Saturday, March 9, 2013

game preview: Maryland

Date/Time: Sunday, March 10; 6:00


Record against the Terps: 72-106

Last meeting: UVA 80, Md. 69; 2/10/13, College Park

Last game: FSU 53, UVA 51 (3/7); UNC 79, Md. 68 (3/6)


UVA: 60.3 (#339)
Md.: 67.5 (#103)

UVA: 110.0 (#39)
Md.: 105.0 (#106)

UVA: 88.8 (#21)
Md.: 92.8 (#47)

UVA: .9000 (#21)
Md.: .7805 (#67)

Projected lineups:


PG: Jontel Evans (4.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 5.0 apg)
SG: Paul Jesperson (5.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.0 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (17.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.2 apg)
SF: Justin Anderson (6.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.2 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (13.0 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.5 apg)


PG: Nick Faust (8.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.7 apg)
SG: Dez Wells (12.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.2 apg)
SF: Jake Layman (5.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 0.9 apg)
PF: James Padgett (5.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 0.6 apg)
C: Alex Len (11.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 0.8 apg)

So many games this weekend.  I was debating with myself whether to use this post to preview baseball (home against Maryland), lacrosse (home against Cornell) or hoops.  There's a lot riding on Sunday's regular season finale.  Hoops it is.  The short version of the other two: Cornell will probably kick our asses, and the baseball team should at least take two of three if not get the full sweep.

By game time, we'll know if this game means anything in the ACC seeding.  Thanks to the major pooch-screwing that's taken place this past week, UVA can't get the 3rd seed I wanted, and doesn't seem likely to pull off 4th seed either.  To get that bye, NC State must lose at Florida State on Saturday.  If the Pack win, they'll clinch the bye and make UVA-Maryland a pointless exercise - we'll be 5th regardless.  (But not pointless for Maryland - they lose the tiebreaker with FSU, so a loss sends them to 7th while a win keeps them 6th.)

If we're to be the 5th seed, then look ye to the results of the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest game.  The winner is the 11th seed; the loser is 12th and would be our first-round opponent.  And honestly, this might be a better outcome than 4th seed anyway.  Yes, it introduces one more chance to lose, but it also gives us a great chance at a neutral-site win.  (Which would be only slightly canceled out by adding a crap opponent to our RPI.)  Wheeee!  Rationalizing is fun!  In any case, it's already time to break out the NC State tapes because we're once again on a collision course with the Pack and I'm sick of having those bastards finishing off our ACC tournament.  Maybe it's time for us to come out of the play-in round and make them one-and-done instead of the other way around, which is every time we've had a tourney bye since ACC expansion.

But I get ahead of myself.  The reason this Maryland game is a thing is because of the NCAA tourney implications.  If you buy the line that four ACC teams have earned themselves NCAA bids and two more are on the bubble, then you know which two teams those are, and you know what a great chance this is for UVA to draw a big fat dividing line between themselves and the conference's other bubble team.  Regardless of anything else, if the committee is comparing two ACC teams for one of those final slots, they're not gonna choose the one that lost twice to the other.  So a win would be huge.

-- UVA on offense

Now you know what things look like when the threes aren't falling.  If you just looked at the stats you'd figure that Joe Harris's sudden inefficiency has been the problem, but when Paul Jesperson's shot isn't falling, and Evan Nolte is suddenly never open (nor can he shoot when he is), and Justin Anderson seems invisible, it's no sweat keying in on Harris.  I mean, he's a great player, but even Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen to keep the defense honest.

Defenses have been anything but honest lately.  Sagging a million miles off of Jontel Evans is nothing new. Maryland did it last time we met and will do it again.  Florida State brought a new twist to the game by bringing the defender up and encouraging the drive, at which point they dared Evans to pass by jamming the lane.  It didn't help that too often, we'd have our own player in the lane, and close enough that his defender could deny both the pass and the layup.  Alex Len will no doubt be able to do the same, if Maryland uses a similar game plan.

The necessary adjustment is to space things out better than they did against FSU.  I'm for trying Harris in the post, frankly (when Len is out of the game so that the defender is someone more suitable), and then when Jontel dribble-drives, have Harris book it clear and force the defense to make a choice.

Defenses are also figuring out that Nolte is no threat to drive himself, and thus are sticking to him like glue on the perimeter, denying the kick-out pass.  I haven't seen Nolte used as a screener much; if getting him going is the goal, that would be a start, to see if the Hoos can force a switch into a more favorable shooting matchup.

Maryland uses such a large rotation that it's tough to get a grip on individual matchups.  I can't even vouch for more than two positions of the starting lineup above; they've been very fluid in their decisions in that regard.  Obviously, any time Len is in the game he's a threat to alter or block a shot.  I don't think Mark Turgeon will make the same mistake he made last game in allowing himself to have his matchups dictated to him and going too small, which means more Len than last time.  He's the only threat in the middle, though.  Shaquille Cleare can't seem to defend without fouling, and Charles Mitchell is only a little bit better there.  And as noted last time, Maryland is almost always on the wrong end of the turnover margin.

With any luck, the friendly confines of the JPJA will provide the shooting backdrop necessary to fix the awful 2-for-14 night the Hoos had in Tallahassee.  (Actually, in a way I hope that's not the problem because it doesn't solve anything for the ACC tourney.  One game at a time, though.)

-- UVA on defense

UVA's gameplan in the last meeting was very successful; so much so that Mark Turgeon abandoned his size advantage and tried to match small for small.  That meant going right to his own weakness.  Maryland typically gets awful point guard play; neither Nick Faust nor Pe'Shon Howard have been the answer.  Most of the backcourt, really, is pretty turnover-prone.

As with above, it's hard to know exactly what kind of rotation to expect.  Might Turgeon try to flood the frontcourt with bigs and dare Tony Bennett to put Darion Atkins on the floor?  It's possible.  However, Maryland will have to demand of Alex Len that he catch the ball closer to the hoop, or else watch 6'6" Justin Anderson bring the same nastily effective double-teams that he brought in the first matchup.  And usually I worry that in the second game, whatever worked before won't be so effective because it's easier to make adjustments from the losing end, but UVA brings a new wrinkle too: Mike Tobey, who sat the last one out.

Fortunately, I don't really worry about Maryland's backcourt.  As mentioned, the point guard play is poor because they don't have a true point guard, and only Logan Aronhalt is a three-point threat.  Dez Wells is a decent wing scorer, but only inside the arc.  Seth Allen is a volume guy.  Maryland is pretty effective overall from two, because they can always put someone on the floor who can get to the rim - usually two or three - and also tend to have a size advantage when they want one, meaning they'll post up pretty effectively.

Good news though: the Terp offense is usually pretty bad away from home.  In ACC play they've managed .9 points per possession on the road; even when they win it's not with an explosion of offense.  They beat Wake at Wake recently, 67-57, and with a score like that you'd assume a pretty low-possession game.  Nope: 74 possessions, one of the fastest-paced games they've played all year.  So UVA should have success on the defensive end.

-- Outlook

If you want to read this final score prediction and imagine me banging my head against a brick wall til it falls down, that's fine.  It's kind of the essence of being a UVA fan anyway.  But as bad as the latest losses have been, you are reminded that we led them both late and lost by a combined score of three points.  I told you in the FSU preview I expected the BC game to be a wake-up call and that the Hoos would show a little gumption in Tallahassee.  OK, it took until like the last quarter of the game, and a few game minutes after Tony Bennett was seen on TV with maybe the first evidence I've ever seen of veins in his foreheads, but there it was.

Well, this time for real.  It's Senior Night, which is mainly the Bub Evans Show since he's the only one.  So how about a big game from him?  I think we'll get one.  And this time I'm really gonna kick that football.

Final score: UVA 62, Md. 51

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That was ... a tough first half ... a nice, must-win. Looks like we're on the borderline. A win against NC State (or VA Tech) would be a big help. I'm also glad we're on the Miami side of the bracket. Duke with Ryan Kelly back is ... a ridiculously tough match-up for us.