With tonight’s oddly scheduled ACC matchup at Boston College, Maryland will officially open up their conference schedule for their last season as a member of the ACC. Maryland is coming off two bad losses at Ohio State, a future conference foe, and this past Sunday against George Washington on a neutral court in the BB&T Classic.
Tonight Maryland takes on the worst team in the ACC this season in the Eagles of Boston College. BC is the only ACC team with a sub .500 record (3-6) with bad losses at home versus Toledo and on the road against a weak Purdue team.
But since tonight is the first conference game in Maryland’s final ACC season, lets take a look at the Terrapins’ chances of success.
First of all, in case you don’t already know, Maryland will not see North Carolina, Duke, or NC State at home this season, a sad consequence of Maryland’s departure to the Big Ten. To not see their biggest rival in Duke at home during their last season is unfathomable. Terps fan should be excited for the chance to see all three of the ACC’s new members: Notre Dame (January 15), Pittsburgh (January 25), and Syracuse (February 24) all at Comcast Center.
But with the wow factor of getting to see those three teams coming into College Park comes the realization that those are all very good basketball teams, especially Syracuse who currently sits at number two in the AP Top 25. If the Terps are going to make waves this year in the ACC they are going to have to win the close games that they lost a year ago. Maryland lost to Florida State twice by a combined five points, the Terps led by nine at halftime of the home game. Also Maryland lost both games to Virginia and on the road at subpar Georgia Tech and Boston College.
If Maryland can take care of their must win home games against Florida State, Miami, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech, that would already give them five wins in conference play, (Maryland went 8-10 last season). Without Duke and UNC coming into Comcast Center, the Terrapins only have to see them each once. They will also only see Syracuse once, creating a favorable situation in which Maryland will only see the top there teams in the conference a combined three times. This means there should be no reason that a team that will get Seth Allen back for the majority of their conference schedule shouldn’t be able to go 11-7 or 12-6 or even better in conference play.
Jake Laymen and Dez Wells should both be looked at to score 13 or 14 points per game in conference play, but it is Maryland’s frontcourt that might be worrisome, especially late-in-game free throw shooting. Currently the Terps as a team are shooting 63% from the line in large part to Charles Mitchell’s 13-38 (34.2%) and Shaquille Cleare’s 7-15 (46.7%). Finally in order to be successful against Jabari Parker (Duke), CJ Fair (Syracuse), Jorian Grant (Notre Dame), and the rest of the ACC, they have got to limit the turnovers.
Last season in ACC play, Maryland averaged 15.2 turnovers per game and this season they are averaging 14 turnovers per game, (Note: 17 TO’s against Abilene Christinan). If these numbers go down and the free throw shooting goes up, Maryland can be dancing for the last time as an ACC member, if they can just play smart basketball.