Virginia Cavaliers (14-14overall, 5-10 ACC)
3/6/10 1:30PM John Paul Jones Arena Charlottesville, VA
Leading scorer: MD: Greivis Vasquez 19.5ppg UVA: Sylven Landesberg 17.3ppg
PF: MD: 80.0 UVA: 66.0 PA: MD: 67.4 UVA: 63.5
Maryland has won six straight, Virginia has lost nine straight
Maryland is 7-3 on the road, Virginia is 11-5 at home
The Maryland Terrapins moved into a tie for first place in the conference with an emotional win against Duke at the Comcast Center on Wednesday night and they will look to finish the regular season in at least a tie for first when they travel to Virginia on Saturday. This is a game between two teams going in opposite directions. The Terps have won six straight games since losing to Duke in Durham, while the Cavaliers have lost nine straight since a surprising start in their first six conference games. This game has all the signs of a letdown for the Terps, if they can avoid that, they will be hanging yet another ACC Champions banner in the rafters.
The Terps are flying high after beating the fourth ranked team in the country on their home court, on senior night, to tie for the regular season ACC title, so what's left for them to accomplish? Everything! They need to avoid the fate of so many Maryland teams of late that have traveled to Charlottesville and left with a loss. Look no further than last year when the Terps, who were playing for their tournament lives, went into the John Paul Jones arena and got pasted by the Cavaliers. Beating Duke will be for not if the Terps lose to Virginia and you better believe Gary Williams will make that known to his team.
With his emotional 20 point performance on Wednesday night, Greivis Vasquez all but locked up ACC Player of the Year and the Cavaliers will have a hard time containing him. Vasquez's is a match up for problem for any opponent , so expect Tony Bennett to draw up some special Vasquez shut down defense and see if it works. While the focus will be 100 percent on Vasquez, the supporting cast around him is what has vaulted the Terps into first place in the conference. Freshman Jordan Williams is a double-double machine and is coming off a 15 point 11 rebound performance against seven foot Duke center Brian Zoubek. Sean Mosley has regained his shooting touch scoring in double figure in the last three games, and Eric Hayes leads the conference in 3 point shooting. Landon Milbourne has struggled of late but still averages in double figures and is capable of having a big game any time. The bench has been great for the Terps all season, especially of late. Cliff Tucker's athleticism makes him a tough draw for opposing defenses and Adrian Bowie has sparked the Terps off the bench; his nine points against Duke were huge. The Terps can also bring in some size off the bench in Dino Gregory who's defense and rebounding ability is key for them.
In the preview of the first meeting between these two teams, I mentioned how much respect I had for Tony Bennett and the Cavaliers, but it has a been a tough month for them. The wheels have surprisingly came off but I still believe they will be game in their last game in front of the home crowd on Saturday. Slyven Landesburg is an ACC player of the year in the making and is more than capable of having a monster game against the Terps. If they are to pull the upset the Cavaliers will need a big game from Mike Scott inside. The Terps depth in the paint could wear Scott out, but his rebounding ability, could hurt the Terps given their propensity to give up a lot of rebounds. In addition to Scott, Sammy Zeglinski will need to be lights out from 3 point range if Virginia is to have any shot. If Zeglinski is feeling it from beyond the arc, the Terps could be in for a long day.
For the last seven years the Terps have been known for winning the big game, then losing on the road against a team they are supposed to beat; look no further then last season's win over North Carolina then loss to Virginia. This year they have bucked a lot of trends and beaten up on the bottom teams in the conference and I expect them to come out focused and ready to play Saturday. Gary Williams will have the team focused and I believe they are too experienced to go on the road with so much on the line and lose. Certainly it will not be easy, but the key will be to shutdown the players around Slyven Landesburg. It is inevitable that Landesburg will score, so the Terps should worry about stopping Zeglinski and the other Cavaliers, and not let anyone have a career game like Mamdu Diane did last season against them. The Terps have shown the ability to overcome poor first halves on the road and still comeback and win. I expect the 'Hoos to be game early but the Terps just have too much talent and depth to lose this game. Terps win and finish with at least a share of the regular season title. Terps 75 Virginia 62.