Where: Wells Fargo (née Wachovia) Center, Philadelphia, PA
Where to Watch: CBS (!!!); guaranteed to be at least a few streams closer to gametime
Line: Vegas: Villanova -5.5 KenPom: Villanova by 5
- One more chance. A non-conference win of note would be a huge boon for Maryland's NCAAT hopes. This is their last chance to get one, after four misses earlier in the season. A win like this would probably put the Terrapins in the tournament if they're hovering on the bubble in March.
- Rematch. Last year, Maryland and Villanova met in the BB&T Classic, which was basically a home game for the Terps. Nova was without starting center, Mouphtaou Yarou, who is back for this game, but had star guard Scottie Reynolds, who has graduated. Last year, they won thanks to a barrage of three-pointers despite two amazing performances from Sean Mosley and Jordan Williams. J-Dub's performance was actually the game that made everyone stop and recognize his potential. Maryland will need great performances from those two again to pull out the upset this time around.
- Strength on strength. Maryland is one of the best defensive teams in the country, with a specialty in defending the perimeter. After all, this is the same bunch that limited Duke and their ridiculous perimeter depth to 27% from three. Meanwhile, Villanova is a top 15 offensive team with just as much perimeter talent and depth as Duke, plus a sharpshooter extraordinaire in Corey Stokes. Something's gotta give.
Injuries: Both teams are "without" players that haven't really played all year. Maryland is missing Pankey, Nova is missing JayVaughn Pinkston. Neither of those absences are anything new.
Keys in Cliches:
- Keep defending the perimeter. As mentioned above, both Maryland and Nova find their strengths on the perimeter - Maryland defensively, Villanova offensively. The winner of that matchup - ie, can Villanova knock down outside shots? - gains a big advantage.
- Get the ball inside. Villanova's solid in the post defensively, with talented and strong big men like Antonio Pena and the aforementioned Yarou. But Nova's defensive 3pt% is just 28.7%, good enough for 16th in the nation. Meanwhile, their block % (an average measure of post defense) is a very mediocre 263rd. Needing to give the ball to Jordan Williams or into the paint in general isn't new, but it should take on an extra importance against the Wildcats.
- Limit Corey Fisher. Yeah, he scored triple-digits in a summer league game. He's also inconsistent. When he struggles (4 points against Tennessee, 5 points against Temple, and 4 points against Penn), so does Villanova (lost to Tennesse, squeaked out wins over Temple and Penn). Adrian Bowie will be the likely matchup, and Bowie's traditional perimeter toughness needs to come through one more time.
- Don't fix what ain't broke, but fix the free throws. Four times, Maryland's come close to a big win against a big opponent. Each time, free throws have sabatoged the attempts. For the most part, everything else seems to be okay. Maryland needs to play very similarly to how they've been playing; just learn to knock down freebies while you're at it. If FTs doesn't define this game for Maryland, I'll be surprised.
|Terrell Stoglin (6-0)||PG||Malik Wayns (6-2)|
|Adrian Bowie (6-2)||SG||Corey Fisher (6-1)|
|Sean Mosley (6-5)||SF||Corey Stokes (6-5)|
|Dino Gregory (6-7)||PF||Antonio Pena (6-8)|
|Jordan Williams (6-10)||C||Mouphtaou Yarou (6-10)|
Finally, a team Maryland doesn't have a height disadvantage against. Wayns on Stoglin will be interesting, but when Pe'Shon Howard enters the game, the Terrapins will actually be taller than the Wildcats. That's a bit unusual.
eFG% is essentially tied. Nova has a slight advantage in TO%, and Maryland counters with one in rebounding%. The tiebreaker is FTs, and it unsurprisingly breaks toward Villanova - heavily. Like I said, this one will come down to FTs for Maryland more likely than not.
Prediction: This game will be close, as all the other games against good opponents have been. Jordan Williams will do what he normally does, while I expect another decent performance from Cliff Tucker and maybe even one from Sean Mosley. But free throws haven't been fixed yet, and I don't think they will be anytime soon. The game is closer than the score, but I'll take Nova 78-70.