Maryland Basketball: 5 Keys to Beating Virginia in ACC Finale
In what could potentially be the most bubbly matchup of the entire year, Maryland and Virginia will face off on the final day of the regular season.
Virginia carries one of the oddest tournament profiles in recent memory, with three losses to CAA opponents (including one to 320-plus RPI Old Dominion) and three more losses to teams with an RPI higher than 100.
However, at 20-9 with wins over Duke, North Carolina, NC State and at Wisconsin, the Cavaliers can still eke their way into the field of 68.
Maryland, also at 20-9, doesn't have nearly as many strong wins. However, the team's only bad losses have come against Georgia Tech and Boston College on the road. The Terps also have wins over Duke and NC State.
Maryland probably needs this victory more than Virginia to get into the field. Here are five keys for the Terps to beat the surging Cavaliers.
Stay with Joe Harris Around the Perimeter
If you weren't aware of Joe Harris and his wildly underappreciated talents, you learned quickly if you saw Virginia throttle Duke last week. Harris finished with 36 points in the upset.
Not only has he been excelling this season, but he was an integral part of the Cavaliers' march to the NCAA tournament last season with star Mike Scott.
Harris is deadly from three-point range, but he has underrated mid-range and dribble-drive capabilities in his arsenal as well. Maryland can't let this bomber get hot, or else the Terps will be in trouble.
Establish an Offensive Low-Post Game
While Virginia can light it up from three-point range, their personnel is lacking down in the paint.
Akil Mitchell has been a pleasant surprise in Charlottesville this season. Meanwhile, freshman seven-footer Mike Tobey has been fairly inconsistent and Evan Nolte has been more of a small forward than a true stretch-4.
Maryland certainly has the bigs to overpower Virginia with size and muscle. Alex Len needs to show up to play, which he hasn't done much of unless he's playing an NBA-caliber opponent. Forwards Charles Mitchell, Shaquille Cleare and James Padgett will all be instrumental pieces as well.
Accept the Fact That It Will Be a Slow Game
Logically, you would think to try to speed up a team like Virginia and play at a fast pace to make it feel uncomfortable, but that hasn't worked against the Cavs this season.
Virginia dictates the tempo of the game. Opponents need to adjust. North Carolina tried creating a track meet in its first matchup against Virginia and ended up scoring less than 50 points.
Opposing teams must beat Virginia at its own game. Maryland needs to use some shot clock, move the ball around and find the open man. While it may be boring, this concept is the only way to beat such a unique style of offense.
Crash the Boards
Akil Mitchell has been Virginia's only reliable post player this season, averaging nearly nine boards per game. The next highest player total on Virginia belongs to Joe Harris at just over four.
This is an area where Maryland can take advantage of Virginia. If the Terps can create a vast gap in the rebounding margin, it will offset Virginia's perimeter excellence.
Maryland has the bodies to control the paint, despite not having all of those bodies consistently playing well. The Terps will be in good shape if they get terrific post production.
Don't Let the Magnitude of the Game Affect the Play
If Maryland can bring home a victory on senior night against North Carolina, it will set up the quintessential "bubble game" between it and Virginia.
With a potential postseason berth on the line, it will be easy for Maryland to get caught up in the moment, especially considering their roster is very young. Playing on the road in front of a raucous crowd, this team will struggle to handle the magnitude of the game.
Coach Mark Turgeon will need to emphasize this and urge his players to stay calm and avoid getting caught up in the potentials, and take it one game at a time.