On Saturday afternoon, Maryland went on the road for the first time in Big Ten play to face off against a Michigan squad coming off a win against Penn State. It was a great opportunity for both sides to help their resumes in the first week of January.
Coming out of the opening tip, Maryland brought plenty of energy. Melo Trimble drove the lane and put Damonte Dodd in great position to score. Thanks to that success and a few outside shots, Maryland took a 37-28 lead into halftime. While Michigan showed much more fight in the second half thanks to big man Moritz Wagner, it wasn’t enough to overcome Maryland’s early lead as the Terrapins grabbed a 77-70 win.
Let's see what we learned from the game.
What We Learned
1. Pretty or Not, Maryland Keeps Grabbing Key Wins.
The Terrapins may have improved to 14-2 on the season with the team’s win over Michigan, but the consistent criticism toward Maryland has been that the team continues to win too many “ugly” games. Many seem to believe that Maryland’s record is one largely built on close wins and luck.
Well, at this point, who cares?
Maryland is far from a national title contender and likely won’t be in the Big Ten title picture at season’s end, so it’s time for fans to get over this “winning ugly” concept and just enjoy this team. The Terrapins are 14-2 and just won one of the team’s toughest remaining road games on paper.
There’s still plenty to see on this Maryland team, but with 16 games under the belt, things are looking great for the postseason and a decent Big Ten Tournament seed. Barring a total collapse, a transition year is looking more and more like it might end up being a pretty good one for Terp fans.
2. Damonte Dodd Remains Crucial For Maryland.
While Melo Trimble is going to get most of the attention for Maryland (and rightfully so), one play who continues to be under the radar is Damonte Dodd. He finished with 15 points and four rebounds on Saturday afternoon and was (easily) Maryland’s biggest statistical contributor during the first half.
Dodd really doesn’t create a ton of points for himself, but he does create looks by getting in the right position and playing within his role. In particular, his play off of Trimble was exceptional on Saturday afternoon. Although those baskets might have looked easy, it was his play before the shot attempt that made it look so easy.
Maryland figures to get Michal Cekovsky back from injury in the near future, but with Dodd at the helm, Maryland has a steady big man that continues to get the job done.
3. Michigan’s Margin For Error Continues To Shrink.
Heading into Big Ten play, Michigan was 10-3 on the season with a manageable opening stretch in league play. The Wolverines would get a road game against Penn State and back-to-back home games against Penn State and Maryland. Considering that KenPom had Michigan favored in all three games, things looked good.
All Michigan had to do was taken care of business and it would be 13-3 with at least a dozen winnable games remaining on the schedule.
Welp, things could have gone better.
Michigan opened up with a narrow loss on the road to Iowa, nearly went down at home to Penn State, and fell at home to Maryland on Saturday. The Wolverines are now 11-5 heading into what looks like a tricky stretch. Michigan follows this with road games against Illinois and Wisconsin split by a home matchup against red hot Nebraska.
At this point, Michigan still has all of its season goals in front of it, but its margin for error just shrunk considerably. If the team is going to make the NCAA Tournament comfortably on Selection Sunday, it will need to get back on track. And soon.
4. Michigan’s Defense Needs Some Serious Work.
For Wolverine fans, the hope during the offseason was that new assistant Billy Donlon could resurrect what had become one of the worst defensive teams in the Big Ten. He had some solid pieces to work with and fans were optimistic that things would look good when the rubber met the road in Big Ten play.
Well, so far, not so good.
Michigan may have shown some positive signs earlier in the season, but the defense has been downright bad over the last few games. Michigan lost Peter Jok far too many times when it faced Iowa, got roasted in transition by Penn State’s shooters, and had major trouble defending Maryland’s guards and rolling big men.
There’s still plenty of time for the Wolverines to improve on the defensive end, but considering that Maryland only had the No. 95 offense in the nation heading into the matchup, struggling so badly in this game should raise some red flags.
Saturday’s matchup between Maryland and Michigan figured to be a key contest between the two teams with serious NCAA Tournament ramifications on the line. As a result, both are now heading in much different directions. Maryland just added another quality win and Michigan will have to search for answers in the weeks to come.