The Teams: Maryland Terrapins (15-12, 7-7 ACC) vs Syracuse Orange (25-2, 12-2 ACC)
The Time: 7 PM EST
The Location: Comcast Center, College Park, Maryland
TV/Radio: ESPN/WatchESPN, 105.7 FM
The Backstory: It’s do or die time for the Maryland Terrapins, who are looking to finish out February with a winning record after going 3-3 so far. The Terps are fresh off a victory against Wake Forest at home, winning 71-60 over the Deacons thanks to a career high 20 points from Nick Faust. Still, the victory was necessary after an emotional letdown against Duke the game prior, where a last second Charles Mitchell layup to tie the game fell just short.
The Terps are going to need everything to fall perfectly if they intend on upsetting the Syracuse Orange, now the fourth ranked team in the nation. Syracuse comes in riding a rare two-game losing streak and are certain to be hungry for victory after a rough los to Duke two days ago. The Orange have played well all year, but their loss to Boston College and close games against Pitt, NC State and Clemson have left some wondering if they’re as good as advertised. With freshman stud point guard Tyler Ennis and star forward C.J. Fair leading the way, the Orange have a good shot at rebounding from two tough games.
Best Matchup To Watch:
Jake Layman vs C.J. Fair
This isn’t so much of a matchup per-se, because Syracuse runs a zone defense and much less man-t0-man, but you can bet these two will be paired against one another quite often. C.J Fair is Syracuse’s resident senior, and a big part of why they’re playing so well lately. Fair, averaging 16 points per game this year, is the standard super athletic wing for Syracuse, and Layman is going to have a hard time staying in front of this guy.
Fair is fantastic in transition, throwing down big jam after big jam as he finds open space on the court, and doesn’t cede much on the defensive end either. He’s long and knows how to disrupt plays. Layman is probably the only player on the Terps capable of adequately guarding him (maybe Jonathan Graham) while staying out of foul trouble, and as a result he’s going to use quite a bit of energy doing so.
That’s bad for Maryland, because Layman is going to need his legs on the offensive end as well if Maryland wants to be successful. There can’t be a poor shooting night against the Syracuse zone, because they aren’t going to give you anything in the paint. Maryland’s faced similar zones all year, so they’ll certainly be prepared for it, but the Terps haven’t faced this zone being run by the original don, Jim Boeheim. The rotations will be more crisp, every shot will be contested, and the length of their players leads to plenty of turnovers for opposing teams.
Layman has to figure that zone out quick, and get his early, if Maryland wants to win this game. Oh, and he has to keep Fair in check defensively.
Maryland wins if…
1.) They shoot 25 free throws, and hit 65% of them
These are very specific numbers that the Terps have to hit. Believe it or not, Syracuse isn’t particularly deep this year. They play seven guys the vast majority of the game, and rarely dip into the reserves for too often. Maryland’s job is to get those big men into foul trouble so Syracuse has to rely on less known factors to win. That means, of course, attacking the basket. Nick Faust did an amazing job of it against Wake Forest, but the shots are going to be that much harder against Syracuse. Being efficient is the key against Syracuse, and that means not hoisting up ill-advised shots or settling for low percentage jumpers.
They’re also going to have to move the ball around the perimeter quickly if they want to shift the zone enough to expose gaps and help guys like Dez Wells and Jake Layman penetrate into the lane. Doing that falls on Seth Allen, Faust, and Roddy Peters (whom I expect to see lots of minutes). Then once you get to the line, you have to hit those shots. Looking at you, Charles Mitchell.
2.) Roddy Peters plays well against Tyler Ennis
Peters and Ennis were two of the more hyped up guards of the 2013 recruiting class. Ennis has been everything and then some for Syracuse, with about a 5:1 assists to turnover ratio, whereas Peters play has been up and down. Still, Peters is the point guard who plays best against the zone for the Terps. I can imagine Mark Turgeon is going to rely on his young guy quite a bit today if Seth Allen struggles to hit his shots, because it’s such a different look.
If Fair-Layman is the biggest matchup to watch, then I think Ennis against Peters-Allen is the next best thing. Ennis is a tough guard for anyone, but he’s not the best defender in the world. Peters could give him problems with that first step, and in the limited minutes that he gets, should capitalize on those opportunities.
I like the Terps in this one, 65-63. Syracuse has been eeking out wins lately, and Maryland has been playing solid basketball. Comcast is tough to play in, so it’s a win for the Terps with a whistle finally going their way.