Spread: maryland by 11.5.
The Hokies open ACC play on Saturday with a 250 mile road trip (after back-to-back 2,500 mile road trips) to College Park, MD. Tech is just 1-7 in ACC openers, losers of five straight. And after being outscored 111-56 in consecutive halves against colorado state and byu, it’s looked like VT would struggle to beat maryland-eastern shore or maryland-baltimore county right now, let alone the 12-1 terps.
While Tech’s struggles are well documented and readily apparent to anyone that has seen their last six games (horrendous perimeter/help defense, poor rebounding, and 3-point shooting that’s been colder than a Colorado ski slope), let’s not anoint maryland the ACC champs just yet. Since playing an overrated kentucky team (#58 RPI) tough in their opener (and losing by just 3 points), maryland has faced just two other top 100 RPI teams — beating #62 george mason and #90 stony brook. They’ve faced just one other top 200 team, meaning 9 of their 12 wins are against teams with a RPI of 200+. They have not faced a team in the top 50 of the RPI (VT is 1-2 vs top 50 teams).
That said, maryland will present some serious challenges to the Hokies and have to be heavy favorites in this game:
- Turgeon is a seriously good coach and has them a year ahead of schedule — by next year they’ll be one of the top five programs in the ACC, and likely top four, year in and year out.
- Alex Len is 7’1″ and a good low post scorer and rebounder. Considering VT couldn’t stop 6’9″ Brandon Davies, that’s not a good omen.
- maryland is VERY deep — they play 10 guys 10+ minutes per game, and no one averages more than 25 minutes per game. That allows them to pick up full court most of the game, forcing VT to use energy just to bring the ball up.
- Logan Aronhalt has been insanely hot from deep. The albany transfer is nearing 200 made 3s for his career and is 24/43 (56%) on the season from deep. He is just 1/10 on 2-point shots. Let’s hope Tech guards him a little better than they did Mr. Haws, who dropped 42 on the Hokies. No one else shoots even 39% on 3s for maryland though Allen is a threat at 38%.
- maryland shoots the ball very well. Four of their top six scorers shoot 55% or better from the field, and they shoot 50% as a team. That’s not good news for a struggling defense. The terps will attack the tin regularly and often. Tech must defend the post better, and will have to double Len. Will that lead to open looks for Aronhalt and others? We’ll see.
maryland has 46 fewer free throw attempts than the Hokies, surprising for a team that likes to go inside a lot.
The keys for the Hokies are:
- Can they rotate on defense to avoid wide open looks
- Can they make some 3s (Tech is now 11th in the ACC at 32% on 3-pointers)
Rebounding will be important, too, but let’s face it — if maryland doesn’t miss because they are as wide open as byu and colorado state were, it won’t matter. Tech also needs to find ways to get out and run to avoid facing Len (and his 2.3 blocks per game) in the paint. That might mean leaking out a guard or two on defense and hoping the bigs can get the boards. Risky, but possibly necessary.
*Note: I was dead wrong about VT going zone. They tried a 2-3 zone against byu and it failed as miserably as their man, double-the-post defense.