Who: Virginia Tech Hokies (11-5, 2-2 ACC) @ Maryland Terrapins (11-6, 1-2 ACC)
When: Thursday, January 21 @ 9:00 p.m.
Where: Comcast Center, College Park, MD
The Opponent: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Bubble Battle Part I. In what is sure to be the first of many key ACC contests, the Hokies travel to College Park to take on the bubblicious Maryland Terrapins tonight. Needing a solid road win, Tech (ranked 75th in the RPI as of Wednesday night) would get a resume booster by beating the Terps (No. 90 RPI) in the Comcast Center.
Maryland’s 11-6 record is a tad deceiving as the six losses have come to Pittsburgh, Illinois, Temple, Boston College, Duke, and Villanova. Four of those teams are currently in the top 25 and UMD has not lost by more than nine to any of them. The Terps are a much better team at home (9-1) than they are away from College Park (2-5). However, the lone home loss was to ACC foe Boston College.
Here’s the projected starting lineups for the Terps:
Plain and simple, the key to Maryland’s offense is big man Jordan Williams. Those numbers are not typo. He is a 6-10, 260 sophomore. He averages 18.1 points and 12.2 rebounds per game. His ppg game average is fourth in the league, behind three guards, and he’s the only player in the conference to average more than 10 rpg. Simply put, Williams is a freak riding an 11-game double-double streak. His fifteen(!) double-doubles leads the nation. And these aren’t your garden variety double-doubles. We’re talking 20+ points and 13+ rebounds in six games. Oh, and he shoots 56% from the field, best in the ACC. Teams haven’t been able to stop Williams, but the Hokies must find a way to contain him somehow, someway.
As for the other guys, the Terps are a very balanced squad. The four other starters average between eight and 10 ppg, while main reserve Cliff Tucker (6-6, 205) averages 11.4 ppg. Tucker has recently been replaced in the starting five by Terrell Stoglin, who’s production has been lacking in ACC games. However, Tucker still gets the majority of the playing time over the freshman.
Maryland is a really good team when you look at the stats. They’re sixth in the nation in rebounding (42 rpg), thanks to Williams, and they’re in the top 30 in the nation in scoring offense, field goal percentage, and assists per game. Plus, they’re really good at pressing and trapping opponents into turnovers. However, much like the Hokies, they can’t seem to get that quality win they need.
Keys to VicTory:
- Know When to Foul
- If there is a setback to Jordan Williams’ game, and the Terps in general, it is their free throw shooting. Maryland comes into today’s contest dead last in the ACC (and 313th in the nation) at 63% from the charity stripe. Williams is actually a worse shooter from the free throw line (52%) than from the field (56%). Tech needs to make Maryland earn its points without burning precious fouls from their eight scholarship players. In simpler terms, Jeff Allen foul trouble + Victor Davila foul trouble = big game for Jordan Williams.
- Dominate the Backcourt
- Another kink in the Terps armor is their backcourt play. Maryland has the advantage inside, so Tech needs to take control of the game with Malcolm Delaney and Erick Green. UMD makes just four three’s a game and shoots just 33% from beyond the arc. Tech, meanwhile, was red hot from deep last week, going a combined 19 of 40 against UNC and Wake Forest. Good guard play from Delaney and Green is going to go a long way in helping the Hokies escape with a victory.
- Maintain Composure
- I use the word “escape” because the Comcast Center isn’t the nicest of places of play. Okay, maybe I sugarcoated it too much. Malcolm Delaney says Maryland has the worst fans in the league and its hard to argue with him. Heck, Jeff Allen flipped off the student section when they dropped the N-word on him two years ago. Tech needs this victory and it’s going to have to come in a tough environment. You could see the nerves getting to the younger players in the second half against Carolina, and we can only hope that they’ve learned from that experience.
This game is big for both teams. If Tech somehow pulls one out in College Park, they’ll have a chance for the sweep in Blacksburg on February 15, which would be huge come March. This is the beginning of a busy stretch for Tech, playing three games in six days, two of which are late starts on the road. The Hokies seemed to get a little swag back against Wake; hopefully, it will carry over to a quality effort tonight.