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Three takeaways from Maryland’s Big Ten men’s basketball schedule

As difficult as it is to get a feel for how the Big Ten season will come together for the Maryland men’s basketball team about three months before the league opener, recent history should be one indicator for how the Terps could fare.

With so much hype building for Mark Turgeon’s team, along with the pressure building on the head coach going into his ninth season, most fans will be circling the two regular-season matchups with Michigan State as well as when and where Maryland will play some of the other top Big Ten teams.

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Here are three takeaways from Maryland’s 2019-20 Big Ten schedule.

Maryland has a favorable schedule to start league play, but the first two could be tougher than they appear.

The Terps open with three of four at home, starting with Illinois on Dec. 7 and a trip to Penn State on Dec. 10. Considering what happened last season, Maryland should be fired up for those two after getting run over in the second half by the Fighting Illini at Madison Square Garden and being trounced by the Nittany Lions by 17 in State College. Illinois could be the most improved team in the Big Ten this season.

The two home games when league play resumes in January against Indiana and Ohio State should be as much a test of the Terps as their for fans, since both games will be when the students are on break. If Maryland is still a top-10 team at that juncture of the season, it should be no problem filling Xfinity Center. Or will it? Maryland has only sold out two games the past two years, and none without the students on campus.

In order to win the Big Ten regular-season title, the Terps will have to hold court with Michigan State.

The Spartans are considered the prohibitive favorites to win the Big Ten, and a legitimate contender for a national championship. This is only the third time since joining the Big Ten that Maryland will play Michigan State home and away. The Terps swept the Spartans in the regular season in 2014-15, but Michigan State has dominated the series since, winning six of the past seven overall. The lone win for the Terps came on Melo Trimble’s last-second 3-pointer in what turned out to be his final home game in 2016-17.

It’s not by accident that both games are scheduled for Saturdays, since the Feb. 15 matchup in East Lansing and Feb. 29 game in College Park figure to be primed for national television. Turgeon has made a point to talk about how Maryland’s offseason weight and conditioning program was, at least in part, motivated by the way Michigan State physically dominated Maryland last season at Breslin Center. That 14-point loss was coming on the heels of a 30-point blowout defeat the year before.

As favorable as the start of the Big Ten season appears, the end will be challenging.

It’s tough enough that the Terps wind down the regular season with four of seven away from home. Two of the games will be against Michigan State, along with a two-game road swing to Ohio State and Minnesota. With Turgeon’s team trying to reverse a trend of collapsing down the stretch, this could be the part of the schedule that will most determine what kind of seed Maryland winds up in the Big Ten tournament and NCAA tournament.

What’s also interesting is the last three games of the regular season — home games with Michigan State and Michigan sandwiching a trip to Rutgers. The game against the Wolverines on senior day will be the only meeting between the two schools during the regular season after an offseason when longtime Michigan coach John Beilein left to take over the Cleveland Cavaliers, former star Juwan Howard took over Michigan and valued Wolverines assistant DeAndre Haynes left for Maryland.

Maryland’s 2019-20 Big Ten men’s basketball schedule

Saturday, Dec. 7 vs. Illinois

Tuesday, Dec. 10 @ Penn State

Saturday, Jan. 4 vs. Indiana

Tuesday, Jan. 7 vs. Ohio State

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Friday, Jan. 10 @ Iowa

Tuesday, Jan. 14 @ Wisconsin

Saturday, Jan. 18 vs. Purdue

Tuesday, Jan. 21 @ Northwestern

Sunday, Jan. 26 @ Indiana

Thursday, Jan. 30 vs. Iowa

Tuesday, Feb. 4 vs. Rutgers

Friday, Feb. 7 @ Illinois

Tuesday, Feb. 11 vs. Nebraska

Saturday, Feb. 15 @ Michigan State

Tuesday, Feb. 18 vs. Northwestern

Sunday, Feb. 23 @ Ohio State

Wednesday, Feb. 26 @ Minnesota

Saturday, Feb. 29 vs. Michigan State

Tuesday, March 3 @ Rutgers

Sunday, March 8 vs. Michigan

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