#7 Maryland (17-2, 6-1) at #11 Michigan State (16-4, 3-4)
When: Saturday, January 23rd 2016
Where: Breslin Events Center, East Lansing, MI
Time: 6:30 ET | TV: ESPN
The Michigan State Spartans hope to avoid a fourth straight loss when it hosts the seventh-ranked Maryland Terrapins on Saturday night. The Spartans have followed up a three-game winning streak with a three-game losing streak that includes consecutive one-point losses to Nebraska and Wisconsin. The slump has oddly enough coincided with the return of star guard Denzel Valentine, who missed four games with a knee injury. Valentine is averaging 18.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game this season and has scored 47 points in the last two games. Senior guard Bryn Forbes ranks second on the Spartans in scoring (13.1) but is averaging just 5.7 points on 5-of-22 shooting during the three-game losing streak. Leading rebounder Matt Costello (8.0) sprained his ankle in Wednesday’s loss to Nebraska and is questionable for Saturday. Michigan State’s defense, which ranks 21st national allowing just 63.2 points a game, have surrendered over 70 points in the last two games. They hold their opponents to an eighth-best 37.4% shooting. The Spartans lost two of three to Maryland last year and failed to cover in all three. They have Northwestern and Rutgers coming up next week.
Maryland is just a half-game behind Iowa and Indiana in the Big Ten race at 6-1. They’re a team that ranks 5th nationally in field goal percentage at 51.0% led by freshman center Diamond Stone. He has 12 consecutive double-digit outings while averaging 13.5 points and shooting 59.9 percent from the field. Point guard Melo Trimble leads Maryland in scoring (13.9) and assists (5.7) while junior forward Robert Carter Jr. averages 13.2 points and a team-best seven rebounds a game. Jake Layman (10.9) and Rasheed Sulaimon (10.4) give the Terrapins five players who average double figures. Maryland suffered their only conference loss at Michigan on January 12th, but responded with a 35-point blowout of Ohio State. They then survived an overtime thriller against Northwestern in which the Terrapins were limited to just 17 second half points, but scored 14 in the five minute overtime. They shot just 43.8% for the game, but held the Wildcats to 35.4%. Maryland will host first-place Iowa next Thursday night.
Michigan State needs this game badly, but Maryland is the better team right now and they’re getting points. This should be a tight game the whole way. I like Maryland.
Pick: Maryland +3.5