Well folks, it all comes down to this for the Terps. Win and they're closer to being in. Lose, and we're done. I'll preview the first round match up between the Terps and NC State and maybe later today provide some other previews/reactions to the other games scheduled for today.
Check out the Terps-State preview after the jump.
NC State vs. Maryland
In their only meeting this season, Maryland pulled out a road win, 71-60 over the Wolfpack. The game was a little closer then the score indicates, since it was 68-60 until Vasquez took that last second 3-point shot and made it. Vasquez finished the game with 33 points and 5 assists. Dave Neal nearly had a double double, as the senior scored 11 and pulled down 8 rebounds. No other player for Maryland reached double figures.
NC State was led by 6'8" sophomore forward Tracy Smith, who kept State in the game with his 19 points and 9 rebounds. Three of State's other starters also reached double figures in the game: McCauley, Fells, and Gonzalez.
State was able to stay in the game through rebounding and second chance points. State out-rebounded the Terps by 8, 32-24 and was able to convert some of those rebounds into 7 second chance points (the Terps only had 2).
What the Terps must do to win
In the earlier match up this season, the Terps did a lot of things right - they shot well from the line (7/8), they scored in transition (13 fast break points to NC State's 6) which was helped by their 9 steals, they took care of the ball (8 TOs to State's 16) and they shot 47.6% from three point land. The are again going to have to replicate many of those feats if they hope to win tonight in Hotlanta; take care of the ball; score in transition; and get to the line and score.
The Terps must also get more production out of their starting 5. Although Vasquez is always capable of putting up 30+ points, Maryland shouldn't assume or rely on the junior to have John Gilchrist-type performance for the entire tournament. Landon Milbourne, who has struggled a lot lately, needs to again become productive and should try to rely more on his mid-range jump shot, which is a very high percentage shot for him. Adrien Bowie needs to drive more to the lane, slash through the defense and score. Bowie has struggled to score as of late, ever since he came down with the flu a few weeks ago. Sean Mosley, who does so many things that don't show up in the box score and who is also a fantastic rebounder, also needs to score more. This team can't rely on Vasquez to always carry them. Someone else needs to step up and that person might have to be Sean. Dave Neal needs to keep up his fantastic play as of late, especially his 3 point shooting, which has by far been the best on the team in the last few weeks.
Solve the 1-3-1 and 2-3 zone defenses. Maryland has struggled mightily against the zone D in the last few game, ever since Wake switched to a 1-3-1 zone in the second half of the Terps lose to Wake. UVA, after being down by as many as 13, switched to a zone D and the Terps went on one of the longest scoring droughts I've ever seen. Maryland needs to drive and dish out if they're going to solve these zone D's, and you know Sidney Lowe is going have this team playing some zone to try to slow down the Terps.
Get to the line. The Terps have shot a whopping 8 free throws in the last two games. Again, Maryland needs to drive to the basket more and pick up fouls so they can get to the line, where they're a great 3 point shooting team.
Bench play. If Milbourne, Bowie and Mosley continue to struggle on offense, someone on the bench is going to have to jump into the game game give the Terps a spark. Tucker, Hayes and Gregory as the likely candidates for that, especially Tucker and Hayes. Eric needs to find his scoring touch, and quickly, especially from outside the arc, where he's struggled the last few games.
Out coach. Although Sidney Lowe is a highly regarded coach, Gary Williams is a better one. Sidney is 0-4 against Garyland and having this game on a neutral court, in the same building where MD won their national title, favors the Terps.
What the Wolfpack must do to win
State has talent on their team and they have a great, balanced scoring attack. If they can take care of the ball, they'll have a much better chance of winning this game.
Play zone Defense. As was said previously, Maryland has struggled against zone defenses, so if State wants to win, they should play a lot of zone and hope that Maryland can't break the zone by drive-penetrating and by making 3's, where the Terps have struggled dearly for most of the season.
Keep fighting. The Terps have a tendency to jump out to leads and not be able to hold onto them and close out a game. As long as State is able to stay in the game, they have a chance to go on a run and capture some late-game momentum.
Control Greivis Vasquez. The junior guard had a monster game for the Terps in their earlier meeting, scoring 33 points and carrying the Terps to victory. State might want to consider double-teaming Vasquez and daring another shooting on Maryland to step up and beat them. Running a 2-3 zone that will keep Greivis from driving the lane will help State as well.
If this game was in North Caroline, I'd be really worried. The fact that it's in Atlanta makes me a little less worried, but worried nonetheless. I think the Terps win a close one, 72-67. I think Vasquez again has a good game, puts up 20 points and Milbourne again finds his game and scores 15. After struggling early, Tucker comes of the bench and breaks up State's zone with some 3's and that gets the game going for the Terps.