2012-13 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech at Maryland

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Things haven’t gone well for the Tech basketball team recently.  The Hokies have dropped four of their last six games following a hot start, their defense has gotten worse, and they aren’t the hot-shooting team they once were.  They’ll get a chance to turn things around on Saturday when they take on the Maryland Terrapins in their first ACC game of the season.

The Season: Maryland is 12-1 on the season.  After narrowly losing to Kentucky 72-69 in the opening game of the season, the Terps have run off 12 straight victories.  However, their strength of schedule ranks #320 in the country, and their best wins were against Georgia Mason (#89 RPI) and Stony Brook (#90), both by seven points.  It’s tough to tell exactly how good Maryland is because of who they’ve played.  However, they are 12-1, and they have a deep bench.

The Coach: Mark Turgeon turned around Wichita State’s program when he took over in 2000, eventually leading the shockers to three NIT’s and a Sweet 16.  He moved on to Texas A&M, where he took the Aggies to four NCAA Tournaments in four seasons.  Now he’s at Maryland, and after going 17-15 in his first season, he’s trying to reach the Big Dance in College Park for the first time.  Turgeon appears to have Maryland headed in the right direction.

The Players

So far this season, Maryland has employed a 10-man rotation.  Here’s a look at their projected starters:

G Pe’Shon Howard (6-3, 190, Jr.): Howard only averages 3.9 points per game, and he’s only made 14 field goals this season.  However, he has recorded 75 assists and has done a good job running the Maryland offense.  He averages 24.6 minutes per game.

G Nick Faust (6-6, 205, So.): A big guard who averages 9.8 points per game.  Faust isn’t a great shooting threat, but his length on the wing really helps a Maryland defense that has been good so far this season.

G Dez Wells (6-5, 215, So.): A transfer from Xavier, Dez Wells used to play on the same Hargrave team as Robert Brown, C.J. Barksdale and Marquis Rankin.  He averages 12.3 points per game.  He’s not a good outside shooter (21.1%), but he’s excellent at using his big frame to finish around the basket (57.1% overall from the field).

F James Padgett (6-8, 235, Sr.): The most experienced player on Maryland’s team, Padgett averages just under 20 minutes per game.  He is shooting (and dunking) at a 65.4% clip this season and averaging 7.5 points per game.

C Alex Len (7-1, 255, So.): The sophomore from the Ukraine is Maryland’s best player, averaging 13.3 points and eight rebounds per game.  He also had 30 blocked shots in 13 games.  He’s averaged only 24.5 minutes per game against a soft schedule, but expect his minutes to go up in ACC play.  Len is a possible future NBA lottery pick.  He visited Virginia Tech the summer before his freshman season, but he ultimately enrolled at Maryland.

Maryland’s bench has also played a big role in their 12-1 start.

G Seth Allen (6-1, 190, Fr.): Allen is shooting 38.6% from the field, and he’s second on the team with 43 assists.  He’s been very impressive for a freshman, and he looks to be Maryland’s point guard of the future.

F Charles Mitchell (6-8, 260, Fr.): Mitchell is another impressive freshman who is averaging 6.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.  He is a big body on the inside.

G Logan Aronhalt (6-3, 205, r-Sr.): The transfer from Albany was brought in to shoot three-pointers, and he’s done exactly that.  Aronhalt is 55.8% from behind the arc this season, and is easily Maryland’s best outside shooter.

C Shaquille Cleare (6-9, 265, Fr.): The freshman from the Bahamas plays 14.8 minutes per game, and is averaging 5.6 points and 3.4 boards.

F Jake Layman (6-8, 205, Fr.): Layman, yet another freshman, was a 4-star recruit out of high school, and he’s played an average of 14.6 minutes per game.

The Terps have a well-balanced lineup, and though there is a lot of youth on the bench, there is a lot of size.

Maryland by the Numbers

Here’s a quick look at the Terps in some of the national statistics:

Offensive efficiency: #14
Defensive efficiency: #31
Total rebounding pct: #2
Assist/TO ration: #36

Clearly this is a team that has been very efficient offensively, defensively, and on the glass.  They do a good job in their halfcourt offense.  They have played one of the easiest schedules in the country, but the efficiency has still been there.

Another Tough Road Game for the Hokies

Virginia Tech is playing away from Cassell Coliseum for the fourth time in a row, and overall the Hokies haven’t played well since they defeated Oklahoma State in Blacksburg back on December 1.  Tech has lost four of their six games since then, and didn’t look particularly good in their two wins.  The last six games have uncovered some common trends:

1: Tech’s shooting has cooled off in a major way.
2: Tech has been a poor defensive team.
3: C.J. Barksdale and Cadarian Raines are wildly inconsistent.

Lately we’ve seen 6-7 sophomore walkon power forward Christian Beyer taking minutes from C.J. Barksdale.  In Tech’s last win, against Bradley on December 22, Beyer had three points, nine rebounds, two blocks and two steals.  In last weekend’s loss to BYU, he had nine points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.  Meanwhile, Barksdale has combined for just six points and six rebounds over his last two games.

With ACC play beginning, it’s a chance for the Hokies to redeem themselves for their poor play as of late.  However, how confident are the players right now?  After such a hot start, and wins over Iowa and Oklahoma State, it was human nature (for players and fans) to get confident.  After not looking good over the past several weeks, how is Virginia Tech’s psyche right now?  I guess we won’t know until we see them on the court tomorrow.

In watching Virginia Tech’s last two games, the Hokies look lost defensively.  The 42 points scored by BYU’s Tyler Haws was the most scored by a player in a Division I game this season.  Tech couldn’t stop Colorado State or BYU defensively, and though their offense improved last weekend against the Cougars, the defense does not leave me confident going into a road game against a team that ranks #14 nationally in offensive efficiency.

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