The Teams: Maryland Terrapins 22-11 (8-10) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels 23-9 (12-6)
The Time: 3:00 PM
The Place: Greensboro Coliseum – Greensboro, NC
TV/Radio: ESPN / 105.7 FM/980 AM
The Line: North Carolina -4.5
The Maryland Terrapins find themselves in another must-win situation against the North Carolina Tar Heels this afternoon as they continue to fight for their postseason lives in Greensboro, NC.
Dez Wells provided Maryland with another Herculean effort last night against Duke as he poured in 30 points of 9/13 from the field, including a perfect 2/2 from beyond the arc and 10/10 from the charity stripe in the Terps 83-74 win over the Blue Devils. In Maryland’s last 60 minutes of basketball the sophomore transfer from Xavier has scored 44 points on 13/18 from the field. Wells has been the embodiment of the phrase “putting the team on your back” for the last three halves of Terrapins basketball. It is safe to say that his team would not find themselves in the position they are in today were it not for the show he has been putting on in the Greensboro Coliseum this weekend.
As good as Wells have proven to be to this point in the ACC Tournament the Terrapins could need an even bigger break out game from their star guard today against the Tar Heels. North Carolina beat Maryland like a drum in their two meetings during the regular season winning both games by double digits (62-52 in Chapel Hill and 79-68 in College Park). In the first meeting Maryland had no answer for James Michael McAdoo and Reggie Bullock while when the Tar Heels traveled to College Park it was Bullock and PJ Hairston who did the damage. Bullock’s three point shooting in particular, he is 8/13 from beyond the arc against Maryland this season, has been a thorn in the side of the Terrapins when these two teams have gotten together previously.
It will be extremely important for the Terps to stay home on defense so that they can effectively close out on the Tar Heels three point shooters. There is a chance Maryland could catch a break in this department as well as PJ Hairston, the Tar Heels second best three point shooter by percentage at 39%, is questionable at best for this afternoon’s game after suffering a gruesome hand injury against Florida State last night that required him to receive stitches as you can see from a tweet by David Teel early this morning.
Now I am not a doctor, I didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but as someone who played the game of basketball for the bulk of their life I just cannot see how Hairston will be anything close to effective, if he can even play, with eight stitches in the webbing of his left hand. This could prove to be a crushing blow for the Tar Heels as they had found great success by going with a smaller line up but if Hairston cannot go this afternoon Roy Williams will be forced to go with some combination of Desmond Hubert, Jackson Simmons, Joel James and Brice Johnson and hope that the rotations which did not work for this Tar Heels team earlier in the season while Hairston was saddled with an injury work to their advantage in the ACC Tournament semifinals. Certainly not the situation that Roy Williams envisioned himself being in this morning while finalizing the game plan for Maryland.
North Carolina potentially being forced to go big and match the size of Maryland instead of playing small ball with Hairston manning the PF position should play right into the Terrapins favor this afternoon. One of the Terps mightiest struggles this season has been matching teams who choose to go small against their great size. In those situations the Terrapins most important big man, Alex Len, has struggled with the Tar Heels playing a front line of Hairston and James Michael McAdoo. As a PF Hairston provided the Tar Heels with a stretch four that they simply don’t have a replacement for on this roster.
I am looking for the Terrapins big men to have a big impact in today’s game with the Tar Heels starting line up in flux and tip off just under four hours away. They will need to for the Terrapins to reach the 23 win mark, which I have stated repeatedly was the amount of wins I felt they needed to get to the NCAA Tournament, and move on for a chance at the ACC crown in Sunday’s title game against either NC State or Miami.
The Terrapins have plenty of work to do to get to that point though and, it just so happens, they will have to go through the crown jewel of basketball in the state of North Carolina to do it. Personally, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.