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Virginia Tech (14-11, 5-6 ACC) vs Maryland (17-9, 7-4 ACC)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008, 9:00

TV: RLF Split (click here for station listing)

Roster Card: Click here

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Game Preview: Virginia Tech has lost three games in a row, and they'll look to get back in the win column when they take on Maryland in College Park on Thursday night. Simply put, it would be a big accomplishment to pick up the win. The Terps are at least the third best team in the ACC, and they are a completely different team than the one the Hokies beat by one point in Blacksburg for their first ACC win of the season.

In that first meeting, Maryland didn't have starting guard Eric Hayes. Greivis Vasquez also suffered through a miserable game, scoring just 10 points. He was 2-of-14 from the field, 0-7 from three-point range (including a potential game-winner), and committed six turnovers. Hank Thorns did a great job on him, but don't expect that type of performance from Vasquez again. He's one of the top players in the ACC, and that was perhaps the worst game of his career. He'll be ready to play.

Since their 67-66 loss in Blacksburg, Maryland has played very well. They have lost just two games since that day, both to Duke. They defeated UNC in Chapel Hill, and haven't had much trouble dispatching the rest of their opponents.

The Terps have an extremely tall starting lineup, and that helps them to be one of the best defensive and rebounding teams in the ACC.

Maryland Starting Lineup
Position Player Height Weight Year PPG RPG Assists
G Greivis Vasquez 6-6 190 So. 17.3 5.4 176
G Eric Hayes 6-4 184 So. 10.4 3.4 117
F Landon Milbourne 6-7 207 So. 8.6 3.6 20
F James Gist 6-9 235 Sr. 16.1 7.9 33
F Bombale Osby 6-8 250 Sr. 11.8 7 18

Vasquez is the heart and soul of the team. He is a very emotional player who leaves it all on the court every night. Right now, he's probably playing better than any point guard in the ACC. Earlier in the season against NC State, he tied a Maryland school record with 15 assists.

Vasquez can shoot the three-pointer (32.7%), he can get to the glass, he distributes, and he defends. He is a very good all-around basketball player.

He'll be joined in the backcourt by Eric Hayes, who missed the first game against Virginia Tech. Hayes is a 39.6% three-point shooter. He was recruited as a point guard, and he and Vasquez are both capable of initiating the offense. They have combined for 293 assists on the season. Compare that to the Hokies, who have just 321 assists as a team.

That one stat shows that the Terps have a huge advantage in the backcourt. And although it didn't seem to affect him in the first meeting, the length of Maryland's extremely tall guards and wings could make life difficult for Hank Thorns. The Terps don't play anybody shorter than 6-4.

Probably the most improved player on Maryland's team is small forward Landon Milbourne. Milbourne played at Oak Hill Academy with Jeff Allen, but was less than impressive as a freshman last season. This season he has turned it around, starting 24 games for the Terps. He's an excellent free throw shooter (84.6%), and though he doesn't shoot the outside shot a lot, he can knock it down (17-of-40, 42.5%). Like everyone else on the team, Milbourne plays very good defense.

Maryland starts two experienced seniors on the inside in James Gist and Bombale Osby. Either of those players are capable of having a double-double on any given night. Gist is the better scorer, and they combine to create a very formidable defensive presence on the inside. Gist has 58 blocked shots on the year, while Osby has 57.

The Terps don't have great depth at this point. Many of their bench players are freshmen. Only three reserves are averaging more than 10 minutes per game on the season. Freshman Cliff Tucker is averaging 16.3 minutes per game, and he has also started six games for Maryland. At 6-6, he is another long-armed wing.

Maryland will play Braxton Dupree and Adrian Bowie on the inside to give Gist and Osby a rest. Dupree and Bowie are getting good experience this year, and will be expected to move into the starting lineup next season.

When you look at the stats, Maryland is a very scary team. They place higher than the Hokies in nine of the 10 categories listed below.

VT vs. Maryland (ACC Games Only)

VT Maryland
Stat ACC Rank Stat ACC Rank
FG% 41.4% 10 48.7% 1 MD
FG% Defense 44.1% 4 41.7% 1 MD
3-Pt. % 27.8% 12 37.3% 4 MD
3-Pt. % Defense 38.5% 10 35.4% 7 MD
FT % 69.2% 8 74.4% 3 MD
Rebounding Margin +0.1 4 +1.9 3 MD
TO Margin -0.64 7 -3 10 VT
Assist/TO Ratio 0.66 11 1.15 1 MD
Scoring Offense 70.5 9 77.7 4 MD
Scoring Defense 75.5 6 75.5 6 Tie
Average -- 8.1 -- 4 MD

In 11 ACC games, Maryland ranks #1 in the conference in three categories. They have the top field goal percentage and field goal percentage defense in the ACC -- they shoot better and defend the shot better than any other ACC team. With Vasquez and Hayes in the lineup, they also top the charts in assist/turnover ratio. Even though Maryland turns it over an average of 15.2 times per game, they are still first in the conference in assist/turnover ratio. That tells you exactly how good these guys are at finding the open man.

Maryland is also third in two more categories, and fourth in two others. Their overall average ranking of fourth is the best the Hokies have faced this season. This is a very good basketball team that is capable of winning the ACC tournament in March and advancing to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament.

As far as the Hokies are concerned, they really haven't been doing anything well recently. Their big advantage against other teams has been defense and rebounding. However, they allowed 74 points at home to Miami and 92 at UNC. Their scoring defense slipped all the way to sixth in the conference.

In rebounding, they were -15 against Miami, and an unheard of -30 against UNC. They have been out-rebounded the last three games, all losses. In that span, their rebounding margin has dropped from +5.6, which was second in the league, to +0.1. That's a huge dropoff in production.

As we know, when the Hokies don't defend or rebound, they aren't going to win. They simply do not have the offensive firepower to keep up with other teams.

Unfortunately, this isn't the game where Tech has a great chance to get the momentum going back in their favor. Offensively, the Hokies will likely be completely outmatched by Maryland's tenacious defense. Although Tech out-rebounded Maryland 40-37 in the first meeting, the recent trends suggest that won't happen this time. A.D. Vassallo and Deron Washington were doing a great job on the boards in the first half of ACC play, but opponents are really starting to focus on boxing them out. Jeff Allen can't do it all by himself on the boards.

A win at Maryland would be huge. It would be Tech's first win in the Comcast Center, and would provide some momentum heading into a 3-game home stand. However, with the way the Hokies have been playing lately, and as good as the Terps have looked, Tech will more than likely have to wait until they return home against Georgia Tech on Saturday before they can reestablish that momentum.