Game Preview: Notre Dame vs. #8 Maryland
Notre Dame takes on #3 Maryland tonight as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. It’s Notre Dame’s second early season matchup against at a Top 10 foe.
Start Time: 7:30 PM (Eastern)
TV: ESPN (Dave Pasch - play-by-play; Jimmy Dykes - analyst)
Spread: Maryland -9
For the second time in head coach Mark Turgeon’s nine seasons at Maryland, the Terrapins entered the season as a preseason Top 10 team, and through eight games the Terps have backed up that ranking.
Maryland jumped out to an 8-0 start and is coming off a championship in the Orlando Invitational. After tight wins over Temple and Harvard, the Terps blasted Marquette (84-63) in the title game. Maryland held Marquette star guard Markus Howard to just 6 points (1-12 shooting) just two days after he dropped 51 and 40 points in the first two games of that tournament.
Turgeon’s squad is led by senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr., a preseason first-team All-Big Ten performer that ESPN ranked as the No. 9 player in the country during the preseason. Cowan dominated his matchup against Howard, scoring 22 points while grabbing six boards and dishing out four assists. Cowan averaged 24.0 points and 4.3 assists during the tournament.
Down low, former five-star recruit Jalen Smith is the top big man for the Terps. Smith already has four double-doubles on the season, and he’s blocked at least two shots in six of Maryland’s first eight games.
According to KenPom, Maryland has the seventh best offense in the country and the 26th bets defense. Notre Dame ranks 65th and 46th, respectively.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
This road contest against the Terps provides Notre Dame with a tremendous opportunity to build its postseason resume. The Irish are on a 6-game win streak after dropping a competitive game at #7 North Carolina. An upset by the Irish would not only be a tremendous homecoming for head coach Mike Brey, assistant Rob Balanis and sophomore point guard Prentiss Hubb — who all played high school ball in the DC area — it would give the Irish a much-needed “big win.”
Even if Notre Dame cannot pull off the victory, a second competitive loss against a Top 10 opponent would look good on its final resume, assuming the Irish can at least go .500 in ACC play.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Maryland has a pair of long and talented young bigs in Smith and freshman Makhi Mitchell (6-10), a consensus Top 100 recruit in the 2019 class. Notre Dame veteran big men John Mooney and Juwan Durham can match the length of the Terp bigs, and the Irish have experience on their side. Notre Dame will need its best player (Mooney) to be efficient as a scorer and force the Maryland bigs to exert a lot of effort on the defensive end of the floor.
Both Mooney and Durham will need to protect the glass against a Maryland squad that is averaging 13.4 offensive boards per game.
KEYS TO VICTORY
1. Move the ball, shoot well — Notre Dame has moved the ball well all season, and the Irish rank second in the ACC in assists (17.1) in the early going. When the offense has thrived this season the ball has moved well and the offense is knocking down shots. I expect the Irish to move the ball effectively, but knocking down shots has been a trickier proposition. If Notre Dame is going to hang with Maryland it has to knock down shots, especially early in the game.
2. The defense must be on point — Notre Dame has been a scrappy defense through its first seven games, with the Irish ranking fourth in the ACC in scoring defense. The Irish perimeter defense will be tested against Cowan and Darryl Morsell, who 17 points in the Orlando Invitation championship. The Irish will need to out-hustle the Terps for loose balls, crash the glass and get into passing lanes.