Maryland-Virginia First Look: Round Two

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For most round twos this season, I've started out by saying something about "this team isn't a lot different than the team Maryland played earlier in the year." In a lot of cases, that's been true, but it's not the case for Virginia.

These Cavs aren't the energetic bubble team we thought they were last time. They aren't the surprise ACC contenders anymore. They've lost that fighting spirit that Tony Bennett instilled in them, and instead have been replaced by a flat team that's lost 8 games in a row and hasn't tasted victory in over a month.

When Virginia was beating teams earlier in the year, they did it through methodical offensive play, extremely strong defensive play, and heavy reliance on the sensational Sylven Landesberg. While their defense is still okay and certainly keeps teams from lighting up the scoreboard, their offense, while still methodical, is no longer effective. Five times in the last seven games they've been kept under 60 points, and not once since January have they topped 70.

Meanwhile, Landesberg has been quiet and has entirely played himself out of All-ACC contention. After absolutely lighting it up in the first part of the season, he hasn't been able to do anything worth note in the past month or so. Recently, he's been fighting a thigh injury, but even before then he's been unspectacular. Just once in the past month has he topped 20 points, and just twice has he topped 13. For a team with little in the way of a supporting cast, Landesberg's absence is absolutely crippling.

They still don't turn the ball over much, which was one of their big plusses the first time around, but they've gotten worse in almost every other aspect, if I remember correctly: they shoot worse and still lack an outside presence; their defense is less strangling, with low point totals coming mostly from the slow pace; they have trouble getting to the line; they're even worse at rebounding.

Basically, this team has had new holes ripped open without doing much in the way of patching others. They first time around they were a slower, worse version of Maryland; now they're a slower, much worse version of Maryland. Is it possible that a slumping Cav team decides to win the last game of their season and comes out fiery? Of course; Virginia is never an easy win for Maryland. However, I don't think Maryland could've chosen an easier UVA team to face. As long as they keep Duke from going to their heads and there's no hex on Maryland playing at JPJ, this is a game I have difficulty seeing Marlyand lose. Everyone on the team from last year knows the importance of it.

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