Virginia Tech hits the road this weekend, traveling to College Park to take on the Maryland Terrapins. With Jeff Allen and Malcolm Delaney gone from Virginia Tech’s roster, and Gary Williams retiring, this game has a bit of a different flavor than what we’re used to.
Allen was from DC, while Delaney was from Maryland, so this game was always huge for them. With them gone, and Mark Turgeon now roaming the sideline, things are going to be a little bit different. Turgeon came to Maryland from Texas A&M, where he took the Aggies to the NCAA Tournament in each of his four seasons. Before that, he led Wichita State to the Sweet 16. He is an accomplished coach.
Maryland is 12-7 overall, with a 2-3 record in ACC play. The Terps have lost three in a row to Florida State (84-70), Temple (73-60) and Duke (74-61). Their two best wins came in their non-conference schedule when they knocked off Colorado (#70) and Notre Dame (#76). To their credit, all but one of Maryland’s losses came to teams ranked in the top 50 of the RPI, and NC State, who downed the Terps, is very close at #54.
Mark Turgeon is a guy who likes to run 3-guard offenses, and he has the personnel to do that at Maryland. Pe’Shon Howeard and Terrell Stoglin are still young players, but they are pretty experienced for sophomores. Stoglin is arguably the best natural scorer in the ACC, and the Maryland offense depends on him to have big games. He averaged 11.4 points per game as a freshman last season, and his game has improved this year.
Stoglin is a quality three-point shooter (39.7%), and he can also score around the basket despite his height, and hit mid-range jumpers. Perhaps his best attribute as a player is his speed. Stoglin can get from one end of the court to the other in a hurry. If he was a little bit taller he would be the total package offensively. Even with his lack of height, he’s still an outstanding offensive player.
Sean Mosley is (finally) a senior, and he has been Maryland’s second best scorer. However, Mosley has been an average player for most of his career, as the talent level in the program dropped as Gary Williams stopped recruiting.
Ashton Pankey and James Padgett are decent players on the inside for Maryland, but their most talented big man is Alex Len (7-1, 225, Fr.), a freshman from the Ukraine. Len visited Virginia Tech just before the fall semester began, and the Hokies wanted him badly. He was accepted to Maryland first, so he became a Terp.
Len had to sit out the first semester because of some professional playing experience overseas, but he’s been very good for Maryland, starting eight of his nine games. He’s a quality scorer who can step out and shoot the basketball. He’s converting at a 62.2% clip on the season, though he hasn’t been as effective in ACC play. Virginia Tech’s big men need to get physical with Len and take him out of the lane. He doesn’t respond as well to physical play.
Maryland has had their biggest issues on the defensive end. The Terps play at just the 216th fastest tempo in college basketball, partly to slow games down because they haven’t been good defensively. Opponents are shooting a whopping 43.6% against the Terps, and that number ranks dead last in the ACC. According to Ken Pomeroy, Maryland is just 226th in the nation (out of 345 teams) in defensive efficiency.
For what it’s worth, Pomeroy also has a “luck” rating. In that category, Maryland is #2 in the nation in luck, while Virginia Tech ranks #325 out of 345 teams.
The Hokies will have to do a few things well to come away with a road win.
1: Transition defense. The Hokies have to keep Terrell Stoglin from running the court and getting easy baskets in transition. The best way to do that is by making baskets themselves.
2: Push Len out. Victor Davila and Cadarian Raines have to use their superior ACC experience and push Len out of the lane. He can shoot, but if you crowd him and play him physically, you can take him out of his game.
3: Execute in the halfcourt offense. No excuses this time. As we’ve covered, Maryland has been a poor defensive team this season. Don’t expect Tech to score a lot of points, because both teams like to slow the tempo. However, the Hokies should be able to run their offense efficiently in this game.
Virginia Tech needs this win badly, as they’ve got Duke coming to town next Thursday night. The Maryland game tips off at 2:30pm, and the game will be televised by The ACC Network.