Who: Maryland (15-12, 7-7 ACC) vs. No. 1 Syracuse (25-2, 12-2 ACC)
When: Monday, 7 p.m.
Where: Comcast Center
TV: ESPN (Sean McDonough, play-by-play; Jay Bilas, analyst; Jeannine Edwards, sideline).
DMV radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM, 980 AM.
Coaches: Terps — Mark Turgeon (Third season, 57-40). Orange – Jim Boeheim (38th season, 862-302).
Kenpom rating: Maryland 48th, Syracuse 11th.
RPI: Maryland 74th, Syracuse 7th.
In lieu of a final home matchup against Duke, we present to you the Maryland men’s basketball team’s first and only ACC regular-season game against Syracuse, with the express hopes from the Terrapins side that it somehow replicates the atmosphere whenever the Blue Devils come to town. They will try, at least, with a general public sellout and a student section hoping to revamp the “Flash Mob” scene that rocked the building during Maryland’s upset of Duke a year ago. The stakes are somewhat similar now; the Terps enter in desperate need of a marquee win, while Syracuse, who were ranked first overall last week before losing twice, has bigger fish ahead on its schedule but can ill-afford three straight losses after seeing its undefeated season spiral down the drain. Still, the Orange is a dangerous team replete with NBA talent and, as Coach Mark Turgeon cautiously noted, should arrive in College Park hungrier than ever.
1. Avoid the lethargy? This season, the Terps are at their worst when emerging from long breaks, posting a 1-5 record when given rest periods of at least four days. They lost to Boston University during final exams, got routed at Florida State in early January, suffered an epic letdown at North Carolina State, lost at home to Pittsburgh and, most recently, nearly upset Duke at Cameroon Indoor Stadium. Most of those teams are either firmly in the NCAA tournament or flirting with the bubble, and Syracuse fits that profile. The Terps will need their best to overcome whatever anger Coach Jim Boeheim summons from his players and can’t afford the types of sluggish nights that have surfaced after extended rest.
“We’ll see tomorrow night,” Turgeon said. “I’m sure we’re going to be pretty juiced up, but we’ll see if we’re rusty. I do think mentally, we were pretty mentally down after that Duke game and it showed. But I think we’re fresh again. I think our legs are fresh. I think we’ve practiced enough to stay in good shape. I think we’re mentally sharp moving forward.”
2. Penetrate the zone? No defense in the country is better than Syracuse’s 2-3, but the Orange rank just 168th nationally in opposing three-point field-goal percentage, so if the Terps want to shoot over the zone with Jake Layman and Evan Smotrycz, they will have plenty of opportunities to do so. That said, they will first look to bust the scheme from the inside, likely slipping Dez Wells into the high post and letting him operate.
“We’ve seen a lot of zone,” Turgeon said. “We haven’t seen this zone, but we’ve seen a lot of zones. There’s no doubt about it. Like any zone there’s holes in it. You’ve got to find it. Then when you get chances you’ve got to make shots. Everybody tries to attack it the same way. There’s certain ways to attack it. And they adjust. I think you have to have three or four different ways to go against their zone, because if you do one the whole game they’re going to adjust. They do it every night. We’ve seen alto of zone. We feel comfortable against the zone.”
3. Handle Cooney? It’s difficult to single out one Syracuse player, but sharpshooter Trevor Cooney’s struggles have been noticeable over the Orange’s two-game losing streak. Versus Boston College at home, he shot 2 for 8 and scored five points. At Duke, he was 1 for 5 and scored four points. He hasn’t topped double-digit scoring since Feb. 12 and is 3 for 15 on threes over the past three games. Given the athleticism up and down the Syracuse lineup – C.J. Fair, Tyler Ennis, Jerami Grant and Rakeem Christmas, to name a few – Maryland mid need to hide some lesser defender on Cooney, but that player will have a tough task of chasing him around and contesting shots.
34: Home victories for Maryland against schools ranked in the top five, in 85 such games in College Park.
11.3: Block rate for Syracuse junior Rakeem Christmas, the 13th-best rate nationally.
8.3: Steals per game by the Orange, best in the ACC. Their turnover margin (plus-4.85 per game) also leads the league. Maryland, meantime, ranks ninth in that latter category, at minus-0.11 per game.
“I think they’re coming with a lot of vengeance. They know we can possibly get the victory just because of the type of team we area. They’re definitely going to come with a full head of steam, just because they lost two in a row.” – Nick Faust.
“We’ve played a lot of top teams this year. We haven’t played many of them at home. Maybe Pittsburgh, when they came in and got us. They were playing at a really high level and we were kind of just trying to find ourselves. We’re getting better. It’s all I keep saying. And as a coach, I’m much more relaxed. I feel good about our guys. I think they’ve been much more coachable and they’re playing the way they’re capable of playing, which is a good feeling.” — Turgeon
THE TERPS TUNE OF TODAY
“Orange Colored Sky” by Nat King Cole.