The ACC-Big Ten Challenge is tied at 4-4 heading into tonight’s slate of games. The one we care most about, of course, is our very own Virginia Cavaliers heading into enemy territory to take on the Maryland Terrapins. In order to get the lowdown on the 6-0 Terps. We chatted with Thomas Kendziora (@TKendziora37) of Testudo Times to get all the background info we need before the game.
You can check out my answers to Testudo Times’ questions here.
Streaking the Lawn: Quite the start for the Terps. Is this what you expected out of this squad, or are you still hesitant to get too excited because of the level of competition so far?
Testudo Times: In Maryland’s first five games, the Terps had just enough to beat teams well outside KenPom’s top 100, looking good in spurts but never turning in a good 40 minutes. That changed against Marshall, when Maryland absolutely steamrolled a team that won an NCAA Tournament game this spring and returned its core. That performance changed the outlook for a lot of Maryland fans. The Terps are an incredibly young team, with five freshmen in the top eight, but there’s a ton of potential with this squad.
STL: The Terps are averaging 84 points per game through their first six. What about their offense is clicking, and how do they counter the Pack Line defense?
TT: I wouldn’t even call the offense “clicking” until the Marshall game, when the Terps made 9 of 16 threes and shot 57.4 percent from the floor. Maryland started the season in a shooting slump, particularly struggling from long range. But the ball movement has been solid, and until the last couple games, turnovers were down from last year. That’s what the Terps will need against Tony Bennett’s defense. We’ll see if it works.
STL: Bruno Fernando is a grown-ass man at 6-10, 240 and averaging 16.2 points per game. What do you like about his game and what weaknesses can Virginia try to exploit?
TT: Maryland hasn’t played any teams that have an answer for Fernando yet. He’s been a man among boys in every game he’s played this season, shooting 77.4 percent from the field mostly on dunks and layups. He has a jump shot if needed, but it hasn’t been needed much. The one thing that’s held him back so far is getting in foul trouble. That’s been a problem in a few different games, and Maryland has never looked like the same team without him. I’m not sure if it’s even a “strategy” to go at Fernando in that way, but that’s what’s worked best against the Terps so far.
STL: Virginia’s defense is obviously the calling card, but this year guys like De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome, and Kyle Guy make the *offense* more impressive. What’s your take on the Maryland defense, and where are they vulnerable?
TT: This could be the best defense Maryland has had in a while. The guards all seem to be plus on-ball defenders, and the forwards have been solid rim protectors (Fernando in particular). The Terps have length all around the floor, and the performance against Marshall, where they held the Herd’s top two scorers to a combined 15 points (they came in averaging 44), was particularly noteworthy. Virginia might be able to wear them down late in shot clocks, but nobody’s tried that on them yet.
STL: Ok, prediction time! Who you got? What about a final score?
TT: I did just heap a lot of praise on Maryland, but Virginia is the nation’s No. 4 team for a reason. The Cavaliers are far and above anything the Terps have seen this year, and I think they have just enough to hold off the Terps. Xfinity Center is a tough place to play when it’s full, as it should be Wednesday, but give me Virginia 69, Maryland 64.
Huge thanks to Thomas and Testudo Times for chatting! Virginia and Maryland tip off at 7:30pm and the game will be televised by ESPN.