Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Possibly UNC's last trip to College Park, Maryland.
North Carolina(21-8, 11-5 ACC) at Maryland(20-9, 8-8 ACC)
This is pretty much a game where literally anything could happen. KenPom has it a one point Tar Heel win and the betting lines are pretty much the same. The game is a complete toss-up. Maryland really needs the win to try and claw back onto the NCAA Tournament bubble. UNC has won five straight games and would love to roll into Saturday night's regular season finale against Duke riding high. In many ways this game is like the 2011 game UNC played at Florida State. The Heels won five in a row heading into that very tough road game and won on a Harrison Barnes three pointer with seconds to spare. UNC cannot be caught looking ahead and a win tonight locks down a Thursday bye for the ACC Tournament and in position to grab the #3 seed on Saturday night vs Duke.
Maryland will probably offer the stiffest challenge UNC has seen yet in terms of match-ups. The Terps are 17th in OR% on the offensive end and 50th in OR% on the defensive side. Maryland is a great rebounding team with plenty of size. While this didn't seem to matter as much during the first game in Chapel Hill, this game will be different. Maryland has wins over NC State and Duke at home where they are 16-2 this season and 6-2 in ACC play. P.J. Haiston and James Michael McAdoo will have their hands full with Alex Len, Charles Mitchell and James Padgett.
As has been the case since the lineup change, UNC will depend on turning Maryland over which, on paper, shouldn't prove to be too difficult. Maryland surrenders 22.1% of its possessions via the turnover which is 301st in the country. UNC on the other hand has been turning teams over more often and taking advantage of those miscues. In the first game Maryland TO% was 30% which made things much easier for the Heels.
However, just because Maryland turns the ball over doesn't mean they lose. In the game versus Duke, Maryland had 26 turnovers for a TO rate of 33%. The Terps still won thanks in part to a 40-20 edge on the boards and shooting 71% from two and 25-34 on the free throw line. Maryland outscored Duke by 10 on free throws alone. The rebounding, Maryland interior offense and free throws are all huge concerns for the Heels in this one. If Maryland can enjoy significant advantages in all three of those areas, the turnovers won't matter nearly as much. Also of concern, teams are only shooting 30.8% from three versus Maryland, 41.4% from two and the Terps have held teams to an effective FG% of 43% which is 9th nationally.
In short, this game will be tough but the Heels seeming have found themselves. The game on Sunday was evidence of a team playing with confidence and having fun. There is still need to growth and there are weaknesses a team like Maryland can exploit. However, under Roy Williams UNC is 16-3 in regular season games in March which says the Heels always play well at this time of year.
UNC 71 Maryland 69