1.) Neither team shoots over 45% from the floor
Maryland played Virginia very closely last time, and I fully expect that to happen again. Barring that late second half collapse, the Terps would have handed Virginia their third loss of the ACC season thanks to some very stingy shooting. If anything, that game was more Maryland damning themselves than Virginia doing anything particularly special, because if Joe Harris doesn’t randomly break out of his slump, it’s a loss.
Well now Maryland has the Cavaliers on their home court, and I’ve been preaching all year long that it’s incredibly difficult to win away from home. Now, the opponent today has completely bucked that trend, but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re going to struggle in a sold out Comcast. Maryland hasn’t had an opponent shoot well against them since North Carolina, and I don’t expect that trend to end. The Terps are playing at a pretty high level defensively, confusing teams with variable defensive sets (two different zones, man to man, etc.). That should help them against a Virginia team that is definitively a powerhouse.
2.) Jake Layman continues his strong performance
I thought one of the biggest reasons Maryland lost against Virginia last game was because, of course, Jake Layman got poked in the eye and had to leave the game. That’s the kind of season it’s been for the Terps, but Layman’s healthy now and coming off a nice performance against the Hokies. Yes, Virginia Tech is terrible, but Layman has fresh legs and is playing at home. That’s a recipe for a solid jump shooting performance.
When Layman’s hot, there’s not a team in the nation that can guard him, and I anticipate a hot start for Layman here. If he can get out of his own head, the Terps should be in good shape, but Layman has to vary his outside shooting with some aggressive catch and drive moves to keep defenses honest.
3.) Charles Mitchell shines with some added focus.
Mitchell is no stranger to the spotlight, and I expect him to be fully aware of how many people are curious about how he plays following a disciplinary infraction. As we all know, Mitchell got thrown out of the Virginia Tech game after a heated exchange with, reportedly, assistant coach Scott Spinelli. How he responds to that is going to be huge, because some folks felt that Mitchell ought to be suspended for a bit longer.
A lot of times, one of Mitchell’s biggest issues is not being focused enough, but I think he’s going to have that extra edge necessary tonight. He’s got enough post moves that Virginia’s length shouldn’t be a major problem, and if he actually pays attention during his free throws, he could put together a nice little double-double. If he doesn’t, it’ll just further the notion that Mitchell ought to be suspended for longer and that Turgeon isn’t disciplining these guys enough.