USA TODAY Sports
The Duke upset is history, and the ACC schedule rolls on. Can Maryland keep making progress with a trip to Boston?
Where + When: 9:00 at Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, Ma.
Where to Watch: ACC Network*, so check your affiliate lists here. (Random affiliate o' the day: Myrtle Beach, S.C., you are in luck!) For those not so lucky, it'll be on ESPN3.
Lines: Vegas: Terps -2 KenPom: Maryland by 3
Let-down? One of the first things Mark Turgeon made note of after his team upset Duke was that he wanted the Terrapins to respond the right way. After their last big, court-rushing win over N.C. State, the Terps were blitzed out of the game at UNC in the first half, down 22 at the interval and looking entirely out of the game until they finally came alive a bit in the second. Turgeon said he wanted Maryland to react the right way this time, and hopefully that last experience will serve them in good stead this time around.
Corner: turned? How many times have we said this already this season? Five? Six? Well, we're saying it again. Standing completely opposite to the last point, the Terps looked to find themselves against Duke a bit. Not only did they beat one of the best teams in the country, let alone ACC, they looked pretty solid doing it, particularly in two regards: the offensive plan, and the individual performances. To the first point, for the first time in a long time Mark Turgeon didn't counter a small lineup with one of his own, instead deciding to go big while Duke went small. The Terps took advantage, going inside all day long and reaping the benefits. Last time against BC, Turgeon altered his lineup, starting Charles Mitchell at the four to better line up with BC's smaller, more mobile five. After seeing what his team did to a smaller Duke front line, I doubt he'll try that again. Similarly, we finally saw the best out of Alex Len, Nick Faust, James Padgett, and in particular Seth Allen; Faust and Padgett will come and go, I imagine, with Dez Wells and Charles Mitchell and Jake Layman each capable of stepping up to take over their production, but if Len and Allen can keep playing well, Maryland might really have something on their hands.
These games mean something again. We've already talked at length about Maryland's tourney hopes, but to simplify: Maryland has six games left, plus the ACC Tournament. Any combination of five wins will have them in the conversation, but likely to miss out; six wins puts them firmly on the bubble, able to go either way; and seven wins will almost certainly have them in. That means there's very little margin for error if they want to feel comfortable come Selection Sunday, and so these types of games, while not must-wins, are darned close.
Rematch. Maryland's already faced BC, a game that (if you recall) had Alex Len at his ferocious best, finishing with 16 points and 13 rebounds against a completely overmatched BC frontline, plus a quick post-dunk confrontation with a BC player for good measure. Maryland ended up winning by five, largely on the back of Len. They'll need to play better up in Chestnut Hill, especially now that the Eagles are starting to find their footing a little more.
Welcome back, Pe'. Yes, Pe`Shon Howard is back with the team and available to play. How much will he? Well, it probably depends on how much Turgeon trusts him and how Seth Allen looks running the point. But he's back in the mix.
The Opponent (An Overview)
Boston College is the second-worst in the ACC, if you look at the standings. But based on their play, I find that difficult to believe. This is a gritty, overachieving team that has a tendency to keep games close, usually just losing out - a product of their lack of talent and lack of experience. But they almost invariably play well, and that means that any game against them is guaranteed to be a battle.
Look at their last three contests to see the team in a nutshell. First they played Duke at home, a game in which they almost had the Blue Devils beat but lost by a point. Then they host Wake Forest, a team that has maybe one-tenth of Duke's quality, and get out-played but keep things just close enough to nip it at the end, going on an 8-0 run in the final two minutes to win by three. Then they travel to Florida State, a tough place to play, and very nearly take down the Seminoles, ultimately losing by three. Point is: they're inconsistent, they'll play to the level of their opposition, and they'll make every game tough.
The individual pieces here, though, look a lot like they did last time the two met. Ryan Anderson is still a sneakily good player and the centerpiece of the entire team; he put up 19 and 7 on Maryland last time around, and they'll have to do a better job of containing him tonight. Almost everyone else around him are guards, though, with very little size (11th in the ACC in effective height) and very little depth (11th in the ACC in percentage of bench minutes). Maryland should look to exploit both deficiencies as much as possible.
Offensively, they're a largely efficient team that really gets to the line, takes a lot of three-pointers, and gets a lot of assists. They're built around free throws and three-pointers, and while they're really only average at both of them, that's where they'll do almost all of their work. As you'd expect, it's all about execution, which will challenge Maryland's up-and-down defense. On the other end of the floor, things ... aren't so rosy. With their lack of height and athleticism, they're vulnerable to getting broken down by the ACC's higher-level talents, and that's exactly what's happened all year long. They're dead-last in the conference in eFG%, dead-last in three-point%, and there or thereabouts in most other important categories. They don't rebound well, they can't handle big men, they don't force turnovers; it's exactly the type of game where Maryland's newfound offense might have a showcase performance.
Expected Starting Fives
|Seth Allen (Fr., 6-1)||Joe Rahon (Fr., 6-2)|
|Dez Wells (So., 6-5)||Olivier Hanlan (Fr., 6-4)|
|Jake Layman (Fr., 6-8)||Patrick Heckmann (So., 6-5)|
|Alex Len (So., 7-1)||Ryan Anderson (So., 6-8)|
|Shaquille Cleare (Fr., 6-9)||Dennis Clifford (So., 7-0)|
Maryland just beat Duke; I'm pretty doubtful that they'll change their starting lineup the very next game, which means we see three freshmen and two sophomores for the second time in a row. The only potential change might be Charles Mitchell in for Shaq, pushing Len to the five to better counter Anderson's energy, but I think Turgeon's going to give this group another go. BC is probably set in stone as it is: Rahon runs point and is a straight match-up with Allen; ditto Wells on Hanlan and Heckmann-Layman. Obviously, Clifford will match up with Len, but he's something of a stiff without much going for him but his height - he hasn't received 20 minutes in a game since early January, including when he was basically invisible against Maryland when the two last met. Look for Maryland to exploit that as much as possible.
Matchup to Watch
Hate to be repetitive, since it seems every game these days we're highlighting a certain seven-foot Ukrainian, but there's really no way around it: it's Alex Len vs. Ryan Anderson. Len will spend time guarding Anderson, though Anderson will probably spend even more time guarding Len. Both are their respective teams' best players; it's tough to imagine Maryland losing if Len has a good game, and it's tough to imagine BC winning if Anderson has a bad one. That's the great paradox of Alex Len, though; he outplays Nerlens Noel one day, then goes missing against a shoddy Virginia frontcourt. He makes NPOY candidate and future lotto pick Mason Plumlee look like a bum, and then we're wondering what he'll look like against a scrappy 6-8 combo forward most people have never heard of. Good Len came to play against him last time, though, and if that happens again, you have to like the Terps' chances.
It seems I'm getting all the predictions wrong these days, whereas my esteemed colleague Pete Volk nailed the Duke game on the head. Ah, well: maybe it's me getting caught up in the hype, but I think Maryland's grown up a bit from the beginning of the season. So has BC, of course, but because Maryland had so much more talent they had a much higher ceiling, and they're starting to realize that. It's coming in fits and starts, admittedly, which means there's every chance this is a let-down game, but something tells me that the N.C. State game taught them a lesson. At least I hope as much.
Terps 66, BC 60.