The Teams: Maryland Terrapins (20-9, 8-8 ACC) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (21-8, 11-5 ACC)
The Time: 7 PM EST
The Location: Comcast Center, College Park, Maryland.
TV/Radio: ESPN, ESPN3, 105.7
The Backstory: The Maryland Terrapins hope to continue to keep their slim chances of making the NCAA tournament alive when they host the North Carolina Tar Heels Wednesday night. The Terrapins are fresh off a rare 67-57 road victory over Wake Forest that couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. Dez Wells, playing in front of his home state crowd, had a near-perfect game with 23 points on 11-of-12 shooting. Wells was the catalyst that surged the Terrapins to victory, and in doing so ensured that their game against North Carolina meant something.
Meanwhile, the Tar Heels are a team doing their own fair share of surging, having been winners in their last five outings. During that stretch, they have toppled Virginia, Florida State, and in-state rival North Carolina State. To suggest that they have a lot of momentum going into this game would be understating things. Reggie Bullock has been averaging 18 points on over 50% shooting over that stretch, including two outings where he has scored 20 or more points. James Michael McAdoo has done the same, scoring 21 points against Florida State.
The two teams faced one another earlier in the season in Chapel Hill, with North Carolina thoroughly drubbing Maryland 62-52. Since that game, UNC has won 9 of their next 12 games, while the Terrapins have gone 6-5 over 11 games. During the previous game, Reggie Bullock caught fire in the first half and scored 20 points in the first half, almost all of those coming on three pointers. To win this game, the Terrapins are going to have to limit his and the rest of the Tar Heels damage from deep.
Keys to the game/Storylines:
1.) Redemption Song
The Maryland Terrapins are a team that thrives on redemption. They lost their first bout against Duke, but then returned serve with an upset when they got the team at home. They probably should have beaten Florida State on the road after losing at home. Needless to say, redemption is going to be on their mind against a team that thoroughly embarrassed them in Chapel Hill earlier in the season.
In order to do that, the Terrapins are really, really, really going to have to limit the amount of turnovers they commit. One of the biggest factors in their loss to North Carolina was the fact that the Tar Heels took advantage of 21 Terrapin turnovers. Maryland can win games when they turn it over that much, but it requires dominating every other facet of the game. If they want to keep it close, my suggestion is that they limit the amount of turnovers they get to 14 or fewer.
2.) Muck the whole game up
How did the Maryland Terrapins take it to Duke? They mucked the game up so much that the Blue Devils weren’t able to get comfortable the entire game. It’s what Gary Williams was so good at convincing his team to do, and why so many upsets occur at Comcast. Maryland took 34 free throws against Duke, and got plenty of players in to foul trouble, which completely changes their mentality. Even with the turnover issue rearing its head, the Terrapins were still in the game because they attacked the basket at will.
Against North Carolina, the Terrapins have to do the same thing. They need to get North Carolina’s big men in trouble and proceed to dominate the boards once they do that. That will require Alex Len to be incredibly aggressive against James Michael McAdoo or whomever guards him, and for Dez Wells to get swing man Bullock into a bit of foul trouble. Either way, the concerted effort from the entire team to muck the game up by guarding the perimeter and funneling players inside against Len needs to happen tonight more than ever.
Prediction: Terps pull of a minor upset, and keep their dreams of dancing alive.