Records: Maryland (17-13, 10-12 Big Ten) vs. Alabama (25-6, 19-2 Southeastern Conference)
Line: Alabama by 5 ½ (as of Sunday evening)
What to watch
1. Can Maryland make Alabama play at its own pace?
Monday night’s game sets up a Tortoise-and-the-Hare-like matchup between two teams that prefer to play at contrasting paces. Alabama plays at the ninth-fastest pace in the country, while Maryland’s tempo ranks 319th.
The Terps, like Alabama, use a small-ball lineup often so they have the athleticism to keep up with the Crimson Tide. But Maryland’s thin rotation makes trying to match Alabama’s speed a risky bet; while the Terps are locked into an eight-man rotation, the Crimson Tide have nine players who average at least 11 minutes.
“We’ve played a lot of fast teams but they probably play the fastest, probably shoot the quickest,” coach Mark Turgeon said Sunday. “Probably the most athletic team we’ve played and we’ve played some athletic teams.”
2. Can the Terps defend the 3-point line?
Nearly 37% of Alabama’s field-goal attempts come from the 3-point line, which ranks 17th in the country, and almost 40% of the Crimson Tide’s points come from 3-pointers. The team attempted a season-low 16 3-pointers — along with a season-low five makes — in its Round of 64 win over Iona on Saturday and coach Nate Oats indicated in a virtual news conference Sunday that he wants his team to attempt more Monday night.
Turgeon said the team was still in the process of deciding which of Alabama’s players it would be most comfortable with attempting the long-range shots. However, playing the odds will be a difficult task against a team that has four players in its starting lineup who are shooting at least 33% from beyond the arc.
3. Will Maryland’s leaders continue their strong play on offense?
Between junior guard Eric Ayala, who nearly doubled his scoring average in Saturday’s win over Connecticut, and scoring efforts from junior guard Aaron Wiggins and sophomore forward Donta Scott that were right on track with their season averages, Turgeon essentially received the four-man offensive production against the Huskies that he desires on most nights.
Turgeon said he would like to get more from his bench, particularly junior forward Jairus Hamilton, and the Boston College transfer’s 3-point shooting would be a welcomed asset against an Alabama team that averages close to 80 points per game.
The Crimson Tide’s defense ranks second in the country in efficiency, according to KenPom, and forward Herbert Jones received SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors while also being named the conference’s Player of the Year. But Maryland sees an opportunity with both teams having similar size on the court.
“This is finally the first time — with us being in the Big Ten — this is finally the first time we’re facing a team that’s comparable to us,” senior guard Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph) said. “They play small ball. We’ve got a lot of similar-sized guys. So, we’ll be able to match up with them pretty well.”