The Teams: Maryland Terrapins (15-14) and Virginia Tech Hokies (9-19)
The Time: 8pm EST
The Location: Comcast Center, College Park, Md.
TV/Radio: 105.7, ESPN3
The Backstory: For the Maryland Terrapins, there isn’t much left to look forward to for the remainder of the season. After losing four of their last five during their tougher stretch of the season, Maryland’s postseason hopes are nigh impossible at this point. Close games against Virginia, Duke, Syracuse, and Clemson have damned the Terrapins season, and the double-OT thriller in Little John didn’t do much to give Maryland confidence. The Terps shot a woeful 30% against Clemson and missed some key free throws down the stretch to fall 77-73 to Clemson.
They’re going to have to get over it quickly, because Virginia Tech is coming to town (even though the Hokies aren’t much of a threat). Tech, the worst team in the ACC if you are what your record says, have won two games since December 21st. During that span, they’ve been throttled and dismantled by just about every opponent. And yet, it’s hard to argue that the team isn’t trying; they’re just not getting results. A two point loss against North Carolina recently, and a four point loss to Virginia show that the Hokies have heart, but not the skill.
Who comes out on top?
Keys to the game:
1.) Jake Layman, Hokie Killer
Virginia Tech doesn’t do much of anything well, if we’re being honest, so if there were ever a game for Layman to get back on track, this is it. Layman was awful against Clemson, shooting 1-of-14 from the floor, but against Tech? He’s a monster. Layman shoots around 50% against Virginia Tech for his career, and he’s always steady from deep. Even during his rookie season, Layman has killed VT (he had 21 points at halftime his first go-round).
Tech doesn’t do a great job getting out at shooters, so Layman should have a field day against the Hokies. And believe me when I tell you that Layman is an absolute necessity for the Terps if they intend to, at the very least, make some noise in the ACC tournament.
2.) Come out strong
What a lame key to the game, right? Unfortunately, it’s true. The Terps have had an incredibly emotional past five games, plain and simple. That Clemson loss was particularly damning, and unless this team is made of emotionless cyborgs created during Soviet-era Russia, then these kids are drained mentally and physically. UVA, Duke, Syracuse, and Clemson in less than thirty days is tough for anyone.
That’s why Maryland has to come out strong in their next games. It’s okay to lose to teams that are better than you, but it isn’t okay to not show up and continue to prove your mettle even when there are no stakes. That’s the sign of good teams, and Maryland wants to be a good team (even if it means next year). You build for the future now, when no one is looking. But you can bet your house that people will be looking if Virginia Tech beats Maryland, because that’s going to point to major issues.
Maryland hasn’t given up all season, so I don’t expect them to do so now, but this one will be close. 66-56 Terps win.