Maryland basketball coach Mark Turgeon has said his team’s 2017-2018 schedule is by far the most difficult itinerary it has faced since joining the Big Ten in 2014, Roman Stubbs of The Washington Post reports.
“This is a really tough league with very talented teams and this is by far the strongest conference schedule we have had since entering the Big Ten,” Turgeon said in a statement. “It is also a very impressive and competitive home schedule, which will be great for our fans. Every year there are different challenges, especially throughout league play, and this season is no different with how good we anticipate the conference will be from top to bottom.”
The home schedule to which Turgeon refers will feature matchups with Michigan State, whom many, including landof10.com, have picked to finish first in the conference; and Michigan, whose offense Kenpom rates fourth-best in the NCAA. The Terrapins will also face both Michigan and Michigan State on the road.
Further increasing the degree of difficulty in a league packed with talent, the conference has shortened the calendar duration of the regular season by moving the conference tournament up a week. As a result, 112 Big Ten games will take place over the course of 55 days (that is, nine weeks rather than the usual ten). Maryland will play 16 games in a 53-day span. The team will take the court on one-day rest three times and on two-day rest three times, according to the Post. On average, the Terrapins will play every 3.3 days.
Each Big Ten team will play a pair of isolated in-conference games—one at home and one on the road—between Dec. 1 and Dec. 4, per the Post, before non-conference play resumes through the end of December. Maryland will host Purdue on Dec. 1 and will battle the Fighting Illini of Illinois on the third. By the time the Terrapins take the court for the latter contest, they will have played five games in four states in 11 days, the Post says.
Maryland’s non-conference schedule will conclude on Friday, Dec. 29 at home against UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County). The team’s Big Ten campaign begins in earnest on Tuesday, January 2, when the team will host Penn State.
However difficult things are in the Big Ten, the conference seems to suit Maryland. The Post says the team has finished in each of the three seasons since it joined the league, and has compiled an in-conference record of 38-16. The Wisconsin Badgers are the only team in the Big Ten to post a better mark over that span.
Perhaps in honor of Maryland’s success, the conference is making an effort to expand from the midwest to the east coast.
This year, the Big Ten will hold its tournament on the east coast for the second consecutive year and the second time in history. Each year from the tournament’s inception in 1998 through 2016, it took place in either Chicago or Indianapolis. Last year, it moved to Washington, D.C. This year, the festivities will play out at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The Terrapins lost guard Melo Trimble to the NBA draft this year (he went undrafted). Trimble catalyzed the team’s offense over his three-year college career, averaging 15.9 points, almost four rebounds, and almost four assists per game. Guard Anthony Cowan, who is entering his sophomore season, will likely inherit the point guard duties from Trimble. Last year, he averaged just over 10 points per game.
Maryland’s recruiting class, Land of 10 reports, includes forward Bruno Fernando, ranked 78th nationally, and guard Darryl Morsell, ranked 91st.
According to Land of 10, the team is conceivably deep enough to employ a nine- or ten-man rotation. Depth could go a long way toward helping the team cope with the condensed schedule.
Still, it will be a tired Maryland team that walks into the Garden on February 28, 2018, to commence the conference tournament. If the Terrapins endure for the tournament’s duration, a few players may pass out as they cut down the nets on March 3.
Featured image via Flickr/Daniel Borman
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