The Teams: Maryland Terrapins (20-11, 8-10 ACC) V. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (13-17, 6-12 ACC)
The Time: 7 PM EST
The Location: Greensboro Coliseum. Greensboro, North Carolina
TV/Radio: ESPNU, 105.7 FM
The Backstory: Eleven games, four days, one champion. It’s the postseason for conference play, y’all. It’s the last sliver of hope that plenty of teams in the ACC have at making the bigger NCAA tournament with an at-large bid. Some teams, like Miami, Duke, and N.C. State don’t have to win anymore to gain entry into the tournament. Others, like the Maryland Terrapins and definitely the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, need to bring their hard hat and shovel to work today.
The Terrapins may be considered the favorite tonight, but there is a caveat: the Terps might still be suffering a hangover effect from that heart-wrenching loss to Virginia in the final seconds. The Terrapins came up lame in the second half and proceeded to squander a 19 point lead against the Cavaliers en route to losing 61-58 in overtime, thanks to the one thing that has damned them all year long: turnovers. Dez Wells turned the ball over at the last second of the overtime period, and the Terps failed to get a potential game-tying shot off. The win put the Terrapins on the outside looking in at the NCAA tourney, and almost certainly will have a lingering effect on this game, at least to start.
Meanwhile, Wake Forest is a team that just isn’t overly impressive. The Demon Deacons finally ended their three game losing streak (in which they lost every game by ten or more points) by defeating Virginia Tech to close out the season 90-79. The Deacons aren’t considered a favorite in this tournament for a lot of reasons, but they can without a doubt rise to the occasion, well, occasionally. That was evident when they beat #2 Miami 80-65 in February.
The Deacons haven’t had as much success against the Terrapins, but they have given them a bit of trouble. While both losses against Maryland, 86-60 the first go round and 67-57 in the second, have come by a large margin, there were certainly moments during that game where things were close. Considering how woefully inconsistent both teams are, we should be in for a good matchup.
Keys to the game:
1.) Road Warriors
So what happens when you put two terrible road teams against one another on a neutral site? More than likely, you get a bad basketball game full of errors and misfortune. This game is going to be about who can play less bad, since it’s almost a certainty that both teams will struggle away from their home arenas. Wake Forest might be on the disadvantage by a slight margin, though.
The Jeff Bzdelik-led Demon Deacons have gone 1-25 in ACC road games during his tenure. Of those losses, 20 of those have come by ten or more points. For whatever reason, his teams really, really, don’t do well on the road. That should bode well for the Terrapins, who are most certainly not very good away from Comcast, either. During the Mark Turgeon era of the Terrapins, they are 3-14 (I knew I shouldn’t have looked) during road ACC games. Two of those wins have come against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, though.
Whichever team shows up and plays slightly effective basketball is going to win this game, plain and simple. If Maryland can minimize turnovers and actually hit the rim on the deep ball, they will probably be alright.
I haven’t harped on this in awhile, so I’m going to do so now. The Terrapins need to quit turning this damn ball over, and it’s been the story all season. I hate to say it, but Dez Wells torrent of scoring towards the end of the UVA game was slightly overshadowed by his late game turnover. No, that loss was in no way all his fault, but that turnover pointed to the bigger overall issue, which is that the Terps turn it over way too much. No matter how much good they do, it’s going to be overshadowed by the fact that they have butterfingers.
Bottom line, this team should not prescribe to Mark Turgeon’s theory of “It’s just what we do,” when it comes to turnovers. They should be striving to get better at it every game, and they haven’t done that. Do it this game against Wake Forest, and they will win. I promise.