Who: Maryland (15-14, 7-9 ACC) vs. Virginia Tech (9-19, 2-14 ACC)
When: Tuesday, 8 p.m.
Where: Comcast Center.
TV: ACC Network (Tim Brant, play-by-play; Cory Alexander, analyst).
DMV radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM, 980 AM.
Coaches: Terps — Mark Turgeon (Third season, 57-42). Hokies – James Johnson (Second season, 22-38).
Kenpom rating: Maryland 52nd, Virginia Tech 182nd.
RPI: Maryland 78th, Virginia Tech 223rd.
The Maryland men’s basketball team returns home after another crushing, close loss and finds the punching bag probably needed to avoid total despair. Virginia Tech, while playing tougher over the past month in hanging with Syracuse and Virginia at home, still limps into College Park without two key cogs, having won just one game this calendar year. Cadarian Raines and Ben Emelogu were both left home with bad ankles, taking with them roughly 16 points per game. So the Terps, with momentum on their minds entering the ACC tournament – because the NCAA tournament is such an afterthought unless they win the conference title in Greensboro – will look to take their frustration out on the Hokies. A double-overtime loss at Clemson gave them three losses over the past two weeks decided by four points or fewer.
1) Make it easy? At this juncture, with Virginia up ahead next Sunday and the postseason beyond that, the Terps need a feel-good win, something they haven’t had since Feb. 8 against Florida State. Since then, they became the only ACC team to come within 10 points of Virginia at John Paul Jones Arena, watched Charles Mitchell’s hook shot rim out against Duke, slopped their way to an 11-point win over lowly Wake Forest, came within two points of beating Syracuse at home and stalled heartbreak by 10 more minutes against Clemson. KenPom projects the Terps as 90 percent favorites at home, and their psyche could do well with a blowout.
2) Get Layman going? Sophomore forward Jake Layman endured one of the most stat lines by a Maryland player in recent memory, shooting 1 for 14 from the field (1 for 9 on threes), missing his only free throw attempt and contributing little else (six rebounds, four fouls, no other recorded stats), and this is not new. He was 1 for 9 against Ohio State in December and 1 for 7 at Pittsburgh in early January. Taken with the loss to Syracuse, Layman is shooting 2 for 20 over the past two games and 2 for 13 from behind the arc. Look for the Terps to work him closer to the basket, much like they did to great effectiveness at Cassell Coliseum, to boost Layman’s confidence.
3) Break the zone? Virginia Tech’s recent resurgence – and by recent resurgence, we mean ability to avoid getting blown out by 20 points – has coincided with a shift to a zone defense, which has slowed down the pace and allowed the Hokies to have a chance. They lost to North Carolina 60-56 on Saturday, North Carolina State by seven points on Feb. 22 and Virginia by four points on Feb 18, shortly after beating Miami by seven and taking Pittsburgh to double-overtime on the road. Clearly things have changed in Blacksburg since the Terps and Seminoles pounded them by 20 points in consecutive games, and much of it is thanks to the zone.
“I think they’re playing with much more confidence,” Turgeon said. “You look at their scores, except for the Duke game at Duke, they’ve been right there in games against top teams in our league. I think it keeps them a little fresher as the game goes on. They’ve had some injuries. I think it helps their depth. Keeps them out of foul trouble. And they’re confident in it. It’s definitely helped their game and helped their team as the season’s gone on.”
100: Turgeon will reach the century mark Tuesday night for games coached with the Terps. He is currently 57-42 through 99 games with Maryland, compared to 50-50 at Wichita State through 100 games and 71-29 at Texas A&M.
13.1: Virginia Tech’s turnover percentage, which ranks 348th nationally.
63: Rebounds grabbed by Maryland against Clemson, the most in program history in ACC play.
“Haven’t handled time off well this season. I felt, especially the first 10 minutes, it took us a while yesterday to get our second wind. Then we finally got it. Hopefully tomorrow because the guys played so many minutes Sunday they’ll be in better shape, can handle the start of the game. It really comes down to how mentally tough we are to bounce back from another tough loss from us, and be ready to play at Virginia Tech team that’s playing much better than when we played them at their place.” – Turgeon.
“Yeah I like it. I hate five days of practice in between games, especially after a loss. Guys want to get back on the court. Play better.” – Smotrycz.
THE TERPS TUNE OF TODAY
“Animal” by Neon Trees.