Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Maryland returns home for their fourth ACC contest, against one of their toughest opponents yet.
What: After back-to-back disappointing losses to the Florida schools, Maryland is looking for a statement win against #14 NC State, fresh off a victory of their own against Duke.
Where + When: 7:00 pm at the Comcast Center in College Park, Md.
Where to Watch: ESPN2
Line: Vegas: Maryland -2.
Recovery. Maryland has now played three awful halves of basketball in a row, losing two straight conference games after starting out 13-1 with a big win over Virginia Tech. The Terrapins looked sloppy and unable to find themselves in the loss against Miami (who, again, have one of the best defenses in the nation), and the next slate of games won't make it easy - this game against the #14 Wolfpack is followed up by a road trip to Chapel Hill, a home game against Boston College and road games against #3 Duke and Florida State. Four of those games look like likely losses at the moment - a sacrifice Maryland can't realistically make if they hope to make the tournament.
Tournament hopes. Speaking of the tournament, how much did these two losses hurt Maryland's chances? By themselves, probably not much - both are fairly good teams, and it's early enough in the ACC season that the record doesn't really matter. What does stand out, however, is how bad they looked - the question isn't whether these two losses will keep them out of the tournament, but whether the Terps will continue to play like this. If they do, then there will undoubtedly be no postseason play for Maryland.
Lineup changes. As Ben B. predicted, Seth Allen started in place of Pe'Shon Howard, who has combined for just two assists against four turnovers with no points scored in the last two games. MVPe' is one of the largest reasons Maryland has struggled so much in the past two games, and Allen looks like the likely starter again here. Turgeon did go back to James Padgett and the four - Charles Mitchell entered the game after Spencer Barks due to "maturity issues" and Shaquille Cleare, who was supposed to start, had back spasms and had to come in off the bench.
Scoring. If you combine the second half of the Florida State game and the first half of the Miami game, Maryland scored a total of 45 points. 45 points. Easy Big Ten jokes aside, the Terps need to find their rhythm again, whether it's through allowing Seth Allen to find more space, getting it in to Alex Len as much as possible, or just sending Allen, Aronhalt, Faust and Layman out there to chuck threes.
The Opponent (An Overview)
The Wolfpack were a large benefactor of the preseason hype machine when it came to the polls, and they haven't really let anybody down. After early losses to Oklahoma State and then-#3 Michigan, the Wolfpack have won eleven in a row, including victories over Connecticut, Stanford and Duke (by a final score of 84-76).
NC State has six different scorers on the team who all play around 30 minutes per game, with only one significant contributor coming off the bench - T.J. Warren, a freshman forward averaging 12.3 points per game. Warren is actually one of the most efficient scorers in the country - ranking first in the ACC in floor percentage (66.5%), effective field goal percentage (70.3%) and field goal percentage (67.2%).
At point guard, the Wolfpack start freshman Rodney Purvis, a former blue-chip prospect who is averaging 9.8 points per game. 6'5" guard Lorenzo Brown runs the offense, averaging a conference-leading 7.1 assists per game along-side 13.0 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.
At small forward is senior Scott Wood, averaging 12.3 points per game and shooting 45.2% from three and 91.3% from the free throw line. He's tops in the conference in offensive rating (ninth in the country), true shooting percentage and three point field goals. Senior power forward Richard Howell is averaging a double-double this season, with 12.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, and is the top offensive rebounder in the conference.
That, right there, is already arguably the best team Maryland has faced this season. But that would be ignoring the star of the show, 6'9" junior C.J. Leslie. Leslie is averaging 16.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per game this year with 1.1 blocks and 1.1 steals. He ranks in the top ten in the conference in 25 different categories, and is one of the most exciting players to watch in the country.
So yeah, North Carolina State is pretty good.
Expected Starting Fives:
|Seth Allen (Fr., 6-1)||Rodney Purvis (Fr., 6-3)|
|Nick Faust (So., 6-6)||Lorenzo Brown (Jr., 6-5)|
|Dezmine Wells (So., 6-5)||Scott Wood (Sr., 6-6)|
|Charles Mitchell (Fr., 6-8)||Richard Howell (Sr., 6-8)|
|Alex Len (So., 7-1)||C.J. Leslie (Jr., 6-9)|
Matchup to Watch:
Len vs. Leslie is the easy pick, so I'm not even going to touch that. I'll be more interested by how the two freshman guards - Seth Allen and Rodney Purvis - stack up. Allen was a largely unheralded three-star prospect while Purvis was recruited by nearly every major program in the country. Statistically, their years have been fairly comparable, and it should be a fun match-up in what could be a long night.
North Carolina State is good. Like, really really good. This is the absolute worst time Maryland could have faced off against the Wolfpack, on the heels of two sluggish performances where they've been unable to find their offensive stroke. Or maybe not. Maybe Maryland turns it all around with a year-defining win at home against the Wolfpack. Maybe two bad losses in a row is exactly what the Terps needed to motivate themselves against a more talented squad. Maybe. But I wouldn't count on it.
North Carolina State 88, Maryland 64.