Bill Raftery: ‘Maryland’s Gotten A Lot Better’

No. 14 Maryland knocked off No. 5 Wisconsin, 59-53, in College Park on Tuesday. The Terps led 31-20 at halftime and rode Dez Wells (26 points) and Melo Trimble (16 points) down the stretch to pull off the upset.

But did this win say more about Maryland (23-5, 11-4) or Wisconsin (25-3, 13-2)?

“I actually was working last night. I had Villanova, so what I did was read (about the Wisconsin/Maryland game) and see some highlights late,” longtime college basketball analyst Bill Raftery said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I think a lot of it has to do with being on the road, to be honest with you. I think Maryland’s gotten a lot better during the course of the year. They got a healthy Dez Wells now. I think that makes a big difference. And of course we all know about Trimble’s solid play and ability to get to the free-throw line.

“But Wisconsin, it’s a team that’s hard to play,” Raftery continued. “There are losses that occur, and they’re sort of mind-boggling a little bit sometimes. But the way they stretch you and shoot threes – in the NCAA format, they’re one of those opponents that are not fun to play against because they do use clock. They can play any way you want, basically.”

The Badgers shot 48 percent from the floor against Maryland but were just 2-of-7 (28.6 percent) from three-point range. They had won 10 straight – and 18 of 19 – entering Tuesday.

Thus, Raftery isn’t reading too much into it, especially since Wisconsin’s only losses since Dec. 3 came on the road against Big Ten rivals – and they were by five and six points, respectively.

“I wouldn’t put too much stock in it,” Raftery said. “Although it’s got to be great for Maryland, no question about it. And it gives Bo (Ryan) something to scream about.”

No. 6 Villanova, meanwhile, took care of business Tuesday, beating No. 25 Providence, 89-61. The Wildcats (26-2, 13-2) have won 13 of their last 14 games and are clearly the best team in the Big East. But how do they compare to the rest of the country?

“They’re one of those teams that have to be considered (one of the best in the country) because you can’t just take one or two guys away from them,” Raftery said. “They can play around.”

Villanova, with its guard-heavy lineup, has six players averaging at least 8.9 points per game. Darrun Hilliard II leads the team (14.7), followed by Ryan Arcidiacono (10.3) and JayVaughn Pinkston (10.1).

“People don’t seem to take advantage of the size disparity, and I think it’s because their defense has become a lot better,” Raftery said. “They pressure the ball a lot better. They don’t let you see the post. They front. They do a lot of weak-side help. I think they’re a tough out. They don’t look at the bench when they shoot the ball, which is a blessing if you’re a player. They basically share the ball very well. They cut well. It’s a simplistic offense where there’s a lot of freedom to vacillate and do some things individually. So they’re good. I mean, they’re certainly one of those teams we’re all talking about (as one of the) top five teams, top six teams in the country.”

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