First off, the good news: Maryland returns to Boston College this Saturday at 1:00, giving them an opportunity to avenge their early season loss to the Eagles at the Comcast Center.
The bad news? Your intrepid blogger is actually going to be on the road over the weekend, which greatly affects my ability to enjoy watching the game. Don't worry, though: I'll still be here, blogging my heart out. The things I do for love.
But this isn't about me: it's about Boston College and Maryland. And like almost every other Maryland game at this point in the season, we start with the question: is it a must-win for the Terrapins?
I'm loathe to use the term, especially because no game is a literal must-win until the conference tournament. And even if Maryland were to lose to BC on Sunday, plenty of good win opportunities - like @VT and @UNC - would still exist.
But with that said, the game is still hugely important, even bordering on crucial. Boston College is the easiest chance Maryland has to get a good win, and if the Terrapins miss this one, they'll find themselves needing to win a couple of even tougher games down the stretch. It's a good idea to get the easy ones - relatively speaking, of course - while you can.
For the record, BC finds themselves nearly in the same situation. They're 15-9 with both good wins and bad losses, while their conference record sits at 5-5. That slump has dropped them from "Should Be In" to "Work to Do", and they're the epitome of bubble right now. A home loss to another bubble team would seriously hurt their own chances. There figures to be plenty of tournament-based tension in this one.
Now, for the Eagles: not much has changed since they beat the Terrapins the first time around. In a nutshell, they're still efficient offensively, poor defensively, rely heavily on three-pointers, and play at an extremely slow (though not-quite-UVA-level) pace.
Weirdly enough, I'm still unsure as to how good Maryland should feel heading into this one. On the one hand, the Eagles barely pulled it out the first time, have been seeing increasingly inconsistent performances from star guard Reggie Jackson, and have lost four of their last five. Only one of the four losses came by double-digits, and one was a 32-point blowout at home against UNC. The Eagles are sliding.
On the other hand, they did win last time. Of those four losses, three were on the road. And they're still willing to make use of the zone, which is something Maryland has struggled against mightily all year. At this point, paint me cautiously optimistic.
Need a refresher course on who, exactly, the Eagles are? Like I said above, they're a slow, extremely efficient team with some serious defensive struggles. They rely heavily on Jackson, a 6-3 junior, and 6-8 senior Joe Trapani. Jackson's a combo guard, handling some of the PG duties, and is averaging 18 points, 5 assists, and 4 boards per game. That's one of the ACC's best statlines, but it's been getting worse over the past few games, as he averaged only about 9ppg during BC's recent 3-game losing streak. When he's on, though, he's really on: he's an extremely good outside shooter and rarely makes mistakes, with an A/TO ratio in the 2s. If you need proof, check out his 27-point, 7-rebound, 4-assist game against Clemson (with only one turnover, mind you). He's one of the ACC's most overlooked stars.
Trapani, meanwhile, seems to be plenty well-known. He's averaging 15 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, and he's actually been getting hotter: he's been in double-figures each of the past seven games, during which he's averaging about 18 ppg. He's a tough matchup with some Kyle Singler-esque traits: he has solid height, but he can drain shots from outside (shoots 37% from outside) and has taken more threes than anyone on Maryland. I'm guessing Dino Gregory will cover him, and that'll be an interesting matchup to watch.
The thing that's constant between Jackson and Trapani is three-point shooting - they both take and make a lot of treys - and that's indicative of BC's entire team. They're not the world's best shooters in terms of percentages - just 5th in the conference - but they take a higher percentage of threes than anyone else in the ACC, and it's not even close. As you might expect with so many shots taken from beyond the arc, they also get most of their points from deep: again, they're tops in the conference here. Over 40% of their shots are from outside and about 37% of their points come from 3, so how hot (or cold) they are is obviously a pretty big key.
In terms of shooters, the names to know (other than Trapani and Jackson) are Corey Raji, Biko Paris, and Danny Rubin. You probably remember the trio pretty well: they combined for 42 points the last time these two met, with 22 of them coming from Paris. Both Paris and Rubin are shooting about 40% from 3, while Raji is at a not-too-shabby 37%. BC attempted nearly 30 treys in College Park, and I'd expect a similar turnout on Saturday.
As for the "efficient" thing, the Eagles are the second-best offense in the conference, behind only Duke, and have the 7th most efficient offense in the country. Unsurprisingly (given how many threes they make and take) they're 19th in the nation (in the ACC behind only Duke, again) in eFG% and are in the top 10 in the country in not turning the ball over, where they lead the conference. Because of this, they're able to regularly score in the 70s despite playing at the second-slowest tempo in the conference, ahead of only UVA.
It's a good thing, too, because there's a lot left wanting defensively. They have the second-worst defensive efficiency in the conference, ahead of only Wake Forest, and I'm not quite certain they should count. They're dead-last in the conference in both eFG% and in forced TO%. In fact, their only redeeming quality defensively is that they don't foul too much. Other than that, the perimeter defense is lacking and the post defense is hurting thanks to the absence of a legitimate post presence.
Oh, that reminds me: BC doesn't have an answer to Jordan Williams. Josh Southern, a 6-10 senior, did the job last time, but he's their only interior presence of note and he isn't particularly good. He also tends to struggle with foul trouble. Maryland's biggest advantage over the Eagles will be in the post - they exploited it last time, as Jordan ended up with 27 points, and I'd expect them to try to do it again.
The bad news defensively comes in their scheme, as they're not afraid to go zone against the Terrapins. I don't think Maryland's defeated a consistent, zone-playing team this year (Clemson switched schemes mid-way through). If they go zone and try to eliminate Jordan Williams, they may well succeed, and we all know what happens then. That said, with their defensive struggles in general, this might be the one game they overcome the pesky zone D.
Again, I'm really lost on how to see this game. I want to call it a toss-up, but that carries the stigma of a close game, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see either team run away with it. One thing's for sure, though: when the outcome's final, one ACC team will be staring at a huge uphill battle.