When and Where: Gary Williams Court at the Comcast Center, College Park, Md.; 2:30
Where to Watch: ACC Network, so check your local listings and/or the affiliates list; it'll also be on ESPN3 if it's not on in your area
Line: Vegas: Virginia Tech -2.5 KenPom: Virginia Tech by 5, 31% chance of Maryland victory
Notes & Storylines:
- Alex Len. Mark Turgeon revealed that the big man might actually start off on the bench, as a way to "help him relax." That might not be a bad idea - Len has seemed jittery in his ACC home games, and perhaps having trouble coping with the pressure. He still has gobs of potential, and right now it's about mentally unlocking it. He'll tower over everyone on Virginia Tech's roster - center Cadarian Raines is only 6-9 - and I'm tipping him for a better performance than we've seen lately.
- Slumps. Maryland's lost three in a row, their first such streak of the year. Virginia Tech, for its part, has won only one of its last six, although it was an impressive upset victory in Charlottesville. Both teams are struggling. That means there's a good chance the end result will be unwatchable, but it also means that there's a good chance both teams will be more determined than usual. If one happens to come out flat, this one could get ugly.
- Make it count. Things get really real after this. How real? Road game to Miami, home against UNC, road trip to Clemson, and then heading down to Durham to play Duke at Cameron. The two games Maryland could really win in that bunch, Miami and Clemson, are both on the road, so 0-4 isn't out of the realm of imagination.
- Hey, it's an important game again! People throw around must-win too liberally and this isn't that, but ... if Maryland can't beat one of the ACC's worst teams in their own building, we might want to just write the rest of this season off for good, especially with that pretty brutal stretch on the way. If they do come away with a win, even by a small margin, we have to keep watching to see which way this pivots.
The Opponent (An Overview): Virginia Tech was generally thought to be potentially one of the ACC's better teams this year, in a fight for third in the conference with the N.C. States and FSUs of the world. That, uh, didn't really work out. They had an average OOC slate and followed that up with an 0-4 start to the ACC schedule. They did just pull off a surprising win at Virginia, though, so they're still dangerous. They're 76th in RPI, 52nd in Sagarin, and 51st in KenPom. They're pretty average in most metrics, but possess one of the best defensive eFG%s in the country and are the best three-point defense team in the country. They lack elite size - their tallest player is 6-9 role player Cadarian Raines - and only go about eight deep on a regular basis. They're one of the conference's slower teams, and will be happy to grind it out if need be.
Expected Starting Fives:
|Pe’Shon Howard (So., 6-3)
|Erick Green (Jr., 6-4)
|Terrell Stoglin (So., 6-0)
|Robert Brown (Fr., 6-5)
|Sean Mosley (Sr., 6-4)
|Jarell Eddie (So., 6-7)
|James Padgett (Jr., 6-8)
|Dorian Finney-Smith (Fr., 6-8)
|Ashton Pankey (Fr., 6-9)
|Victor Davila (Sr., 6-8)
That'll be it, barring something wickedly unexpected. Interesting, there are two huge players for both teams that start out on the bench - Alex Len for the Terrapins, who will almost certainly get starter minutes at the five, and Dorenzo Hudson for the Hokies, who is the team's second-leading scorer and will also likely get starter minutes, spelling basically anyone basically one through three. Side note: who does Stoglin guard? We know he's not a great defender but he can usually be serviceable against someone his size. But someone at least four inches taller, if not more? Uh ... that could get interesting.
Tie, tie, Terps, Terps. Of course the last one is really a lie, because Maryland shoots like 60% from the stripe and that equalizes it, but still: we might have a shot at this one.
Matchup to Watch: Remember the damage Scott Wood did when Maryland played N.C. State a few weeks ago? Yeah. That's why I'm marking this one up as Sean Mosley vs. Jarell Eddie. Eddie is similar to Wood in a lot of ways, not least of which is his 49% shooting percentage from three. I don't even get it - he shot 22% on 32 treys last season, but is knocking down half of his 73 this year. Nearly 60% of his shots come from three, and you can bet that if he gets an opening he'll have the green light. I was thinking Mosley may match up with Erick Green, easily VT's best player, and that still may happen. But if this isn't Mosley, then whoever it is needs to do a better of job of closing him down than they did with Wood.
Prediction: Maryland makes its season stand here. I think Maryland's the better team, and there's a good chance they come out gunning at home. If they don't, then things are much worse for the mental state of this team than I expected. And given my sunny disposition, I just can't expect that: Terps win by 7, 62-55.