North Carolina vs Maryland, 8:00 PM, ACC Network
For the last time, at least in the regular season and certainly the last time in Chapel Hill, UNC will face Maryland in an ACC game. In fact there is a good bet this is the last time these two teams ever play unless something flaky happens with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge match-ups. Also of note is the fact Roy Williams will face one of his former assistants, one that he owns a 6-0 record against since Mark Turgeon arrived in College Park.
The Tar Heels will be looking for their fourth straight win and to move above .500 in ACC play. Taking a peek at the standings, UNC is sitting in the middle of the ACC pack with a clear set of two teams(Syracuse and Virginia) who have really broken ahead of the pack followed by a trio of three loss teams in Pitt, Duke and Clemson. UNC's 4-4 ACC record puts the Heels in seventh and a half game behind tonight's opponent Maryland. If UNC has any designs on moving up in the standings and making an attempt to get into the mix for that fourth spot, taking care of business at home is a vital component to reaching that goal.
And it won't be easy. Maryland has enough versatility with their forwards to create some headaches for UNC's defense. Jake Layman and Evan Smotrcyz are 6-8 forwards hitting 38-39% of their threes. Add Dez Well(34%) and Seth Allen(39%) in to the mix and the Terps have a unit with four legitimate three point shooters that can effectively spread the floor. If Maryland uses this lineup, it will force J.P. Tokoto to guard a slightly bigger small forward and potentially draw James Michael McAdoo(and Brice Johnson when he is at the four) away from the basket. Maryland also has the option to put size on the floor with Shaquille Cleare(6-9, 265 lbs) and Charles Mitchell(6-8, 280 lbs). In some respects this game could involve a lot of personnel shuffling on both sides in an effort to gain a favorable match-up at key positions.
Of the returning players that saw significant action against Maryland last season, no one really stands out. James Michael McAdoo had 19 points in the game in Chapel Hill followed by 10 points in the return game at Maryland and 13 points in the ACC semifinals. Marcus Paige didn't hit double figures in three games versus the Terps last season and had eight turnovers in the win at College Park. Leslie McDonald only played two games against Maryland in 2013 and hit a three in each game. UNC will need these three and others to step up their offensive production.
Assuming UNC can force the same tempo as they did versus NC State, there should be enough shots and enough points even if the efficiency continues to be suspect. Tempo and offensive rebounding are UNC's best hope to overcome an inconsistent offense. In three of UNC's last four wins, that formula has worked well providing the necessary intensity and effort is there.
UNC 81 Maryland 71