Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
The Teams: Georgia Tech (9-4) vs Maryland Terrapins (9-5)
The Time: 2:00 pm EST
The Location: Comcast Center, College Park, MD
The Backstory: The Maryland Terrains look to remain King of the Hill in the ACC and start 2014 off on a three game win streak as they open up conference play at home. The Terps enter this one riding hot after handily dispatching North Carolina Central 70-56 at home and taking out Tulsa the game prior. It’s probably the best Maryland has played since the Paradise Jam, and a big reason for that is the return of Seth Allen from injury.
The returns on the Terrapins sophomore guard, who broke his foot before the season even began, are overwhelmingly positive. After scoring 15 points in his debut against Tulsa, Allen followed that up with a 6 point, 4 assist performance against NC Central and allayed any concern about his foot not having healed fully. Allen hasn’t looked like he’s missed much basketball, and while his lungs may be searing halfway through games, his heart is clearly pumping.
Meanwhile, Georgia Tech has been riding relatively hot as well, entering the game as winners in four of their last five outings. The Yellow Jackets are out to do exactly what Maryland wants to do as well: prove they’re better than their record, and beat a quality opponent. Georgia Tech has lost to every major opponent they’ve played so far (Vanderbilt, Dayton, Ole Miss, St. Joes), but they’ve held fort all other times, much like Maryland. Almost.
The Yellow Jackets are plenty talented though, with four players scoring in double figures and athleticism out of the gym. Trae Golden is having a very solid senior season after transferring from Tennessee this offseason, averaging 13.1 points per game. Of course, you can’t discount sophomore guard/forward Marcus Georges-Hunt, who is playing at a very high level right now and averaging 11.8 points per game and 4.7 rebounds. Combined, they’re looking to put a scare into the Terps at home, but can they?
The Terps will win if…
1.) They outrebound Georgia Tech and don’t give up second chance points
If there’s one thing Georgia Tech does exceedingly well, it is rebound the basketball. They’re 28th nationally for a reason, and while part of that may be their disastrous field goal percentage, a lot of that is because of effort level on the court. They’re uber athletic and know how to use it effectively to make up for a lot of their mistakes shooting the ball.
Suppose Maryland, another formidable shooting team, holds them under their absurdly high 40 rebound per game number and sky high rebounding rate. Less second chance opportunities, less points on the board, and a very inefficient team gets even worse. Of course that means big efforts out of basically everyone on the Terps, but especially Charles Mitchell and Evan Smotrycz. These two could have problems with Georgia Tech’s athleticism, but they can negate a lot of that with strong positional play before a shot is ever even missed.
2.) Keep those turnovers down
Pretty simply stuff, really. Maryland turned the ball over 11 times in the first half (and eight times in the first ten minutes) against NC Central. Doing that against an ACC opponent will see you lose by twenty at home, count on that. Georgia Tech may not be a powerhouse, and they’re certainly not the best team the Terps have played all year (probably not even top five), but they are one of the more talented. Giving this team more opportunities than they deserve is a surefire way to lose at home.
How do they limit those turnovers? It’s cliché by now, but making the simple plays and not trying to do too much can alleviate some of the mental mistakes. The alley oop passes should be layups; the cross court lobs and homerun balls should be nixed entirely. If they’re not flashy, It is probably a good pass to make. I notice Seth Allen and Dez Wells trying to do a little too much last game, but that could be their unfamiliarity with one another. Or just sloppy ball.
The Terps will lose if…
1.) They do the exact opposite of what I said will get them a win above
This is one of those games where I legitimately believe that there are truly only two things Maryland absolutely has to do well in order to win. Failure to do so is going to equate to a loss. They cannot give a team like Georgia Tech more opportunities to score because of sloppy play. This isn’t last year and it isn’t NC Central. The Terps need every possession they can get if there is any intention of reaching that 75 point mark (the number I think required to beat the Yellow Jackets).
As for rebounding, that’s hustle and boxing out. Turgeon alluded to his team being pretty bad at it earlier in the year, so I am more than a little nervous about facing a team that rebounds well in Georgia Tech. If one of Maryland’s biggest strengths is cancelled out by Tech, I can’t see them winning the game unless they shoot lights out.
Prediction: My gut is telling me the Terps won’t win this one, but I’ve been hitting the gym so I’m ditching the gut outright. Terps 74-69