Who: Maryland (12-1) vs. Virginia Tech (8-4).
When: Saturday, Noon.
Where: Comcast Center.
DMV TV: WTTG-5, WNUV-54.
DMV radio: 105.7 FM, 106.7 FM, 980 AM,1300 AM.
Coaches: Terps — Mark Turgeon (Second season, 29-16). Hokies – James Johnson (First season, 9-4)
Finally, the ACC opener arrives for the Maryland basketball team. No more nonconference cupcakes, but rather its biggest challenge since the season opener against Kentucky. Virginia Tech is spearheaded by sharpshooting guard Erick Green, who’s been on a tear this season and could challenge for the national scoring title. The Terps, meanwhile, are on a 12-game winning streak, bowling over weaker opponents, but can silence the doubters with a solid performance Saturday. It’s been weeks since Maryland played this meaningful a game, even though in the grand scheme of things it figures to ultimately prove relatively meaningless. But it’s a chance for a statement at home, to surge out of the ACC gate quickly by stifling Green’s supporting cast, which has all but disappeared lately.
1. Limit Green’s teammates? Green will score. That’s a foregone conclusion, as he’s averaging 24.4 points per game this season. But Virginia Tech gets into trouble when his teammates can’t score, especially over three losses in its past four games, including bad defeats to Georgia Southern and BYU. Expect Pe’Shon Howard or Dez Wells to generally handle defensive duties on Green, but crashing the boards and limiting second-chance opportunities for other Hokies should take higher priority.
2. Be consistent? The Terps stumbled out of the gates against IUPUI, only to recover for a sizable blowout. They know that similar inconsistencies won’t fly in ACC play, when one rough stretch can spell doom. This means limiting turnovers and youthful mistakes, locking down on the glass and executing offensively, which leads into the third question…
3. Work inside? Maryland operates best when center Alex Len touches the ball, even with the little rough patch he hit against Delaware State and IUPUI. Virginia Tech will be more physical with Len, especially in one-on-one scenarios, and generally boasts a taller lineup than most of Maryland’s nonconference foes. But the Hokies’ front court has struggled late. From colleague Mark Giannotto:
Forward Cadarian Raines has been held scoreless in three of his past five games, finished with just two points against Colorado State and has battled foul trouble throughout the season. Forward C.J. Barksdale has just six points and six rebounds combined the past three games and played just eight minutes against BYU.
Virginia Tech’s saving grace has been walk-on Christian Beyer, whom Johnson has increasingly turned to in recent games. The 6-foot-7 sophomore has averaged four points, eight rebounds and 25 minutes per game the past three contests. Redshirt freshman center Joey van Zegeren has also played well of late. But with 6-7 small forward Jarell Eddie leading the team in rebounding, the Hokies remain second-to-last in the ACC in rebounding margin.
While I’m at it, just go read the entire piece. It gives great insight into this struggling Virginia Tech squad. And hey, check out my feature on how the Maryland freshmen starting bonding before they even got to College Park.
18.5: Assists per game for the Terps, which ranks fifth nationally.
43: Rebounds per game for the Terps, which ranks sixth nationally.
50.3: Field goal percentage for the Terps, which ranks 11th nationally.
“I don’t think they’ll play completely different. In transition, they’re really good. Erick Green is fantastic in transition and puts a tremendous amount of pressure on you. Taking that away would really hurt their team. They’ll be more opportunistic running. I wouldn’t be surprised if they came here, walked it up on makes, really tried to grind the clock.” – Maryland Coach Mark Turgeon
“Coaches have started to put a little more pressure us, especially in practice, just bringing it every day. We haven’t had great starts the past two games, so that’s a byproduct of that. Being consistent every day, doing what we need to do to succeed in ACC play.” – Logan Aronhalt.
>> As of late Friday afternoon, 20 NBA scouts representing 16 teams had been issued credentials for Saturday’s game, presumably to scout Green and Len.
>> Also as of late Friday afternoon, Comcast Center was around 700 to 800 tickets away from a sellout, which would obviously be the first this season. Tickets can be purchased here.
THE TERPS TUNE OF TODAY
“It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons.