Matchup: #7 Virginia Cavaliers at #21 Maryland Terrapins
Date/Time: Wednesday December 3rd, 9:15 ET
Location: Xfinity Center, College Park, Maryland
TV: ESPN2 (WatchESPN for streaming)
Line: Virginia -4.5
Currently sitting pretty with a 6-2 advantage, the B1G will look to wrap up its sixth straight year of holding onto the Commissioner's Cup with just one win on Wednesday night. One of the conference's many opportunities to do so will come when UVA travels to College Park, a familiar venue, to take on the Terps.
For the first time, Maryland is on the correct side of the back slash in the annual conference showdown. The Terps will be looking to notch an early season statement win over former conference rival Virginia. Maryland is ranked for the first time since March of 2010, and if they haven't forgotten how to do so, the fans should have the Xfinity Center rocking tonight.
Getting to know Virginia
The Cavs come into the game ranked seventh and boast an undefeated, 7-0 record. They are coming off a Barclay's Center Classic tournament victory, in which the held fellow B1G newcomer Rutgers to 26 points. In a regulation college basketball game. I can look at that box score one thousand times and still come away amazed. Rutgers scored eight points in the second half. WHAT THE WHAT?!?!
Anyways, Tony Bennett's teams have always been known for their defense (see: Rutgers box score) and this year is no exception. Ranked third nationally in KenPom (all advanced stats in this post are from that wonderful website) for defensive adjusted efficiency, the Cavs haven't given up more than 56 points to any opponent this year. They are allowing a measly 43.6 points per game, which happens to place them first in the nation, and their defensive effective field goal percentage is 35.1% (third in the country).
Justin Anderson is the leading scorer for UVA, checking in with 15 points per game while shooting an insane 59.3% (16-27) from distance. Subsequently, he has a 65.7% eFG rating, good for 88th in the country. Anthony Gill is averaging 12.6 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game, which is tied for second on the team. 6-11 junior center Mike Tobey leads the team in rebounding (7.1 per game) and boasts a defensive rebounding percentage of 29.4 and an offensive rebound percentage of 18. While Tobey doesn't start, he plays as many minutes as a starter and gobbles up rebounds like my mom did Beanie Babies in 1996.
What to watch for
Maryland comes into this game quite banged up. Evan Smotrycz will miss this game, and possibly two more, after reinjuring his foot on Sunday against VMI. Dez Wells is also out four to six weeks with a fractured bone in his wrist that he suffered against Iowa State. Those are two major contributors (Wells was taking 35% of the team's shots before suffering his injury) and will be sorely missed against a veteran team like Virginia.
While the Terps have certainly missed Wells' 16+ points per game, freshman phenom Melo Trimble has stepped into the limelight and thrived. The young combo guard is averaging 16.6 ppg, 2.4 apg, and 1.3 spg so far on the season and has been giving former BT Powerhouse contributor Andrew Emmer heart palpitations.
I think that Maryland should shutter the football program be put all funds towards wrist repair research and whatever Trimble desires.— Andrew Emmer (@AndrewEmmer) November 30, 2014
Trimble's turnover rate is 23.6 and he leads the team in giving the ball away at 2.9 times per game. I'd guess that neither statistic will get better playing a voracious Virginia defense.
The major area that Maryland has an advantage in is free throw attempts. Virginia is terrible at getting to the line and Maryland is excellent at not fouling. If the Terps can rack up a big advantage from the charity stripe, this game should be really close.
Projected starting lineup
PG 6'3" Melo Trimble
SG 6'4" Dion Wiley
SF 6'4" Richaud Pack
PF 6'9" Jake Layman
C 6'11" Damonte Dodd
PG 6'2" London Perrantes
SG 6'5" Malcolm Brogdon
SF 6'6" Justin Anderson
PF 6'8" Anthony Gill
C 6'8" Darion Atkins
It is worth noting that both back-up centers, Michal Cekovsky for Maryland and Mike Tobey for Virginia, play a lot and could be listed as co-starters.
Maryland beat Virginia in their last regular season game as an ACC team, leaving the conference with two middle fingers up, and UVA is looking for revenge. This game will be close, and I want to pick Maryland, but UVA is too tough on defense and will win 62-56.