goal percentage (third), two-point percentage (third) and steal percentage (third). They don’t crash the boards at all, but are so good at obtaining high-percentage shots that it’s hardly necessary.

THE QUESTIONS

1. Be disciplined? Denver’s methodical, plodding offense produces just 60.1 possessions per 40 minutes, the second-slowest pace in the country, but still ranks 23rd in points per possession. This is thanks to crisp passing and sharp cuts which take advantage of over-aggressive defenses that gamble in the lanes and leave the back door open. Maryland needs to stay at home rather than pursue the potential steal. Doing the latter plays right into Denver’s hand.

2. Take advantage of height? Denver’s effective height, according to Kenpom.com, ranks 328th out of 347 teams nationally. Maryland is the county’s 14th-tallest team. Niagara did a solid job containing the post on Tuesday night by doubling the post entry pass and rotating hard to prevent to a kick-out, but the Terps need their post players (especially Alex Len) to get going.

3. No more slow starts? Maryland ran away with its opening-round matchup after intermission, but another slow start could doom the Terps against Denver. The Pioneers’s low-tempo offense will likely prevent this from becoming a shootout, but if Maryland starts missing quick shots, the lead could slowly expand out of reach.

THE STATS

8: Denver regulars shooting better than 40 percent from the field. Four shoot at least 50 percent.

29.4: Logan Aronhalt’s three-point percentage in eight games between his 26-point outburst at Boston College and his 5 for 7 showing vs. Niagara.

15.4: Difference between Maryland’s rebounds per game (37.9, second nationally) and Denver’s (22.5, 347th nationally).

THE QUOTES

“We were walking through the motions in the first half. Give them credit, they were making shots, playing with energy, they were loose. I just think that we figured out offensively how to play a little better, defense was better, got out on the break and ran, and I think we wore them down. They don’t have the depth we have.” – Turgeon.

“You see on TV, Kentucky’s up there struggling. A lot of teams go through it. But the fact that we were able to push through, I think we should be fine from here on out.” – point guard Pe’Shon Howard.

THE TERPS TUNE OF TODAY

The Breaks” by the Black Keys

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt · March 20, 2013