Maryland has yet to play a game in the 2016 Big Ten Tournament. As the #3 seed in the tournament, the Terrapins earned a double-bye and some extra time to rest before getting their post-season play started. Nebraska, meanwhile, has won two games in the past 24 hours after knocking off Wisconsin 70-58 Thursday night. The Cornhuskers will look to make it three straight when they take the floor against Maryland Friday night.
Let's take a look at some of the keys and story-lines in Friday night's match-up.
1. Nebraska Looks to Maintain Momentum
Heading in to the Big Ten Tournament, Nebraska had lost 5 straight games and 9 of their last 11. It's odd, however, that sometimes just one game can get a team back on track. Nebraska had that game when they took down Rutgers on Wednesday night. It was a breakout game offensively for the Cornhuskers who had five players reach double figures.
On Thursday night, Nebraska kept that momentum alive as they took down heavily favored Wisconsin. While a tournament championship is still an unrealistic goal, one thing is for certain; Tim Miles' team believes they can beat anyone. The Cornhuskers have been playing well on both sides of the ball and are shooting with confidence that they hadn't shown during the season.
Don't think this Nebraska team will come in to their third game in as many nights fearing the Terrapins. The Cornhuskers are playing with house money right now and in their only matchup against Maryland this season lost by just 5 points.
2. Maryland Needs Momentum
After starting the conference schedule 10-2, Maryland lost 4 of their final 6 Big Ten games. The Terrapins desperately need to find their mojo back and head in to the tournament with some confidence. It all starts with point guard Melo Trimble who had just 26 assists to 24 turnovers in the final 6 games of the season. The sophomore guard needs to take care of the ball and get his teammates involved early against a Nebraska defense that was very stingy Thursday night against Wisconsin.
Another player to watch for Maryland is freshman center Diamond Stone. Nebraska doesn't really have the size underneath to match-up with Stone, who nearly recorded a triple double in the team's first meeting with 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 blocks. Look for Maryland to try to assert their dominance down low against a Nebraska team who has to be at least a little tired playing their third game in 3 nights.
3. Shavon Shields Must Be The Best Player on the Court
In five games since returning from a concussion, Shavon Shields has averaged 21.6 points per game. In the two Big Ten Tournament games so far, the senior has racked up 40 points, 20 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 steals. While Maryland has the more talented roster, Shields has the ability to be the best player on the court Friday night.
The Cornhuskers will have to do a little more damage from three point range Friday after hitting just 2 deep balls in their win against Wisconsin. Andrew White and Tai Webster will have to stretch the floor to give Shields the room he needs to work with in the post and mid-range game.
In the end, Maryland will have the fresh legs and the more talented roster Friday night. If Rasheed Suilamon is hitting from deep and Trimble and Stone are connecting on pick and rolls, it might be too much for Nebraska. The Cornhuskers will have to rely on momentum and grit on defense to get them through their third game in three nights.