Maryland plays its final ACC road game at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville tonight. Before tip, we corresponded with Paul Wiley, who runs Streaking the Lawn, the network's hub for all things Virginia.
We also answered some questions about Maryland over there. Check them out.
TT: Fans might disagree on how intense it's been, but Maryland and Virginia have cultivated a rivalry over their decades together in the ACC. Now that Maryland's Big Ten departure is nearly upon us, what's your general sentiment toward U.Va's northern neighbor? Will you miss us?
STL: I think we'll all miss the rivalry. No question it's given us tons of great moments across a lot of sports: the seven overtime lacrosse game in 2009, the Chris Long sack-safety/Mikell Simpson's breakout performance, our regular-season farewell to Mike Scott in 2012, Wally Walker's brilliance in the Miracle at Landover in 1976, and on and on. Whether or not we'll miss the rival . . . that's a different story. A lot of Virginia fans—and I would venture to say ACC fans generally—think Maryland burned a lot of bridges with the naked money-grab in the switch and the subsequent/consequent lawsuit. Speaking personally, I won't shed any tears over not going to College Park anymore.
TT: The season has been, I'm sure, a delight for Cavs fans and Tony Bennett, their head coach. Beyond experience, what has allowed them to take such a significant step forward?
STL: Depth. We run seven deep no problem and can go to ten without much problem. The guys who are third and later off the bench (Darion Atkins, Evan Nolte, Teven Jones) all have significant ACC playing experience so even if fouls take their toll we aren't throwing young lambs to the slaughter. There's a lot of athleticism in that depth, so Tony can tweak his lineup to take advantage of mismatches and different playing styles on any given night.
TT: Joe Harris is scoring five points per night fewer than he did last season, probably because he's shooting much less (eight field goal attempts per game, down from 12 last season). Is he still the Hoos' go-to-guy? Why the drop-off?
STL: We all want to see Joe shoot the rock more. He's shooting in the mid-40s from three in ACC play, but his usage rate has dropped off a cliff. A lot of that is because there are finally capable scorers around him. But there are moments where we need a big shot to seize momentum or drive a nail into the other team's coffin, and Virginia fans all want to see Joe take that shot because he's got our trust. That said, Malcolm Brogdon is earning it. He has played at an All-ACC level these last few weeks: he's scored in double figures in every ACC game, with an offensive efficiency over 120 in seven of our eleven games. He's a big strong guard who can get to the hoop, and that's keeping defenders honest instead of just jumping out on the three. The fact that he took the shot that beat Pitt, and Joe was the decoy, is an example of how last year's supporting cast have taken the load off Harris and been the engine of this year's success.
TT: If the Terrapins pull off an upset tonight, how will they go about doing it?
STL: The cliché answer would be tempo: if Maryland can get Virginia to play at a speed it doesn't want to, the Terrapins will have a better chance to win. But so far no one has really been able to do that. Even VCU pulled us all the way up to a BLISTERING . . . 69 possessions. Our transition defense is too good, and we have the capability to play some transition offense this year, so tempo won't beat us. If Maryland gets hot from three and can shoot faster than we close-out off of post doubles; if Maryland can negate the interior of our offense and force us out of feeding our athletic bigs; and if Maryland can keep it close and make us win or lose it from the free throw stripe, those would be the three ways I could see Maryland pulling off an upset.
TT: What's your game prediction?
STL: But I don't think [the upset] will happen. This team loves playing at JPJ. It's going to be a big, boisterous crowd tonight. It's a national TV broadcast (Jay Bilas tweeted this morning about being at one of my favorite coffee places in Charlottesville) and Tony knows how to get the guys up and going. Plus Justin Anderson—every Maryland fan's favorite player—usually saves something special for Maryland games. KenPom has us as 11-point favorites. I think that's about right. 68–57 UVA behind 12 from Malcolm, 15 from Joe, and double-doubles from Akil and Justin.
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