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Points of Emphasis: Louisville vs. Maryland

Here are the more significant storylines to follow ahead of Louisville's men's basketball's matchup with Maryland

NASSAU, Bahamas - On the heels a commanding win over Mississippi State, the Louisville men's basketball program has a short turnaround, and is set to face Maryland in the Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship final. Tip-off is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 27 at 10:00 a.m. EST.

Here are a few of the more significant storylines to follow ahead of the Cardinals' matchup against the Terrapins:

By the Skin of Their Teeth

When it comes to new additions, Louisville and Maryland find themselves very similar situations.The Terrapins added seven total newcomers (five transfers and two freshmen), highlighted by Rhode Island guard Fatts Russell and Georgetown center Qudus Wahab.

Maryland opened the 2021-22 season ranked No. 21 in the AP Top 25 preseason poll, but like Louisville, they have had a bit of an issue gelling right out of the gates. They're shooting 43.2 percent from the floor, while allowing opponents to go for 41.8 percent - both of which are in the bottom half of the Big Ten.

As a result, the Terps haven't had many truly convincing performances. Despite sporting a 5-1 record, Maryland has a scoring margin of just 5.8 - with their lone loss on the year coming at home against George Mason. They also struggled against Hofstra, winning by only two, and had to overcome a 12-point second half deficit against Richmond to even reach the Baha Mar final.

Go Hard in the Paint

Despite some clear consistency issues for Maryland, one area where the Terrapins to perform well is on the defensive paint.

The starting duo of Wahab and forward Donta Scott, with forward Julian Reese coming off the bench, makes for a formidable front court. That trio combined for four blocks per game, on a Terps squad that averages 5.0.

Louisville might have found their rebounding stride against Mississippi State, but they have another test in that department against the Terrapins. Maryland not only averages 29.5 defensive rebounds per game - the 41st-most in D1 - but allows an opponent offensive rebounding rate of just 19.9 percent, which is 10th in the nation according to KenPom.

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Now, that's not to say the Terps defense is immaculate, because it's not. Their inflated defensive field goal percentage is partly due to allowing opponents to shoot 36.7 percent on three-pointers, and they only force 11.3 turnovers per game. Still, their abilities down low on defense is something to take note of.

A Tale of Two Benches

All things considered, Maryland has a pretty solid starting five. Combo guard Eric Ayala averages a team-best 16.2 points, Russell is right behind him at 13.2 points with a team-high 3.8 assists, Wahab also averages double figures at 11.3 points with 7.7 rebounds, and Scott is right behind him at 9.7 points and a team-best 7.8 boards 

That being said, head coach Mark Turgeon doesn't dive too deep into the bench. Reece and Wahab split a lot of minutes at the five, and Ian Martinez is the go-to backup guard, but beyond them, the bench doesn't get a lot of run.

That's a far cry from Louisville, who has rotated players in and out with frequency. In fact, 10 Cardinals played double digit minutes in the win against Mississippi State.

According to KenPom, the Terps' bench only accounts for 29.9 percent of the minutes, compared to 36.4 percent for the Cards. Diving deeper, Maryland has averaged just 10.8 bench points per game, whereas that number is 30.8 for Louisville. In a game where both teams will have just one day of rest, this could be a deciding factor on the outcome.

(Photo of Noah Locke: Jamie Rhodes - USA TODAY Sports)

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