Analyzing the 2018-19 Big Ten schedule for the Maryland men's basketball team

The Big Ten announced the opponents for its 2018-19 men’s basketball schedule Thursday, with the league playing 20 conference games rather than 18 for the first time.

Here is the list for Maryland’s opponents and how the Terps might fare next season.

Home: Illinois*, Indiana, Northwestern

Away: Iowa, Michigan State, Rutgers

Home/Away: Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin

*at Madison Square Garden in New York in conjunction with the Big Ten’s “Super Saturday – College Hoops & Hockey” doubleheader

Analysis

Coming off a disappointing 19-13 season, including 8-10 in the Big Ten, the Terps are widely considered to be among the most talented teams returning.

If freshman center Bruno Fernando comes back for his sophomore year, Maryland could be among the favorites to win the league — a position Mark Turgeon’s team didn’t handle so well in 2015-16.

Given their problems on the road last season, winning only their first and last conference games away from College Park, the Terps will have to solve that problem if they want any chance of being a legitimate contender.

At first glance, the schedule appears to be pretty favorable for Maryland, but so did last year’s before the injuries and narrow road defeats started piling up.

Here’s a way-too-early prediction of how the Terps might fare in the Big Ten next season.

Home opponents only (3-0)

All three teams that the Terps will face only at Xfinity Center should be picked in the bottom half of the league, maybe even the bottom third.

While Illinois and Indiana should be better in what will be the second year for coaches Brad Underwood and Archie Miller, Northwestern should be in a major rebuild and is coming off a disappointing year of its own.

The Terps have never lost to any of these teams in College Park in their first four years in the league, and next season should add to that perfect record.

Road opponents only (1-2)

Given Maryland’s problems on the road last season, and that much of the projected rotation will be made up of freshmen and a possible graduate transfer or two, the Terps might need some time adjusting to life on the road.

Michigan State, which should come in as one of the preseason favorites despite losing expected NBA draft picks Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr., will be difficult to beat in East Lansing. Coming off a 30-point loss at the Breslin Center last season won’t be easy for Kevin Huerter and Anthony Cowan Jr. to forget.

The Terps could win at least one game between trips to Iowa City and Piscataway. Considering the number of Maryland fans that have shown up for the team’s two previous trips to Rutgers, that’s probably where Turgeon’s team can get a road win.

Home and away opponents (Anywhere from 7-7 to 9-5, depending on whether Fernando leaves)

Of the teams the Terps will face at home and away, only Michigan expects to be in the hunt for a regular-season title. A lot will hinge on what Fernando decides to do.

With what happened against Michigan last season — a heartbreaking, head-scratching last-second loss in Ann Arbor and an embarrassing 24-point loss at home on Senior Day — you have have to figure that Maryland will be fired up to see John Beilein’s team.

Nebraska and Penn State are also question marks. James Palmer Jr., who torched the Terps for 25 points in the second half in Lincoln last season, declared for the draft but did not hire an agent, meaning he could return for his senior season. Tony Carr, who led the Nittany Lions to a National Invitation Tournament championship, also declared for the draft and committed to hiring an agent, ending his college career.

Wisconsin should make a move in the league if center Ethan Happ returns for his redshirt senior year and the Badgers can avoid injuries, but Purdue will be rebuilding whether rising junior guard Carsen Edwards comes back or not.

Minnesota could make the biggest jump with the return to health of forward Amir Coffey. While the Gophers will still need to find a replacement for center Reggie Lynch, Richard Pitino’s team will likely be as hungry as Turgeon’s.

Though Big Ten Player of the Year Keita Bates-Diop has not signed with an agent after declaring for the draft, the chances of his return to Ohio State for a redshirt senior year seem unlikely based on recent draft projections.

The loss of guards Kam Williams (Mount Saint Joseph) and grad student Andrew Dakich will also hurt, but Big Ten Coach of the Year Chris Holtmann showed enough chops last season to not bury the Buckeyes completely.

A lot will depend on when Maryland plays certain teams, as is usually the case.

Last season’s schedule gave the Terps more than adequate breaks between most games, but Turgeon pointed out that alternating between home and road games never allowed his team to build some momentum.

It was one of many excuses given for a disappointing year, but one that had more legitimacy than most.

don.markus@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sportsprof56

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