Who: Maryland (10-6, 2-1 ACC) at Florida State (10-4, 1-1)
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Donald L. Tucker Center, Tallahassee, Fla.
TV: ESPNU (Carter Blackburn, play-by-play; Jay Williams, analyst; Allison Williams, reporter)
DMV radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM, 980 AM.
Coaches: Terps — Mark Turgeon (third season, 52-34). Seminoles – Leonard Hamilton (12th season, 207-147).
Kenpom rating: Maryland 63rd, Florida State 24th.
On the heels of a 20-point loss to Pittsburgh and a six-day rejuvenation period between games, the Maryland men’s basketball team soldiers down to Florida State at yet another crossroads in the season. Lose and the Terps sink to .500 in the ACC with wins over Georgia Tech and Boston College, in danger of falling even further given that Notre Dame comes to Comcast Center on Wednesday and a trip to North Carolina State looms after that. Hand the Seminoles their second straight home loss, and things are again looking up for Coach Mark Turgeon and the Terrapins. In Tallahassee, the basketball team’s defense has suddenly started measuring up to its national championship football team; the Seminoles rank third nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, second in two-point percentage allowed and fourth in effective field goal percentage allowed. They block a lot of shots, are the nation’s second-tallest team and force turnovers on over one-fifth of possessions. If Maryland can handle the pressure and play defense, though, it will be in fine shape and capable of challenging the seven-point underdog status handed down by Las Vegas.
1) Attack the rim? This seems a counterproductive method to beating Florida State, which is among the best programs nationally at blocking shots. Boris Bojanovsky is swatting about 11.8 percent of shots himself, while Robert Gilchrist and Okaro White are hovering around the 4 percent range. But the Terps cannot shy away from contact like they did against Pittsburgh, cowering when bodies flew at them around the rim. Instead, they need to find contact, force Florida State into trouble and reach the free throw line, where they need to shoot better than their season mark of 65.4 percent. If the Seminoles collapse, then Jake Layman and Evan Smotrycz can park themselves in the corner for three-pointers.
“If we get into the lane, we have to make a smart play,” Dez Wells said. “We have to go in there with the mindset of putting our shoulders in their chest, try to get a foul or an and-one. But we’re going to have to drive to make others better.”
Here a reporter asked if his opponent’s length – Florida State’s average height is 6 feet 9, making it the second-tallest team nationally – excited Wells.
“I’m glad you said excited instead of intimidated,” he said. “Yeah, it does.”
2) Forget about Pittsburgh? After a sobering film session – seems like there’s been a lot of those this season – the Terps immediately set about planning for Florida State over their six-day break between games. They should be refreshed, perhaps more so than the Seminoles, who beat Clemson on the road Thursday, and have had all week to scheme for facing Florida State’s height. More importantly, though, if the Terps want to start anew – again, a familiar refrain this season – and reel off meaningful wins, they need to bury the 20-point rout against Pittsburgh. They also have lost three straight to Florida State — Turgeon has never beaten the Seminoles in five games coaching three different teams — and can’t afford to be mentally bogged down, too.
“You don’t want everyone to sit on a loss for six days,” Turgeon said. “I think we were able to get rid of that loss and move forward and try to get better. We really worked hard on us, which we’ve done since Christmas.”
3) Keep the score low? The Terps love to play up-tempo, high-scoring basketball but are best when the game exists in the 60s or 70s, because that means their defense has shown up, too. Florida State’s offense is average. The Seminoles rebound there well – 45th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage – but can’t shoot three-pointers (31.2 percent) and are even worse than Maryland at turnovers (22.0 percent, 320th nationally). The Seminoles haven’t topped 67 points in four games since hanging 106 on Charlotte on Dec. 17, but Turgeon was worried enough about Florida State reaching 80 to mention that mark.
“You’ve got to figure out ways to score and guard them,” he said. “You can’t go to Florida State and give them 80. We’ve worked at it. Obviously we haveb’t had much success against them since I’ve been here.”
16.4: Florida State’s block percentage, which ranks 11th nationally. Basically, one of every six shots attempted against the Seminoles are subsequently swatted away.
88.5: Florida State’s adjusted defensive efficiency, which ranks third nationally according to Kenpom.com. Only Ohio State and Saint Louis are better. Of course, the Terps had plenty of problems with the Buckeyes earlier this season.
30: Seth Allen’s shooting percentage at the rim through four games, according to Hoop-Math.com. Last season, he shot 56 percent there.
“They should be working hard. A lot of guys are in one class, taking one class. I don’t necessarily like the long break, all the way until the 27th, but you can be like a pro team almost, just practice and work on getting better. Results might not happen right away, but with time, because of all this practice time, we’re going to become a better team.” – Turgeon.
“He gives me a lot more motivation for the game. It gives me something more to play for. I’ll be texting his mom and father once that day comes where he has to leave us. I’ll dedicate every game for the rest of my career to him, for the strength and courage and everything he’s done for everyone around him.”—Dez Wells on former manager Zach Lederer, who is currently battling cancer.
THE TERPS TUNE OF TODAY
“Not Your Fault” by AWOLNATION.