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Everything you need to know about Maryland's showdown with Florida State, in which they try to get to 2-0 in the ACC for the first time in years. Preview's mine, but the headline is still Pete's.
What: Maryland hosts 9-5 Florida State after each team won their conference opener.
When and Where: 8:00 p.m., Comcast Center.
Where to Watch: ESPN3, ACC Network.
Line: Vegas: Maryland -5.5. KenPom: Maryland by 6. Sagarin: Maryland by 8.5.
Notes / Storylines
Jake Layman. The freshman burst onto the scene in a surprise start against Virginia Tech, scoring 18 of his 20 points in the first half and showing that he's a legitimate threat from deep. He might've earned another start off that performance, but whether or not Turgeon gives him the go-ahead is still uncertain. His lanky 6-9 frame would definitely come in handy against the longest team in the ACC in Florida State, and if Nick Faust is still battling back spasms his decision may be made for him. But the decision is one of the biggest points of intrigue heading into the game.
Nick Faust. Speaking of Faust, there's been no word on his status for today's game: Mark Turgeon fully expected him to be ready to play several days ago and hasn't said anything to the contrary to this point. But depending on the underlying cause of the back spasms, he could be either completely fine or still battling them, or at least have missed enough practice time to make a difference. Maryland didn't need Faust against Virginia Tech, but FSU's a different animal. Whether he starts or not, his presence would be welcome.
2-0? The last time Maryland started 2-0 in ACC play was....? Any guesses?
How about the 2002-03 season, when the Terps beat Georgia Tech at home followed by, you guessed it, Florida State in College Park. Maryland, of course, finished 21-10 that season, and was a Steve Blake buzzer-beater away from an Elite Eight trip. Good omens - if, of course, the Terrapins could pull it off again this year. Virginia Tech and Florida State don't appear to be major competitors for those upper-middle spots in the ACC anymore, which takes away some of the sweetness from the fast start, but still, 2-0 is 2-0.
Streaks. As you well know, Maryland's won 13 straight, the second-longest such run in program-history. A win here would tie the school record, a mark achieved in 1932 when H. Burton Shipley's Maryland Old Liners beat St. John's (the one in Annapolis, not Queens) by a score of 24-20. There's a good chance that mark can be eclipsed, with a tough-but-winnable game against Miami to come next. Oh, and as an added bonus, the Terps have beat FSU in College Park nine straight times, with the last loss coming back all the way back in 2001.
The Opponent (An Overview)
Florida State came into the season as a genuine contender at the top end of the conference. The conventional wisdom saw how they performed last year, when they won the ACC Tournament and finished 25-10, and with Michael Snaer on his way back declared them one of the teams to beat. Thing is, they lost so much of what made them great from that team: their length and their shooting. Big men Bernard James, Xavier Gibson, and Jon Kreft all graduated; so, too, did Luke Loucks and Deivydas Dulkys. That was a lot to replace, and they've struggled trying to replace it so far.
They started off losing to South Alabama; soon after came Mercer; then Florida, who steamrolled them; then Auburn. Aside from decent wins over BYU, St. Joe's, and Clemson - admittedly, better wins than Maryland has - there's been little in the way of encouragement. Especially strange is how decidedly average they've been defensively, which is usually Leonard Hamilton's calling card.
The team's built around Snaer, who's playing pretty well for all the pressure he has. He's not a superstar, but he's efficient and productive, especially having added solid three-point shooting to his arsenal. He's a perfect match for Dez Wells, and their battle will be one of the more interesting ones you'll see this year. Guys like Terrance Shannon, Okaro White, and Montay Brandon have all done well enough in their increased roles, but none of them are the defensive masterminds that James, Gibson and Loucks were last season. FSU isn't bad defensively, but they shouldn't scare you there like they did last year - and aside from Snaer, there's not a lot going on with their offense lately, either. There's talent here, as Hamilton's done a great job of recruiting, but it's still as of yet unclear how it all pieces together.
Expected Starting Fives:
|Pe`Shon Howard (Jr., 6-2)||Terry Whisnant (So., 6-3)|
|Dezmine Wells (So., 6-5)||Michael Snaer (Sr., 6-5)|
|Nick Faust (So., 6-6)||Montay Brandon (Fr., 6-7)|
|Charles Mitchell (Fr., 6-8)||Okaro White (Jr., 6-8)|
|Alex Len (So., 7-1)||Kiel Turpin (Jr., 7-0)|
I'm going to guess that Chuck starts over James Padgett and a healthy Faust gets the nod over Jake Layman. On the other end, things are pretty well settled, with Whisnant at point over Ian Miller, who is still returning from injury, and Turpin starting over Terrence Shannon, who'll be the first big man off the bench.
Matchup to Watch: Wells-Snaer is going to be fascinating, for sure, and watching Faust or potentially Layman go head-to-head with the lank, athletic Brandon is going to be fun, too. But there's one obvious one: Len-Turpin. Rarely has Alex Len faced someone as tall as he is this season, let alone someone as tall as he is who actually belongs in the ACC. Turpin, while far from a star, is an ACC talent and a legit seven feet. If Len is going to turn on the burners at some point during ACC play, it'd be nice to see him do it against someone of his size.
Now, Florida State has still played tougher competition than Maryland. But the Terps still have a better eFG%, lower turnover percentage, much higher rebounding percentage, and a more or less even FT rate, keeping in mind that they're one of the best in the country at not conceding free throws. Stats only tell part of the story, but they're pretty one-sided here.
Prediction: Part of me is a little frightened about yet another step up in opposition, and I'm quite wary of underrating Florida State. They're classic FSU to some degree, so while those losses are ugly, it's tough to look at wins over St. Joe's, BYU, and Clemson and write them off entirely. When they show up, they're good enough to cause problems. But I'm increasingly turning into a believer about this Maryland team being very, very good - good enough to beat an inconsistent FSU team still finding itself. Hamilton's teams tend to improve as the year goes on, so you get the feeling that, between the game being at home and FSU still young, Maryland's catching them at the right time. Terps 73, Florida State 61, though the game is closer than the final score.