Editors Note: This game preview was written by Terrapin Station staff writer Chris Bengel.
The Teams: Maryland Terrapins (12-1) vs Virginia Tech Hokies (9-4)
The Time: 12:00 PM ET
The Location: Comcast Center, College Park, Maryland
TV/Radio: ESPN3, 105.7 FM
The Backstory: After nearly two months of mostly cupcake opponents, the time has finally come for the Maryland Terrapins to begin ACC conference play. Virginia Tech comes to town on Saturday having lost three of their last four games. The Hokies started off the season being one of the biggest surprise teams in the country but have been blown out by both Colorado State and BYU. They also have a terrible loss against Georgia Southern, who Maryland beat very handily.
The Hokies boast three players that averaged double figures in Erick Green (24.4 ppg), Jarrell Eddie (14.8), and Robert Brown (10.6). They’re a team that likes to run and push the ball up and down the court. Green is their star that is not afraid to take his shot and he’ll go up against multiple defenders to take it. They are a team that shoots the ball pretty well with both Green and Eddie shooting over 40-percent.
One of the keys to watch for the Terrapins is who starts at the power forward spot. In their final non-conference game on Tuesday against IUPUI, Mark Turgeon elected to start freshman Charles Mitchell over senior James Padgett. Mitchell earned the start due to his stellar play (19 points & 13 rebounds) against Delaware State. Mitchell ended up scoring seven points and grabbing five boards while Padgett netted eight points and had six rebounds. With the statistics being that close, it’ll be interesting to see which forward Turgeon goes up in the ACC opener.
Keys to the game:
1.) Contain Green
Virginia Tech has a pretty well-rounded squad, but keeping Erick Green under wraps will go a long way in deciding this game. Green possesses a wealth of speed and is not afraid to take the difficult shot. Maryland will have to try their best to play tough defense and possibly have a second defender rotate to help out. The best they can do is make Green take those tougher shots in hopes of slowing him down. As Green goes, so go the Hokies.
Lord knows that won’t be easy as Green is the second leading scorer in the entire country averaging 24.4 ppg. For the majority of the game, I’d expect Mark Turgeon to stick sophomore guard/forward Dez Wells on Green. Wells possesses tremendous athleticism and defensive acumen that could be enough to get the job done against Green. The Terrapins want to put their best pure defender on Green and don’t want to sacrifice fouls that could put a guy like Nick Faust on the bench. Wells should provide the better matchup.
2.) Win the battle on the boards
The Hokies may not be the strongest pure defensive team around but they do have tremendous length and defend the paint pretty effectively. They have a solid rotation of bigs that includes Eddie (6.8 rpg), Cadarian Raines (6.3), C.J. Barksdale (5.2), and Joey Van Zegeren (3.5). They have very good size and force opposing players to try and shoot over them. Their starting lineup as a whole is very big and could make things a tad difficult for the Terrapins.
This is where Maryland needs guys like Alex Len, Shaquille Cleare, and Mitchell to prove their worth. Len has sleepwalked through the last portion of the non-conference schedule and hasn’t had as many dominant performances as he had early on in the season. Cleare had a solid game against IUPUI (8 points & 5 rebounds) and has played some good defense as of late. Maryland should be able to impose their will on the glass as they have all season. The Terrapins are sixth in the country as they average 43.0 rebounds per game.
Prediction: Maryland wins its ACC opener and keeps the winning streak intact in front of what should be a raucous Comcast Center defeating the Hokies by the score of 79 – 65.