Maryland-Virginia Tech preview: Terps face last-place Hokies in Blacksburg

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Terps have defeated the other four teams in the bottom five of the ACC standings (for their only four ACC wins). Can they defeat the last-place Hokies?

Maryland got back in the ACC column this week, defeating Miami at home in a tight one that ended in a Dez Wells game-winning three pointer. At 4-4 in conference play, they're now at ninth in the conference, but there are three other teams there at that mark and the Terps' fortune could certainly go either way in the next few weeks.

Their next opponent is certainly not 4-4 in ACC play -- it's cellar-dwelling Virginia Tech, who are 1-7 in conference. The teams directly above the Hokies in the standings? Miami, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and Boston College -- also known as the only conference teams Maryland has defeated this season. BC still stands as the Terps' only ACC road win, but they stand a good chance of grabbing another one here. Tip-off is scheduled for Saturday, February 1 at 12 p.m. ET on the ACC Network (and ESPN3).

Players to watch

Jarell Eddie, 6'7" senior. The Hokies' small forward is a serious threat from three, which could cause problems for Maryland's rather lax perimeter defense. He's taken 129 shots each from three-point and two-point range, making 54 of them from deep and just 46 from closer distance, so if Maryland can force him inside they can help mitigate some of his offensive prowess.

Ben Emelogu, 6'5" freshman. Another high-volume shooter, Emelogu is solid from three and also rebounds well on the defensive end.

Adam Smith, 6'1" sophomore. Smith missed the Hokies' most recent loss (to Boston College) with an injury, and his absence could make a legitimate difference in the game. He's one of the better passers on the team, but is also a valid shooting option from deep.

C.J. Barksdale, 6'8" junior. Barksdale also missed the Boston College loss with an injury, and his absence would be even bigger news. He's been Virginia Tech's most effective offensive presence this season, shooting 55.3% from two-point range, shooting well from the line and even proving able to step out and hit a three.

Devin Wilson, 6'4" freshman. Wilson is Virginia Tech's freshman point guard, and with it you have the usual for a freshman point guard -- a high assist rate, and an equally high turnover rate. Where Wilson differs is in his scoring ability -- he's shooting 45% from three (on limited opportunites), and actually leads the nation in getting to the line, making 63.9% of his incredible 119 free throw attempts.

Trevor Thompson, 6'11" freshman. Thompson splits time with Cadarian Raines and Joey Van Zegeren at center, and while the other two may be better offensive options, Thompson more than makes up for it with his rebounding prowess.

Strengths

Three-point shooting. The Hokies are shooting 38.6% from beyond the arc, which is...bad news considering the Terps rank 277th in the nation in perimeter defense, giving up 37% of opposing three point shots.

Rebounding. Thompson, Raines and Van Zegeren do their jobs as big men, but the team's scorers also pull in boards -- namely Eddie and Emelogu.

Weaknesses

Health. If Smith and Barksdale are out again, that's a huge issue for the offense, and could sway things heavily in Maryland's favor.

Shooting, non-three-point division. The Hokies are making just 44.1% of two point shots (320th in the nation) and 65.3% of free throw attempts (314th in the nation). So if Maryland can finally make a real effort out on the arc, it's hard to see the Hokies being too much of a problem.

Turnovers. Having a true freshman as your only true point guard will result in you giving the ball away a lot, but even more of a problem for Virginia Tech is forcing turnovers -- they're 350th in the nation in defensive turnover percentage.

Prediction

KenPom prediction: Maryland, 72-68. The Terps get a 66% chance of winning this one.

Our prediction: Maryland 68, Virginia Tech 62. To be honest, the three-point shooting thing scares me -- Maryland has had repeated problems with it in the past. But the Hokies are really bad otherwise, and the Terps should be able to overcome that.

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