Maryland Terrapins vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Gameday Guide: Streaking GT Visits Comcast

When and Where: Comcast Center, College Park, Md.; 4:00

Where to Watch: ACC Network, so check the affiliate list to see if it's on where you live; if it's not on TV in your whereabouts, it'll be on ESPN3

Line: Vegas: Maryland -2 KenPom: Georgia Tech by 1, 46% chance of Maryland victory

Gameday Reading: [Our preview] | [Q&A with From the Rumble Seat] | [Faust growing up early in Maryland career] | [Turgeon quotes] | [Maryland, Georgia Tech are ahead of schedule] | [Stoglin uncertain to start Saturday]

Notes/Storylines:

  • Terrell Stoglin has a back injury, may not start (again). So says Mark Turgeon. This instantly becomes the biggest worry in this game. If Stoglin struggles with an injury, God knows what happens to Maryland's offense.
  • Another crucial game. I hesitate to call it a must-win for Maryland, just like I hesitated to call the Wake game a must-win, but it's close. And not in the sense that a loss will be particularly disappointing - remember, no expectations - but only that if this bunch harbors post-season ambitions, beating likely bottom-tier teams at home in the conference is basically a must.
  • Who shows up? Seriously, why couldn't they have scheduled the Ravens game on Saturday? Baltimore kicks off at 1:00, which is cutting it mighty close with the 4:00 tip here. I'm assuming it'll be another late-arriving crowd.
  • Keep the streak alive. Maryland's won five straight at home against Georgia Tech, their second-longest home-winning streak, behind only Florida State. Some of those wins have come in the most improbable fashion - there's the Greivis-non-buzzer-beater turned Cliff-buzzer-beater, of course, and who could forget Mike Jones' 21-point outburst in his senior year (finally) in an overtime nail-biter? Good mojo in College Park against Georgia Tech.

The Opponent (An Overview): Georgia Tech looked like the second worst team in the conference heading into the ACC season, having just dropped games to Mercer and Fordham before the conference slate. They then nearly knocked off Duke in Atlanta and upset N.C. State in Raleigh, looking pretty impressive in the process and winning by 11. This makes them tough to analyze - were those two games aberrations, or did something just click for Brian Gregory's team? They're 129th in RPI, 103rd in KenPom, and 108th in Sagarin. They thrive on strong defense but lack a true point guard, which makes their offense hit-or-miss at times. They have one of the slower tempos in the conference, and tend to try to limit the number of possessions, although they're certainly not close to, say, what Virginia does.

Expected Starting Fives:

Maryland Georgia Tech
Pe’Shon Howard (So., 6-3) Mfon Udofia (Jr., 6-2)
Sean Mosley (Sr., 6-4) Brandon Reed (So., 6-3)
Nick Faust (Fr., 6-6) Jason Morris (So., 6-5)
James Padgett (Jr., 6-8) Kammeon Holsey (So., 6-8)
Alex Len (Fr., 7-1) Daniel Miller (So., 6-11)

Two things: first of all, I've given up on trying to predict Maryland's lineup 100%. I have no idea if it'll be James Padgett or Ashton Pankey at the 4, just like I have no idea whether Terrell Stoglin will be in the starting lineup with his back injury or whether Turgeon will keep Faust in as a wing. It's a roll of the dice. You know what Maryland's rotation will look like by now anyway. I'm much more confident on GT's lineup, with one exception.

Secondly, you're probably thinking, "Where's the Glen Rice, Jr. character I've heard so much about?" He actually doesn't start. He comes off the bench. He gets starter minutes, of course, and is basically a starter in everything but name, but doesn't actually start. Again, I wouldn't be surprised if that changed and he was inserted into the lineup over, say, Reed, but I don't expect it right now.

The other thing you might've noticed: Georgia Tech is really young. There's some potential for this bunch.

Four Factors:

Georgia Tech actually shoots the ball slightly better than Maryland does, but other than that Maryland has advantages in the three other areas: they're better at holding onto the ball, they're much better at rebounding, and they're much better at getting to the stripe. But then, we already knew that these would be skewed, given that GT is playing its best basketball of the season right now.

Matchup to Watch: I'll go with Sean Mosley vs. Glen Rice Jr. GRJ, as he's called, is the heartbeat of GT's entire team, and they rely on him like Maryland relies on Stoglin. Slow him down and things might get ugly for the Jackets' offense. On the other end, Mosley needs to keep being the #2 scorer we've seen him become over the past three games or so. He needs to remain aggressive, keep taking shots, and try to take some load off Stoglin's shoulders.

Keys in Cliches:

  • Play 40 minutes. Maryland's first-half margin in the last five games: +43. Second-half margin: -11. That's not a coincidence. The Terrapins have taken three would-be blowouts and made things a little interesting down the stretch. Georgia Tech isn't Cornell or even Wake Forest; they're good enough to take advantage of something like that.
  • Win the turnover battle. For one of the first times all season, Maryland won the turnover margin against Wake Forest. They should do it again, as GT is one of the worst teams in the conference at both holding onto the ball and forcing TOs of their own. Maryland has a marked advantage here, and they need to take advantage of it.
  • Perimeter defense. The biggest difference between pre-ACC GT and in-ACC GT might be three-point shooting: shooting 29% before the ACC slate, they've shot up to 53% in the last two games. That's a huge difference, and it transforms GT from a team you let shoot to a team you have to stay tight on.
Prediction: I wouldn't at all be surprised to see Maryland lose this game - in fact, if Georgia Tech's last two games were for real, then the Yellow Jackets are easily the superior team. The real question in the prediction is whether or not those two games were real, and if they weren't, can Maryland make GT fall back to earth? Unlike Maryland, Georgia Tech didn't suddenly get a player back from injury or suspension, and on the face there's nothing really indicating a serious turnaround. Bad teams don't become great ones overnight, and Tech is probably playing above their heads right now. If that's the case, they have to come back down at some point. Why not today? I'll go with a very cautious Terp win, 76-69.
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