Maryland-North Carolina preview: Terps try to keep momentum going in last trip to Chapel Hill

Grant Halverson

After winning two straight, the Terps will try to take down the Tar Heels in what will likely be their last regular season match up with UNC for the foreseeable future.

Maryland will take on North Carolina Tuesday, February 4th, at 8:00 P.M. on the ACC Network. The game will be the 179th between the two school, with the Tar Heels holding a distinct 121-57 advantage in the series, including 57-16 in Chapel Hill. The game is part of the ACC's parting schedule for the Terps, which includes no game in College Park against UNC, Duke or North Carolina State.

Players to watch

Marcus Paige, 6'1", 175 lbs, So., guard

Paige is having a great season for the Tar Heels, averaging 17.7 ppg, dishing out 4.4 apg, while grabbing 3.6 rpg. He's on the court 88.4% of the time, which ranks 61st nationally (KenPom), has an offensive rating that ranks 204th nationally, his assist rate ranks 315th. His assist to turnover ratio is 2.2:1. Basically, he can score, dish out assists and doesn't turn the ball over too much, something every team wants on their roster.

James Michael McAdoo, 6'9", 230 lbs, Jr. forward

McAdoo might be the most recognized name on UNC this year. He's a great scorer (15 ppg), rebounder (6.7 rpg) and is one of the best at drawing fouls on opposing players, ranking 14th nationally (KenPom). As a result, he also ranks highly in Free Throw Rate (#FTA divided by #FGA), where he ranks 53rd nationally. That's bad news for a Maryland team who has front court players in foul trouble in virtually every game. The only upside is that McAdoo is not very good at free throws, making just 52.8% of his attempts from the line. If he could get that number into the 70s, he'd be a much more dynamic and dangerous player.

McAdoo is also a good offensive rebounder, shot blocker and gets a fair number of steals for a 6'9" forward. In a word, he's trouble for Maryland, especially if he can get it going early.

Leslie McDonald, 6'5", 215 lbs, Sr., guard

McDonald missed the first nine games of the season, awaiting the completion of an investigation by the NCAA into improper benefits received by the senior guard. The NCAA ruled him eligible and basically gave him a slap on the wrist, and the senior guard has been a bit of a spark for the Heels since, averaging 25.6 minutes since his return. He was initially coming off the bench, but has since claimed a starting spot for Roy Williams' squad. He's averaging 11.3 ppg, 2 apg, and 1.8 rpg in the 12 games he's played in this season. He's a solid, smart senior guard, but doesn't really blow you away in any one particular area.

Brice Johnson, 6'9", 210 lbs, So., forward

Johnson is averaging 9.7 ppg and 6.3 rpg, solid numbers for the junior forward from South Carolina. His strength is his rebounding, where he ranks 104th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage. But he's no slouch on the defensive glass, either, ranking 145th in that category as well. He's also a great rim protector, ranking 116th nationally in block percentage. He's the player Maryland could really use on their roster this season and he could prove to be a major issue for the Terps on Tuesday.

J.P. Tokoto, 6'5", 200 lbs, So., forward

Tokoto is another solid contributor for the Tar Heels, averaging 9 ppg, 5.6 rpg, and a very solid 2.6 apg. He's one of the best players for the Heels when it comes to steal percentage, where he ranks 181st nationally (KenPom). His offensive production has slipped recently, reaching double digits in scoring just twice in his last ten games after doing so six times in the first 12 games of the season. He's another player who really struggles at the line, making just 48.3% of his free throw attempts.

Kennedy Meeks, 6'9", 290 lbs, Fr., forward

Meeks is yet another front court player who puts up decent but not overwhelming numbers for the Tar Heels. He's averaging 7.6 ppg and 6.4 rpg while averaging just 16.3 minutes per game. Meeks is one of the best players nationally when it comes to defensive rebounding, ranking 12th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage. He's also a force on the offensive glass, ranking 44th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage. He's another solid rim defender and is also decent at drawing fouls, but not nearly at the level of McAdoo. But like many of his teammates, he struggles at the line, making just over 58% of his free throw attempts.

Strengths

As we mentioned several times during the player previews, UNC has a lot of guys who are good at rebounding on both ends of the court. Their offensive rebounding percentage checks in at 14th nationally, they don't turn the ball over too much, and they do a great job of picking up fouls on their opposition. And while this may come as a shock for a Roy Williams coached team, they actually do a number of things well on defense, including defending the three, limiting a team's effective FG%, and holding their opposition to just a 43.4% 2-point shooting percentage. So why has UNC lost seven games this season? Because they have a few glaring weaknesses

Weaknesses

They are downright awful from the free throw line. How awful? They rank 342nd out of 351 D-1 teams. Granted, Maryland isn't much better at 304th, but when you factor in how well UNC draws contact, not being able to capitalize at the line has been the Achilles' heel of this year's team. Their average margin of defeat in their seven loses is just seven points; if they were shooting better at the line, we'd be mentioning UNC with the likes of Virginia and Duke for second place in the conference. Instead, they've dropped games to Wake, UAB and Belmont.

Fortunately for Maryland, UNC is also bad at shooting the three, making just 31.5% of their shots beyond the arc. But are these weaknesses enough for Mark Turgeon to pull out a win on the road against his good friend Roy Williams?

Prediction

KenPom prediction: KenPom certainly doesn't think so, giving the Tar Heels a 79% chance of defeating the Terps with a score prediction of 81-72.

Our prediction: The Tar Heels definitely have some weaknesses that could be beneficial to Maryland, but UNC is just a really bad match-up for the Terps. The Heels' defense will likely cause Maryland a lot of headaches, Maryland's front court players could be looking at a lot of foul trouble, preventing them from going inside-out, and the Tar Heels are going to do a great job battling and neutralizing Maryland's strong rebounding. That all adds up to a probable loss for the Terps on the road. UNC gets the win, 76-64.

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