What: Maryland looks to build on the momentum following their win Wednesday evening over #14 N.C. State when they travel to Chapel Hill to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Where + When: 12:00 pm at the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill, NC.
Where to Watch: ESPN
Line: Vegas: North Carolina -5. KenPom: North Carolina by 3. Sagarin: North Carolina by 2.
Momentum. After dropping two close games to FSU and Miami, Maryland appeared to be on the verge of falling to 1-3 in conference play as they took on N.C. State at home Wednesday evening. Fortunately for the Terps, Alex Len's basket following Pe'Shon Howard's miss/pass play gave Maryland a 51-50 win, their first over a ranked opponent since 2010. The real question is how does Maryland respond to the win? They'll take on a UNC team that's coming off a 77-72 win on the road against Florida State.
Starting lineup. Head coach Mark Turgeon used yet another starting lineup against N.C. State on Wednesday, reinserting sophomore Nick Faust, but this time at point guard. That shifted freshman Seth Allen over to the 2-guard, moved sophomore Dez Wells to the wing, and left sophomore Alex Len and freshman Shaq Cleare in the front court. Turgeon seemed happy with that scenario and also seemed happy with the play he received out of Faust, Allen and Shaq. Will this starting five continue on Saturday and into the future? I'd suspect as much. Those are arguably Maryland's best players over the past few games, but if one of them begins to struggle, Turgeon has shown that no one's spot as a starter is guaranteed. Moving forward I think you'll continue to see Seth Allen primarily playing off the ball and Faust rotating over to the wing when he and Pe'Shon Howard are both in the game at the same time.
Getting to the free throw line. Over the last three games, Maryland has struggled mightily on the offensive end of the court. The Terps have averaged just over 53 points per game, going 1-2 during that stretch. One of the reasons for that scoring drop has been Maryland's inability to get to the free throw line. Prior to their last three games, the Terps were attempting an average of 22.7 free throws per game. In their last three games, Maryland has only attempted 40 shots from the charity stripe, which comes out to 13 attempts per game. Maryland is going to need to start attacking the basket again and stop settling for jump shots. They need to do a better job of working the ball inside to Len, as well as Shaq and Mitchell, opening up driving lanes and three point shot opportunities.
Maryland v. ACC. The state of Maryland filed suit today seeking to have the exit fee case between Maryland and the ACC moved to Maryland and to argue that the exit fee is not legal. With the Terps traveling down to the flagship school of the conference, you get a sense that this game is more meaningful than just a basketball game.
The Opponent (An Overview)
Many expected North Carolina to have a good year, but maybe not a great year. Both the coaches and media picked the Tar Heels to finish third in the ACC this season, behind N.C. State and Duke. Unfortunately for UNC, they've failed to live up to those expectations thus far, losing to Virginia in Charlottesville and at home to Miami. The Tar Heels have also dropped games to Texas and Butler and were slaughtered on the road against Indiana in the B1G-ACC Challenge. UNC's best wins this season have come against UNLV and Florida State, which was their first conference win of the season.
UNC is led by sophomore forward James Michael McAdoo, who averages 14.4 ppg and a very good 8.1 rpg. Junior guard/forward Reggie Bullock is arguably the Tar Heels' best three-point threat, draining nearly 47% of his attempts beyond the arc while scoring 13.5 ppg and grabbing close to 6 rebounds. North Carolina's only other scorer who averages double digits is sophomore guard P.J. Harston, who is averaging 12.3 ppg and 4.4 rpg, but normally comes off the bench and plays starter minutes. Senior guard Dexter Strickland is dishing out 4 assists per game while scoring just over 8 points per contest. Freshman guard Marcus Paige is also distributing the ball well, averaging 4.2 assists and 7.3 points per game. The final component to UNC's starting five is sophomore Desmond Hubert, who doesn't appear to do much of anything, aside from starting. He averages just over 11 minutes, scores 1.4 points per game and grabs 2 rebounds per contest. Roy Williams has many more National Championship rings than I do, but I'm still not sure why Hubert starts.
It appears UNC will again have to play without junior guard Leslie McDonald, who's still recovering from a knee injury. McDonald is one of the Tar Heel's best deep threats, hitting over 40% of his three point shot attempts.
Expected Starting Fives:
|Seth Allen (Fr., 6-1)||Marcus Paige (Fr., 6-0)|
|Nick Faust (So., 6-6)||Dexter Strickland (Sr., 6-3)|
|Dezmine Wells (So., 6-5)||Reggie Bullock (Jr., 6-7)|
|Shaq Cleare (Fr., 6-9)||Desmond Hubert (So., 6-9)|
|Alex Len (So., 7-1)||James Michael McAdoo (So., 6-9)|
Matchup to Watch:
Team rebounding. Maryland and UNC each average 43.2 rebounds per game, something Maryland has take advantage of in their previous games this season. If that component is neutralized by UNC's ability to do the same. the Terps are going to have to have a better offensive performance if they hope to walk out of the Dean Dome with a W.
It will also be interesting to me to see if Dez Wells matches up with Reggie Bullock. If they do, keep an eye on whether UNC tries to capitalize on Bullock's size advantage over Wells or if Maryland can use Wells' quickness to attack the basket and hopefully open up Len and the other front court players.
While North Carolina has been struggling and somewhat underperforming, they're not the best match up in the world for Maryland. They have size across the board and they neutralize Maryland's biggest advantage they normally have over most teams they face - rebounding. Maryland is going to have to utilize Alex Len more and receive solid contributions between Shaq, Mitchell and Padgett. The Tar Heels really only go about 7-8 deep and with one of those players likely out on Saturday, Maryland's bench is going to need to contribute and take advantage of the deep bench the Terps have this season.
Maryland needs to limit their turnovers and attack the basket if they want to win. I'm thinking Faust settles into his new point guard role, Pe'Shon dishes out more assists than shot attempts and Maryland gets to the free throw line often as they escape from the Dean Dome with a 71-67 win.