Where and When: John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, Va.; 1:00
Where to Watch: ACC Network, so check your local listings; if not on in your area, it'll be on ESPN3 (blackout)
Line: Vegas: Virginia -10 KenPom: Virginia by 12, 11% chance of Maryland victory
- Marquee win opportunity, take seven. Do you count Notre Dame as a marquee win? You probably should, all things considered. But if you don't, Maryland really needs to grab at least one big win if they're serious about this whole "bubble" thing - and, based on that second link up there, they might be. Even with Virginia slowing down greatly, this is a huge opportunity, as the Hoos are considered locks to make the tournament at this point.
- Battle of the ACC's two MVPs. If you want to take MVP really literally - that is, the players most valuable to their teams - the two biggest candidates would be Mike Scott for UVA and Terrell Stoglin for Maryland. No other player in the conference means near as much to their squad as Scott and Stoglin do for theirs. I'm ready for an old-school battle royale. I just wish Stoglin was a 4.
- Heading in opposite directions, sorta. There's no doubt that Virginia, as a program, is on its way up, relatively speaking, while Maryland is in a valley at the moment. There's also no doubt that Virginia, more recently, has begun to struggle - lost their last two, of course - and Maryland has started to play pretty effective ball, winning two of their last three.
- Injuries. Virginia is missing Assane Sene, and Joe Harris is struggling with an injured hand. Maryland, of course, is without Pe'Shon Howard. For once, it looks like Maryland's on the winning side of the injury contest.
The Opponent (An Overview): In a turtleshell, the best way to describe Virginia would be as a rich man's mid-major. They have one really good player (Scott) who anchors a perimeter-oriented team that plays really slow and focuses on a low-pressure but well-executed defense and avoiding mistakes. (Y'know, lame stuff.) I'm a Gary disciple, so I find the style to be negative and easily disliked, but it works. Defensively, they use a packline style, much like Notre Dame, that is reactionary but makes the offense work hard to find a shot; it's worked very well, as they the conference's most effective defense this side of Tallahassee. Offensively, they rely a bit much on Scott, and have struggled at times to get points out of their guards. They've lost a ton of depth, with James Johnson and K.T. Harrell transferring midseason, plus the loss of Sene, but that doesn't really affect them much because they play so slowly.
Expected Starting Fives:
|Terrell Stoglin (So., 6-0)||Jontel Evans (Jr., 5-11)|
|Nick Faust (Fr., 6-6)||Sammy Zeglinski (Sr., 6-1)|
|Sean Mosley (Sr., 6-4)||Malcolm Brogdon (Fr., 6-5)|
|Ashton Pankey (Fr., 6-9)||Akil Mitchell (So., 6-8)|
|Berend Weijs (Sr., 6-10)||Mike Scott (Sr., 6-8)|
For Maryland, I basically just went off Thursday's look, but that's because I have no idea what the frontcourt will look like and a guess is useless. It was Pankey-Weijs on Thursday, something that made no sense to me; the best combo is James Padgett-Alex Len, but hey, whatever Turgeon thinks. I could see any combination of that four. Virginia should be said; they didn't start Joe Harris last time out and I don't expect them to do it this time with his hand being what it is. Save Maryland's frontcourt, this should be the lineup for both sides.
Good news: Jontel Evans matching up with Terrell Stoglin? Raining threes, all game. Even if they put Zeglinski on him, Stogs will have the quickness advantage. I could see Brogdon giving him troubles, but then Virginia is putting Evans on Mosley and Zeglinski on Mosley, giving up nearly a foot on the wings. Defensively, the only real question for Maryland is who attempts to check Scott. I'd assume the preference is Len, but his penchant for foul trouble means it'll be a team effort.
Same story as usual: opponent outshoots Maryland and is safer with the ball, but Maryland is better at rebounding and getting to the line. We've known this. The worry, though, is that Virginia is really good at defensive rebounding and avoiding fouls, which doesn't show up on the graph. If they can take away Maryland's bread-and-butter, it'll be a long night.
Matchup to Watch: It sort of depends on your view of Maryland's offense; I'm of the opinion that Stoglin will get his almost no matter what, and others like Nick Faust and James Padgett are far enough along that the Terrapins should get buckets. If that's the case, then this has to be Mike Scott vs. Maryland's frontcourt. I'd almost guarantee that all four of Maryland's bigs will be matched up with Scott at some point, and I'm guessing there will be some doubling-down as well. Thing is, Turgeon has been pretty adamant about going one-on-one to avoid giving up open threes. If that's still the case, Scott very well may kill Maryland by himself, much the way the Plumlees did earlier in the year. Maryland needs a better defensive showing from their post players than they've received lately.
Prediction: With Virginia slumping and Maryland streaking, basically anything could happen. Both teams could keep on their current tracks, in which case Maryland could grab a win; one of them could snap out of it, which would make it a battle; or both could revert to their old form, with Virginia grabbing a big win. I'm guessing that Maryland, true to their nature, will put up a fight in the first 30 minutes, then forget how to play basketball late. Virginia grabs a close and much-needed win, 58-53.