After beating its second straight ranked opponent at home Friday night, Maryland basketball (14-3, 5-1) opened up as three-point favorites for its game against Wisconsin Monday night at the Xfinity Center.
The Badgers (11-5, 3-2) come to town having lost three of their last four games, including an overtime loss at home against Purdue on Friday, but still rank as the third best team in the Big Ten behind Michigan State and Michigan according to KenPom.com. The Terps, meanwhile, have won five in a row since falling to Seton Hall as a home favorite and could at least insert themselves into the conversation as potential challengers to the Spartans and Wolverines if they extend that streak to six. They’re coming off a 78-75 win over No. 22 Indiana which saw Bruno Fernando score a career-high 25 points.
Wisconsin has won three of the last four meetings, including an upset win over Maryland in the second round of the 2018 Big Ten Tournament. Reversing the current trend could go a long way for the Terps’ chances of securing a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament this time around. Maryland currently has a 52.1 percent chance of finishing in the top-four of the conference standings according to one analytic site.
As has been the case since Greg Gard took over for Bo Ryan during the 2015-16 season, the Badgers are led by center Ethan Happ. Happ is playing like an all-American in his final season in Madison and ranks among the Big Ten’s top-three in scoring (20.0 ppg), rebounds (10.5 rpg) and assists (4.8 apg). He’s the only NCAA player over the last 20 years besides Ben Simmons to put up those types of numbers.
“I’m not sure anyone can guard Happ straight up,” Terps coach Mark Turgeon said Sunday evening. “He had 31 [points] the other night. He’s pretty terrific, he’s just one heckuva player. It takes the whole team to try to guard Happ, but Bruno’s come a long way defensively and we’ll throw different people at him. [Jalen Smith] will guard him some, Ivan Bender I’m sure will guard him some, Ricky Lindo might guard him. You never know what we might do there. But it takes the whole team to try to guard that kid. He’s really special.”
Happ is perhaps more dangerous than ever this season as he’s surrounded by a number of three-point threats, including guards D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison, who shoot 47.3 and 44.8 percent from behind the arc respectively. In fact, all members of Wisconsin’s rotation except for Happ and Khalil Iverson are shooting at least 30 percent from deep with at least 10 makes, which puts opposing coaches in a precarious position.
The Badgers, though, have beaten themselves at times, including in their last outing against the Boilermakers when they had 17 turnovers and gave up 17 offensive rebounds. The loss has seemingly left a bad taste in their mouths as they look to get back on track and win their sixth game away from home Monday night. Gard said afterward that it was “unacceptable” to allow so many extra possessions.
“There were several where I could have done (something) differently,” Happ, who had nine of the turnovers, said. “It wasn’t necessarily what Purdue was doing. It was self-inflicted.”