Of all the teams in the ACC, Maryland appears to be the one that's accomplished the least with their talent. They have gaudy efficiency numbers – the 11th ranked defense in the country, the 44th best offensive rebounding percentage. But a lot of that was a nonconference schedule filled with teams they good trounce by thirty. When limited to conference games, that defense becomes 7th in the ACC, that offensive rebounding rate, 9th. And they've fared even worse away from College Park, going 4-7, including a two game stretch to Boston College and Virginia Tech just when they needed wins to get them off the bubble. This looks like a Terrapin team that can win the easy ones, but struggles against the top competition. Below the cut, I'll outline their best chance of turning that around.
Any talk of Maryland naturally begins with Jordan Williams, a contender for ACC Player of the Year and the Terps' leading scorer and rebounder by large margins. He's the best rebounder in the ACC, averages a double-double, and the ball is going inside to him as often as possible. The two teams that have done the best to stop him are Boston College and Virginia; you laugh at the second one, but as UNC found out in Charlottesville, Assane Sene is an incredible defender. The good news is, UNC has big men capable of doing just as good of a job defending Williams as those two teams, if not better. Without WIlliams to anchor the offense, Maryland flounders a bit. Furthermore, WIlliams is finding himself in foul trouble of late. He's committed four in each of his last five games, and he's seen a reduction in minutes because If he can get in foul trouble – and no team is better at drawing fouls than Carolina – this will do a lot to limit his effectiveness.
The presence of Williams makes rebounding both that much more important and difficult. He's aided in that regard by Dino Gregory, whose only role in the offense is to get boards and keep opponents moderately honest inside. Carolina has slipped a little in recent games with regards to their mastery of the boards, and they really need to deny the Terps many second chances.
The reason, of course, is that Maryland isn't all that great at shooting from the perimeter. Senior Cliff Tucker is probably their best from outside, but even though a starter he shares time pretty equally with Adrian Bowie. Bowie's coming off the bench as freshman Terrence Stoglin has regained the starting point guard job for Maryland's two-game winning streak. He's averaging 19.2 points and 6 assists for the last five games. UNC had trouble with Lorenzo Brown, earlier this week, their first really poor defensive performance since the Georgia Tech game. Now's not the time to relapse here.
Sean Mosely is the fifth Maryland starter, but he's more of a defensive specialist. Pe'Shon Howard is another freshman who's had flashes of brilliance but hasn't put together a complete game yet. Maryland's perimeter defense is a little shaky, so a good shooting performance from Leslie McDonald or Reggie Bullock will help make this game more like the first Boston College meeting than the second, but for the most part, expect the same Heels we've seen most of the season. Strong inside, with good play from Kendall Marshall and Harrison Barnes on the outside, but playing to their opponent's level. It won't be a big win, and probably not a pretty one, but Carolina should be able to pull it off.
Note that with Duke's loss tonight to Virginia Tech, UNC is alone atop of the ACC standings, and winning out assures them the top seed in Greensboro. While a loss here isn't fatal – as long as UNC beats Duke, they'll win any tiebreakers due to better records over FSU and the Hokies – it'd be nice to stand alone in first place again. The Heels have stumbled before in this position this year, but they shouldn't again.
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