Preview here, courtesy Dave. Noon tip on ESPN, with Dave O'Brien and Doris Burke on the call. Meh.
A week ago, I wouldn't have dreamed of assigning a bunch of significance to this game. But here we stand, and I can't help but wonder if it'll prove just as important, in time, as the N.C. State win. There's all the traditional sappy stuff - young team growing up, going on the road, etc. There's the stuff the fans will love, which is a shot to have some fun with the ACC while the lawsuit stuff is going on.
But there's also something more important: like it or not, Maryland's still looking like quite a bubbly team right now. UNC, meanwhile, is kind of falling by the wayside. They'll be a top-100 RPI team, but past that, who knows? A loss to UNC will never look bad, but it won't look good, either. Building a resume is a process, and it means getting wins like this, not just the sexy ones. (UNC in Chapel Hill: not a sexy win. That's a surprise, huh?) Besides, it's crucial to keep building on the momentum from Wednesday, not to mention potentially derailing UNC's year even further. This game is not crucial, but it's one I'd like to win a hell of a lot.
On another note, I'm fascinated to see how Turgeon approaches this game in terms of pace. UNC's rotation isn't very long, especially with Leslie McDonald looking unlikely to play. But they're a running team, and trying to up the tempo plays right into their hands. If there ever was a game to shorten the rotation and grind out a result - something that I think Turgeon needs to start doing, because it fits his personality and his roster, no matter how little the purists may enjoy it at first - you'd think it'd be this. Virginia did it and won. Miami did it and won. FSU did it and would've won, if they didn't have a breakdown on the offensive glass. This team, like most UNC teams, isn't great in the halfcourt. But this team, unlike most UNC teams, also doesn't have a crop of elite talents to bail them out from their execution. That seems like the obvious path, so long as Turgeon's willing to bend tactically.
Random, Baseless Prediction: Two technical fouls are called, one on both sides. John Henson's gone and Roy Williams seemed like he kinda-sorta apologized, but this image still looms large. And if you saw Turgeon against State, you saw that he's getting some of his emotion back.
And yeah, the fact that I rationalize it means it isn't totally random or baseless. Still, I'm predicting two technical fouls. That's at least extreme, right?
Oh, fine. I'll throw in a Jake Layman bank shot.
Prediction: Vegas says UNC by five. KenPom says UNC by three. Sagarin says UNC by two. I'm increasingly thinking they're going to be more or less right, at least in terms of margin, and that this'll be a one-, maybe two-possession game. I go back and forth on which side comes out on top, but optimism won the day against State so I'll replicate it here: Maryland performs better relative to what's happened recently with their newly-balanced lineup, especially if Turgeon gives that five extended minutes, and the Terps pull it out 64-61.
As a baseline rule, though: if the winner scores less than 70, Maryland wins. More, and it's UNC's.