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Virginia Tech (9-6, 0-1 ACC) vs Maryland (10-6, 0-1 ACC)

Saturday, January 12, 2008, 2:30

TV: RLF Split (click here for station listing)

Special Preview Items:

Virginia Tech begins the ACC portion of their schedule on Saturday afternoon when go against the Maryland Terrapins. The Hokies (9-6, 0-1) played one ACC game in back in December, losing by two to Wake Forest on the road. Now they'll close the regular season with 15 straight ACC games.

This Saturday's test comes against a Maryland (10-6, 0-1) team that has had its good moments and bad moments. The Terrapins are playing their best basketball of the season right now, winning four consecutive games. However, they had a tough stretch earlier in the season where they lost to some teams they had no business losing to.

At one point Maryland lost four out of five games. They were a 85-76 setback to VCU in the Verizon Center, an 81-78 loss to Boston College at home, a 61-55 loss to Ohio at home, and finally a 67-59 setback at the hands of American at home. Three home losses in a row isn't what Terps fans are used to.

However, they've been playing their best basketball of the season recently, winning their last four games. They are playing as well defensively as any team in the ACC.

Maryland Starting Lineup
Position Name Height Weight Year PPG RPG APG
G Greivis Vasquez 6-6 190 So. 16.9 5.2 6.1
G Cliff Tucker 6-6 190 Fr. 4.6 2.6 1.4
F Landon Milbourne 6-7 207 So. 7.4 4 0.7
F James Gist 6-9 235 Sr. 14.6 7.7 1.2
F Bambale Osby 6-8 250 Sr. 10.4 5.8 0.7

Maryland might play this game without starting sophomore guard Eric Hayes, who is averaging 11 points and 5.4 assists per game. Hayes has a sprained ankle and is very questionable for Saturday's game. He missed the Holy Cross game on Tuesday night.

If Hayes can't go, Cliff Tucker will step into the starting role. Tucker has developed into a solid sixth man for Maryland over the course of the season.

Greivis Vasquez handles the basketball for Maryland, and he is an all-around good basketball player. He leads the Terps in scoring and assists, and is third in rebounding. He seems a bit tall for a point guard, but he does a good job handling the ball. Vasquez likes to get in the lane, and he goes to the free throw line a lot. He has attempted 79 free throws this year, which is second on the team. He converts free throws at an 82.3% ratio.

It will be important to keep Vasquez out of the lane. Tech needs to limit Maryland to passing around the perimeter, and using their length to stop post feeds. Maryland runs a flex offense and they like to get the ball to their two big guys on the inside. Vasquez isn't particularly fast or quick, but he uses his size and length well to get to the basket.

James Gist is a four year starter and a very good ACC player. He leads Maryland in rebounding and he's a very skilled inside scorer. He's a very athletic player. Part of the reason Maryland is so effective on defense is because of Gist and Bambale Osby, the other inside player. They both rank in the top four in the ACC in blocked shots. Osby can also be an effective scorer at times, but he is inconsistent on the offensive end.

One thing that is holding the Terps back this year is their depth. They don't have a very effective bench, and with Hayes likely out and Tucker in the starting lineup, it gets even thinner. Braxton Dupree (6-8, 260), Adrian Bowie (6-2, 190), Jerome Burney (6-9, 222), Dino Gregory (6-7, 227) and Shane Walker (6-10, 211) are all freshmen. Dave Neal (6-7, 263, Jr.) provides toughness, however he is more of a mid-major talent and he's just coming off an injury.

Maryland also has no legit three-point shooter after losing Mike Jones from last year's squad. Vasquez and Hayes are guys who can hit the open shot, but neither are in the class of A.D. Vassallo, and Hayes might not even play. Vasquez is shooting 35.1% on 97 attempts this year, but if you throw out Hayes, no one else has more than 29 attempts, and that player with 29 is starting power forward James Gist, who has only made 7 of his attempts.

Sixth man Cliff Tucker is shooting 38.9%, but he has only attempted 18 three-pointers. Tech might pack it in and dare the Terps to try to beat them from the outside.

Here's a look at how the teams compare statistically.

VT vs. Maryland


VT Maryland

Stat ACC Rank Stat ACC Rank
FG% 45.2% 9 44.3% 11 VT
FG % Defense 38.7% 4 36.6% 1 MD
3-Pt. % 34.9% 9 32.3% 10 VT
3-Pt. % Defense 33.2% 9 31% 4 MD
FT% 69.7% 7 69.9% 6 MD
Rebounding Margin +4.7 5 +3.5 6 VT
Turnover Margin +0.4 7 -0.88 9 VT
Assist/TO Ratio 0.95 9 0.96 8 MD
Scoring Offense 67.3 12 71.9 8 MD
Scoring Defense 58.5 1 64.1 6 VT
Average -- 7.2 -- 6.9 MD

That's about as even as you can get. Both teams use their length and athleticism to play excellent defense. Tech has the top scoring defense in the ACC, while Maryland has the top field goal defense. Neither team is very effective offensively, and although Maryland scores a little more, the Hokies shoot it a bit better.

Both teams are above average rebounding teams, their free throw percentage is basically the same, and their assist-to-turnover ratio is nearly identical.

What's amazing is that Maryland has gotten even better defensively since last year, even with the loss of swingman D.J. Strawberry, one of the best defenders in the ACC. Also, let's go ahead and give Virginia Tech credit. When you are first in the ACC in scoring defense while playing just six home games and playing six freshmen in the 10-man rotation, that's a pretty good job of coaching by Seth Greenberg.

When you compare the starting lineups in this game, the first thing you notice is the length. If Eric Hayes (6-4) doesn't start, every one of Maryland's starters will be 6-6 or taller. Four of Virginia Tech's five starters are 6-6 or taller. With so much length in the passing game, as well as two teams that struggle offensively and don't shoot the outside shot particularly well, it looks like this one is going to be low scoring.

Last season's Tech-Maryland game was 67-64 Hokies, in overtime. Don't anticipate too much more offense than that this year. In fact, it could be less.

TSL Blogs: Maryland Prediction, by bourbonstreet