Where and When: Comcast Center, College Park, Md.; 7:00
Where to Watch: It'll be CSN+ for locals, and other regional sports networks elsewhere (check your local listings); ESPN3 for the internet/out-of-town crowd
Line: Vegas: Maryland -6 KenPom: Maryland by 4, 64% chance of victory
- Battle of the scoring leaders. It's not common that a game features the #1, #2, and #3 scorers in the ACC. Although I don't think this will be a particularly high-scoring matchup, there's some potential for an impressive back-and-forth between these three.
- Len's biggest test. (In a very literal sense). I don't think Alex Len has encountered very many seven-footers on the basketball court, and certainly none since he arrived in College Park. While Carson Desrosiers isn't particularly skilled and has struggled at times, he's also tall, and I can't help but wonder how Len will react to that.
- Evening the record. As mentioned in the headline, Maryland's looking to avoid an inauspicious 0-2 start in the ACC. Surprisingly, they've started 0-2 in the conference in three of the last five years. Not a nice trend.
- How important is this? It's obviously not a must-win, but I've been pushing it as a relatively important matchup. Having to climb out of an 0-2 hole with one of those losses being to one of the worse teams in the conference in Comcast Center ... well, it's not a good situation to be in. While it wouldn't be disqualifying in the truest sense of the word for postseason possibilities, it would make them almost unimaginable. Getting a win here is very important for the arc this season will take.
The Opponent (An Overview): Wake enters the contest at 10-5 overall and 1-0 in the ACC, having just pulled off an upset over Virginia Tech in their ACC opener. They're not a high-powered team and have some less-than-impressive losses on their resumé, but are probably feeling pretty good about themselves right now. They're ranked 160th in KenPom, 89th in RPI, and 131st in Sagarin. They have the #2 and #3 scorers in the ACC, but only go about seven-deep. That might contribute to their 176th ranking in raw tempo numbers. In case you're wondering, they're primarily a man-to-man team.
Expected Starting Fives:
|Pe’Shon Howard (So., 6-3)||Tony Chennault (So. 6-2)|
|Terrell Stoglin (So., 6-0)||C.J. Harris (Jr., 6-3)|
|Sean Mosley (Sr., 6-4)||Travis McKie (So., 6-7)|
|James Padgett (Jr., 6-8)||Nikita Mescheriakov (Sr., 6-8)|
|Alex Len (Fr., 7-1)||Carson Desrosiers (So., 7-0)|
James Padgett is looking like he has the starting four spot on lockdown, and I would be shocked to see any changes in Maryland's lineup. The same more or less goes for Wake Forest's, though I'm not sure McKie and Mescheriakov are really too heavily set in 3 and 4. Neither of them is a true 4 if memory holds, and McKie might actually be more of a 4 than Mescheriakov, even if he's truly a wing.
Wake Forest has the advantage in the first two, but Maryland has gotten much better at eFG% since the return of Howard and Len. The rebounding advantage is the most eye-opening.
Matchup to Watch: This game features the #1 scorer in the ACC and the #2 scorer in the ACC, so of course this has to be Terrell Stoglin vs. C.J. Harris. I don't know how much they'll actually be matched up, especially because I'd assume Howard would defend Harris most of the time, but it'll still be interesting to watch the scoring battle.
Keys in Cliches:
- Dominate the boards. Easily Maryland's biggest advantage in this game is rebounding; Mescheriakov is weak as a 4, McKie is tenacious but undersized, and Desrosiers has been a huge disappointment in rebounding. If there was only one path to victory for Maryland, this would be it.
- Keep Wake off the stripe. The Deacons get to the line as well as any team in the country, and their offense relies heavily on free throws (think Maryland before the two new additions).
- Push the pace. Wake Forest has an inconsistent tempo, but against high-level teams they tend to try to slow it down. Maryland has more depth and more athleticism, and would do well to try to tire out Wake - especially because McKie and Harris are basically always on the floor.
Prediction: I don't think I've felt this good about a Maryland game against a high-major opponent all year. Things might be a little less smooth in the return trip, but a home game against a thin team that rebounds poorly sounds fantastic for a Maryland team starting find an identity based on rebounding and up-tempo play. Maryland by double-digits.