Where: Comcast Center, College Park, MD
When: Saturday, February 4th, 4:00 PM
Records: UNC 19-3, 6-1 ACC; Maryland 13-8, 3-4 ACC
And yes, the infamous "trap game." For those who may not know let's review the qualities of the trap game.
1. A game played against a prior to a really important game.
2. A game played after a huge emotional win
3. A game played after excessive travel, a stretch of games without a break or anything else that might otherwise distract the team from being focused on the game at hand.
In almost call cases the game comes in a game the "trapped" team should win but the opposing team is capable of winning. It is also usually a road game.
In past seasons, games versus a Gary Williams coached Maryland team were automatic trap games. For some reason Williams had a way of getting his teams up to beat top ranked teams. Williams is now gone from Maryland former Roy Williams' assistant coach Mark Turgeon is running the program in College Park. Roy said yesterday he thought of Turgeon as family. Rumor has it the reason Turgeon never got a serious look at NC State was because he was very effusive in his talk about Roy and Mike Krzyzewski which was turn off for Debbie Yow. While I expect this coaching tie-in to have zero impact on the game it is a interesting side note nonetheless.
The two big issues in this game are Harrison Barnes' ankle and who will be guarding Terrell Stoglin. According to various reports Barnes did not practice on Thursday and was limited on Friday making him questionable for the game today. Given how UNC has handled injuries this season, it is safe to assume Barnes is playing but it would be nice(and I say this a lot) if UNC could get control of this game early to take the pressure off and afford Barnes a little more rest. Yes, the Duke game is more important for a lot of reasons but given how well FSU is playing and the way the schedules bear out, UNC cannot afford to drop this game. There are ACC implications and quite frankly there may be NCAA Tournament seeding expectations to deal with as well.
As for Stoglin, this constitutes the first game UNC will play a team where the starting point guard is quicker and the team's best offensive option. Until now, the absence of Dexter Strickland has not been an issue since the opposing wing guard was the more important defensive assignment so Reggie Bullock guarded that player. Now we have a situation where the opposing team has the kind of point guard who can likely beat Kendall Marshall off the dribble and no Strickland to guard him. If I had to guess, I think Roy tries both Marshall and Bullock on Stoglin at different points. According to stat guru Adrian Atkinson, Marshall has the second best stop percentage on the team in ACC play at 65.2%. Tyler Zeller is first at 74.6% and Bullock's 64.3% is third. While Marshall's numbers are improved, the caveat lies in who he's been guarding. In the first four ACC games, Marshall had Strickland carrying the load on defense. Since then the matchups have been favorable although it should be noted Marshall did a great job on NC State's Lorenzo Brown.
The bottom line here is Marshall can do a lot to prove himself on the defensive end by giving Stoglin a hard time. Stoglin is the ACC's leading scorer at 21.8 ppg. He shoots 38% from three and in a double OT loss to Miami midweek, Stoglin attempted 20 three pointers hitting six. Statistically, the only other player hitting threes consistently is guard Sean Mosley who has made 40% of his 62 attempts thus far this season. Going on the old adage that UNC gives up career three point shooting nights, both of these stand to have decent games as will someone else who no one expected. At any rate this game comes down to what it always does for UNC: win the rebounding battled and destroy Maryland's interior defense on a consistent basis. Maryland does have some size in seven footer Alex Len and James Padgett. The Terps OR% allowed on the defensive end is a 32% good for 158th which isn't great but not horrid either. Maryland is very good on the offensive glass with a OR% of 36.1% going against UNC's 21st ranked 27.1% OR% allowed. The rebounding is something UNC completely dominated in ACC play and in this game will be very important.
The job is simple: Take care of business then get ready for Duke on Wednesday.
UNC 83 MD 75