Maryland Primer No. 2

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Joe Harris and the Hoos hope to take down Maryland.

After dropping their fourth 3-point game to a top 3 ACC team in a 63-60 home loss to Florida State on Thursday, the Virginia Cavaliers (21-8, 8-7 ACC) head to College Park on Sunday for their traditional end-of-the-season game against the Maryland Terrapins (16-13, 6-9 ACC). Will UVa pick up a win and in all likelihood seal up a bid to the NCAA Tournament, or will the Terps trip up the Hoos and leave them with question marks heading into the ACC Tournament?

Here’s the Maryland Primer.

1. 8/13, 15/13, 3/15, 15/9, 7/10, and 8/17. Those are the assist/turnover ratios for Maryland since it lost its starting point guard Pe’Shon Howard for the season. That’s a total of 56 assists and 77 turnovers. These numbers are not surprising given that Maryland’s minutes at the “1” are going to freshman Nick Faust, a natural shooting guard, and Terrell Stoglin, whose M.O. is to shoot first and ask questions later. Indeed, Stoglin’s assists per game have dropped since Howard went down. He’s averaging 1.9 dimes a game on the year but just barely more than 1 a game (7 assists in 6 games) since Howard’s injury. In Maryland’s last 2 games, Stoglin has a total of 1 assist.

That 3/15 assist/turnover number from above came in Maryland’s 71-44 loss at JPJ, and I don’t see the Terps faring much better at the Comcast Center. UVa is No. 7 in the country in opponent assist/turnover ratio, with opponents averaging a mere .623 assists per turnover against the Hoos. What this means is that it is going to take some terrific individual efforts against the Pack-Line defense for Maryland to crack the half-century mark on offense.

2. Terrell Stoglin, of course, is the player most likely to have a break out individual performance against Virginia, but should we be worried? Yes and no. In my first Maryland Primer, I noted that Stoglin had been having a reasonably efficient year, with his shooting percentage of 43% and 3-point shooting percentage of 37.8% translating into an effective field goal percentage of 51.3%. But starting with the first game against UVa, those percentages have plummeted. In the last 4 games, Stoglin is shooting 27.5% from the field and 32.25% from behind the arc. The conventional wisdom seems to be that Stoglin is trying to do too much in Howard’s stead, and his 12 turnovers in the past 4 games corroborates such a claim. There also appears to be serious chemistry issues between Stoglin and both his teammates and his coach, and that’s the formula for something like we saw in the second half in Charlottesville, when the Hoos outscored the Terps by a score of 44-13 and Stoglin went 0/7 with 0 points. That said, Malcolm Brogdon played a huge part in shutting down Stoglin in the second half with Terrell not being able to get shots off against his longer defender. With Brogdon either out or limited in his ability to play, it won’t be as easy to keep Stoglin off the scoreboard.

3. If Stoglin has appeared to be a bit of a malcontent recently, then misery loves company. Redshirt freshman Ashton Pankey has started the majority of games for the Terps (17/29) at power forward this season, including 10 straight during a recent stretch in ACC play. That stretch came to an end after Pankey went 0/8 from the field and had 0 points and 4 fouls in 21 minutes at Georgia Tech. In Maryland’s next game, an 88-64 loss at North Carolina on Wednesday, Pankey came off of the bench and again registered 0 points before fouling out after playing for 8 minutes. In my first Maryland Primer, I described Pankey as a speedy “4” who has the hustle to keep up with roaming posts like Mike Scott. But in the last 2 games, Pankey has appeared lazy and agitated as he grabs at defenders instead of moving his feet. Unless something has changed, Pankey won’t see the floor much against UVa, and if he does, I don’t see him slowing Scott down.

4. With Pankey parked on the bench, freshman sensation Alex Len got his first start in more than a month and looked decent against the Tar Heels’ front line, chipping in 6 points and 6 rebounds before, you guessed it, fouling out after 16 minutes of play. Earlier, it was looking like Len hit the freshman wall, scoring a total of 8 points over a 4 game stretch that ended with a 0 point, 0 rebound performance against the Hoos. But in the next 3 games, Len has scored 20 points (on 9/15 shooting) and pulled down 20 rebounds. It looks like the supremely talented big man from the Ukraine is finally putting the pieces of his puzzle together and playing with some more aggression, which means that Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins will have to work extra hard to deny entry passes and force Len to put it on the floor when he gets the ball.

That said, even with Len playing better, the Terps are pretty thin in the post. Len and James Padgett will likely start in the post. As noted, Pankey won’t play much unless his attitude has changed. That means that more minutes should go to space eater Berend Weijs, who is averaging 11.6 minutes a game on the year but who has played 32 minutes in the last 2 games combined. In those games Weijs has scored a total of 4 points and pulled down a total of 3 rebounds. I like Virginia’s chances in the paint on both ends of the floor when Weijs is in the game. He had 0 points and 0 rebounds in 7 minutes in the first meeting.

5. Maryland is also thin in the backcourt, with only four players getting significant minutes per game: Stoglin, Faust, senior Sean Mosley, and sophomore Mychal Parker . In my first Maryland Primer, I noted that Parker finally seemed to be living up to his potential, registering 19 points in the 2 games before the first matchup with the Hoos. Starting with that game, however, Parker has come back down to earth, scoring a total of 9 points in his last 4 games on 4-of-12 shooting. Expect Parker to see the floor for about 20 minutes on Sunday, and don’t expect him to do much in the halfcourt offense against a disciplined defense.

6. Sabre Poster 504-C Brandon predicts a 63.7-55.3 UVa win, with the Hoos having a 77% chance of winning. The Team Rankings simulation (available here) has the Hoos winning, 65.9-55.7.

I know that many are down after the Florida State loss. But that was a loss by a thin team against a deep team that was maybe the worst matchup the Cavaliers will face all year. Conversely, the Terps are almost as thin, and with their point guard out, they have nobody to crack the Pack-Line. In the first game, Maryland shot a mere 7/33 (21.2%) from inside the arc. Moreover, Maryland is one of the worst teams in the country (No. 344) in opponent turnovers per possession and is just an average offensive rebounding team, meaning that UVa should have more field goal attempts than the opposition. Assuming that the Hoos bring their regular defensive intensity and play with even average offensive efficiency, I like their chances to win. I see the game as a 62-56 UVa victory.

Author’s Note: Many of the statistics and analysis in this article were gathered through watching the two teams, ESPN.com, 504-C Brandon’s TAPE site, Warren Nolan RPI site, Teamrankings.com, and KenPom.com.

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