Maryland Primer No. 2 2013

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Justin Anderson and the Hoos hope to top the Terps in the regular season finale.

The Virginia men’s basketball team picked up a 80-69 road win in its first meeting with Maryland this season. Can the Terrapins flip the script in Charlottesville? If the Hoos can prevent payback in this one, they will earn a first round bye in the ACC Tournament. Here are 10 things to consider for the Sunday showdown.

1. Since losing to Virginia at home, 80-69, on Feb. 10, Maryland has gone 3-3: 2-1 at home (beating Duke and Clemson but losing against UNC) and 1-2 on the road (beating Wake Forest but losing at Boston College and Georgia Tech). On the season, the Terrapins are 3-6 in true road games, with their other road victories coming at Northwestern and Virginia Tech.

2. The Hoos’ first game against Maryland was the 6th straight game in which talented freshman Jake Layman started at small forward for the Terrapins. And while he struggled against UVa, scoring 4 points on 1-of-7 shooting, he remained a fixture in the starting line-up for the next 4 games. That streak ended two games ago when the frosh came off the bench and played a mere 9 minutes and scored no points against Wake Forest. Although Layman played better in the loss against UNC (8 points in 19 minutes), it seems clear that he’s hit the freshman wall.

3. Another Terp hitting the freshman wall is Seth Allen. The combo guard scored 11 points in 25 minutes against Virginia and then saw the floor for 29, 22, 23, and 25 minutes in successive games. Then, along with Layman, his minutes dropped in the last 2 games. Against Wake and UNC, Allen played a combined 27 minutes and scored a total of 7 points on 2-13 shooting (0-7 from 3-point range).

4. The struggles of these freshmen have opened the door for erstwhile starting point guard Pe’Shon Howard to regain the role he held in 14 of the Terps’ first 15 games. The oft-injured Howard, who was suspended for the Duke victory for violating team rules, played a total of 29 minutes in the following 3 games, scoring no points in two of them. Then, against Wake Forest, he started and scored 8 points in 30 minutes of floor time. But, as with the Terrapins as a team, Howard has been inconsistent all year and followed up that performance by registering no points on 0-4 shooting against UNC.

5. Of course, the poster boy for inconsistency on this Maryland team has been projected NBA Draft lottery pick Alex Len. The big man should be dominating inferior college competition, but he just seems to lack that killer instinct. Justin Anderson and company did a nice job of containing him in the first game, limiting Len to 9 points. And, since then, 4 of Maryland’s next 6 opponents have done the same, with Boston College, Clemson, Wake Forest, and UNC limiting Len to 4, 9, 5, and 8 points, respectively.

6. While most of Maryland’s team has been maddeningly inconsistent, the one constant recently for Mark Turgeon’s squad has been transfer Dez Wells. Here are his stat lines for the last 3 games: 15 points on 6-10 shooting against Georgia Tech, 23 points on 11-12 shooting against Wake Forest, and 18 points on 6-12 shooting against UNC. The one problem that remains for Wells as he is often asked to initiate the offense is that he is turnover-prone, coughing it up 9 times in his last 2 games.

7. On the other hand, freshman forward Shaquille Cleare has not been playing well of late. The frosh had a nice game against Virginia, scoring 6 points on 3-3 shooting, and he’s had a few other nice performances against ACC teams this season. But, against Wake Forest, he was quickly pulled after 10 minutes of play and 4 fouls, and he then only saw 4 minutes of court time against UNC. I doubt that fans see double digit minutes from the forward on Sunday.

8. Decreased minutes for Cleare have meant increased minutes for James Padgett. The senior only played 6 minutes in the first meeting as Turgeon mostly went with a smaller line-up, but Padgett has started the last 2 games, scoring 6 points on 3-5 shooting in 17 minutes against Wake, and scoring 9 points on 4-6 shooting in 20 minutes against UNC. After what happened in the first game with UVa, I think that the Hoos can expect more of Padgett and bigger line-ups in general from Maryland.

9. The question, of course, is how Virginia might respond to a bigger line-up. With Maryland playing small ball, Justin Anderson had maybe his best game of the season, scoring 17 points and pulling down 9 rebounds. But playing Anderson at the “4” was a necessity given that Mike Tobey was out with mono, and, with the big man looking back for the most part against Florida State, the Cavaliers now how some options depending on what Maryland throws out there.

10. The natives are starting to get restless in College Park, and there is a lot of dissatisfaction with the coaching job that Mark Turgeon has done this season. Indeed, bustingbrackets.com recently did a piece about how the Larry Brown disciple is the primary reason for Maryland almost certainly not making the Big Dance this year. I think that some of this criticism is unwarranted because the Terps are young and too much was probably expected of them this year. That said, some of the decisions that Turgeon has made in terms of rotation, timeouts, and offensive schemes are befuddling. I’ve been underwhelmed by the game plan that Turgeon has rolled out against the Hoos in all 3 of those games, and I count coaching as a distinct advantage for Virginia in the game on Sunday.

Prediction: 504-C Brandon has this one as a 63.5-55.1 Virginia victory, with the Wahoos having a 74.5% chance of winning.

It is difficult to understate the importance of this game. A win very much keeps UVa’s at-large hopes alive for the NCAA Tournament while a loss means that it would take winning the ACC Tournament to make the Big Dance. The good news is that Maryland is a terrible road team while Virginia is unbeaten at home in ACC play. Moreover, there was nothing from the first game with the Terps to indicate that they can pull off the upset in Charlottesville. I will pick the Hoos to win this one, 66-58.

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