Who: Maryland (15-13, 7-8 ACC) at Clemson (17-10, 8-7)
When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
Where: Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson, S.C.
TV: WDCA-20 (Wes Durham, play-by-play; Bobby Cermins, analyst).
DMV radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM, 980 AM.
Coaches: Terps — Mark Turgeon (third season, 57-41). Tigers – Brad Brownell (fourth season, 68-55).
Kenpom rating: Maryland 51st, Clemson 50th.
RPI: Maryland 76th, Clemson 72nd.
As the regular season tapers to a close, Maryland is faced with the harsh truth that its final three games don’t mean much beyond ACC tournament seeding and trying to avoid the type of collapse that would endanger a National Invitational Tournament bid. The Terrapins need to win the conference tournament to reach the NCAA tournament; at this stage, that much is all but certain. “Got to build some momentum, not only for this year but for the future,” Coach Mark Turgeon said, and that’s exactly what Maryland can do against Clemson, where the possibility for its first conference road victory against a winning team under Turgeon awaits.
1) Slow down K.J.? Few ACC players have been deadlier this season than Clemson junior K.J. McDaniels, who leads the Tigers in scoring (16.8 points per game), minutes (32.3), free throw percentage (85.3), rebounds (7.0), steals (1.3), blocks (2.7) and true shooting percentage (57.2). At his best, McDaniels becomes a one-man wrecking crew, like when he hung 24 points on Duke during a mid-January upset. Most recently, his scoring numbers have tapered off slightly – 16 points on 14 shots against Georgia Tech, 10 points on 11 shots against Wake Forest – but a long break should have the all-conference candidate well rested and ready to battle against whoever the Terps throw at him, which figures to be an army of defenders like Dez Wells, Nick Faust and maybe even Jake Layman.
2) Speed up everything else? Of the nation’s eight slowest teams, four reside in the ACC. Clemson ranks 350th nationally, one spot behind the slowest, Miami. The Terps already beat the Hurricanes by overloading their zone, but the Tigers slow things down with a mostly man-to-man defense by bleeding the clock on long, plodding sets. Maryland, on the other hand, is the conference’s second-fastest team and is best when players like Wells and Seth Allen are running the break with efficiency.
“Our principles should take care of everything,” Allen said, when asked about Clemson’s pace. “[Turgeon is] always saying do our secondary break, always run our secondary break. That’s what we try to do.”
3) Hit threes? Only one team in the country is better at three-point defense than Clemson and the Terps already shot 2 for 18 against Ohio State on Dec. 4. The Tigers, with a swarming defense allowing 93.1 points per 100 possessions according to KenPom, are equally as stingy guarding the arc (27.9 percent by opposing teams) as they are miserable shooting from it (30.9 percent themselves). Allen was stellar against Syracuse, busting that famed zone with six three-pointers, but Maryland will need more than him to break through against Clemson. Take, for example, forward Evan Smotrycz, who over the past five games has made three three-pointers and missed 20.
4.9: Scoring average for Wells in the first halves of ACC games.
10.8: His scoring average in ACC second halves.
63.8: Opposing free throw percentage for Clemson, second-best in the country, even though this is stat is hardly indicative of anything the Tigers are doing.
“I don’t even look at the standings, so I don’t know. I really don’t.” – Turgeon.
“We leave that to the coaches.” – Allen.
“Oh yeah, we’re right behind Clemson. We’re always going to be aware.” – Charles Mitchell.
THE TERPS TUNE OF TODAY
“Roar” by Katy Perry.