1.) Jake Layman is going to struggle offensively against Isaiah Armwood, but do well in other areas
I love Layman as much as the next guy, but I have a feeling that Coach Turgeon is going to employ Layman in a bit of a decoy role offensively this game. That may sound like an odd strategy considering Layman is hitting 46% of his three pointers for the season and is Maryland’s leading scorer, but against Armwood it makes sense. Armwood, the same guy who shut down one of the nation’s best scorers in Doug McDermott, is likely to be sic’d on Layman. Our best guess is that he’s going to do the exact same thing as last time, and make Layman take contested shots and force him into bad looks.
But Maryland can counteract that play if they use Layman as a decoy to find open guys who can cut into the lane. George Washington isn’t a massive team, and moving their 6’8 guy away from the basket opens things up down low, where Armwood is a competent defender. Layman should be able to pick up some assists, grab some boards, and focus on the defensive end if he ends up playing the decoy role to slashers like Wells and open shooters in Smotrycz.
2.) Speaking of Smotrycz, I expect a big game out of him.
Though Layman has been the most consistent scorer for the Terps, Smotrycz is definitively the most consistent player on the team. If anyone is a sure bet, it’s going to be Smotrycz who has scored in double-figures during all but one game this season. Over the past four games, he’s averaging 16.7 points and 9.75 rebounds while shooting over 50%, which makes him our best offensive option right now. As I said before, Layman is going to be playing the decoy, which should permit Smotrycz to get going early on as he did against Ohio State (even though he was the only one).
His matchup during this game is likely to be Kevin Larsen, which puts him at a size disadvantage from the start. Still, Smotrycz is crafty, and if he can move Larsen outside of the paint with Layman pulling Armwood out, he can use his pump fake and drive in for some uncontested shots. He can also make a major impact in that, if his man is guarding him on the perimeter, there’s no one in the paint to stop shots. Maryland can exploit that, and a great passing big like Smo can help.
3.) The Terps play a full game for the first time all year
I think Maryland is starting to get that sense of urgency teams get shortly before conference play when they’ve been struggling. Maryland has definitely been struggling, and they’ve got to come out hard for this game. They’re not going to be playing in front of a big crowd with this snowstorm underway, so I think they’ll be a little bit more loose.
George Washington is a bad matchup for Maryland, and I expect this game to be within five points either way. While I won’t go out and say Maryland will win, I do think that this will be a good game regardless of the outcome. It’ll be one that you can point to and say that the Terps finally looked like they were putting it together entirely.