Who: Maryland (14-10, 6-5 ACC) at No. 20 Virginia (19-5, 10-1 ACC).
When: Monday, 9 p.m.
Where: John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville.
TV: ESPNU (Sean McDonough, play-by-play; Jay Bilas, analyst; Jeanine Edwards, sideline).
DMV radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM, 980 AM.
Coaches: Terps — Mark Turgeon (third season, 56-38). Cavaliers – Tony Bennett (fifth season, 95-58).
Kenpom rating: Maryland 59th, Virginia 7th.
RPI: Maryland 69th, Virginia 20th.
Now that the Maryland men’s basketball team scored its best victory of ACC play by beating Florida State, its attention now turns to the thorny problem of trying to topple a sudden juggernaut on the road. The Cavaliers have won seven straight and have held at least a 19-point lead in all but one. They are playing faster than normal under Coach Tony Bennett, with the express intention of extracting every bit of production from a deep bench, yet still defending at the maddeningly consistent rate that has defined Bennett’s tenure. Granted, the Terps are playing their best basketball of the season too – and absolutely need to be given the deep hole they dug for themselves — but will it be enough to dethrone Virginia at John Paul Jones Arena?
1) Hit your threes? Opponents are shooting 32.9 percent on three-pointers against Virginia, which is a solid rate but not elite. In fact, it ranks 102nd nationally, one small outlier among the cavalcade of top-tier statistics from its defense. The Cavaliers are second nationally in defensive efficiency, fifth in defensive rebounding percentage and fourth in two-point field goal percentage. Simply put, they don’t allow much inside the arc, and whatever shots are attempted get vacuumed up and redirected towards the other basket.
Maryland, meanwhile, is 103rd nationally in three-point percentage (35.9 percent) but obliterated Florida State along the arc behind Seth Allen’s career afternoon. If the Terps can get strong games from Allen, Jake Layman and Evan Smotrycz, as well as a couple wise, high-percentage, uncontested shots from Nick Faust and Dez Wells, then they have a chance.
2) Avoid foul trouble? Consider this a longstanding question until Maryland proves otherwise. Saturday, the Seminoles reached the bonus less than halfway into both halves. “We’re fouling too often too early,” Turgeon said. “A lot of them are silly fouls.” Virginia doesn’t shoot free throws particularly well (65.7 percent for the season) but anyone can do enough damage if put on the line enough times. This means posts like Shaq Cleare, Charles Mitchell and Jon Graham avoiding the early bench relegation that has haunted them during ACC play.
3) Handle the motion? Maryland has gotten better at withstanding long, plodding possessions but can sometimes get confused into submission by enough precise cuts from an opposing offense. The Terps need to stay disciplined vs. Virginia’s tempo, particularly because of the way they excel in transition. Expect the Cavaliers, already one of the country’s 20 slowest teams, to slow the game down even further, because their chances at victory lessen if it turns into a run-and-gun shootout.
“They do what they do offensively,” Turgeon said. “Even if we had a week to prepare, when a team runs motion you really can’t simulate it, even though they’re not running quite as much true motion as they’ve done in the past. It’s more talking, trying to get our guys prepared that way.”
20: Years since the Cavaliers last owned a five-game winning streak over the Terps, though they currently have one too.
5.1: Assist-to-turnover ratio for Virginia point guard London Perrantes, which leads the conference.
61: Seasons since Virginia had a scoring leader as low as guard Malcolm Brogdon (12.1 points per game).
“They’re more complete. To their defense, the last couple of years they’ve had injuries. They haven’t had the depth they had. Now they have tremendous depth. When you have good players who want to win, I think they give up parts of their games. I think Mitchell and Harris have given up their game for the betterment of the team.” – Turgeon.
“Daggone Obama, what are you gonna do?” – Virginia forward Akil Mitchell, when asked about the start time moving from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. due to President Barack Obama’s visit to Monticello. He was joking.
THE TERPS TUNE OF TODAY
“Stop and Stare” by One Republic.