Virginia Tech at Maryland

Virginia Tech (12-8, 1-4) at Maryland (12-7, 2-3), 2:30 PM, ACC Network/ESPN3

Maryland freshman Nick Faust looks like it's finally starting to click for him.

Maryland can build on some of the good things it did against Duke, but their unforced mistakes on offense really hurt them (missed free throws, silly turnovers). Oh, and the Terrapins don’t defend very well right now. Virginia Tech lost to BYU in a rare mid-season non-conference game, and have been declared off the bubble for the 5,000th time this year. Just when you count the Hokies out, they go and do something like beat Virginia on the road. Tech Hoops wrote an excellent piece examining the Hokies’ slow starts, but it really goes deeper into how they lack any offensive identity right now. They’re talented enough that if they form one, they could be dangerous for the top-tier ACC teams.

Stat to watch: Maryland’s offensive rebounds. The Terrapins are a pretty good offensive rebounding team – not great – but Virginia Tech has been awful in terms of opponents’ offensive rebounds allowed, particularly in ACC play: Virginia, a team that doesn’t get many offensive boards, had 13 (and 17 second-chance points). Virginia Tech could have won a lot more comfortably if not for that. North Carolina had 19 offensive rebounds and turned them into 21 second-chance points, the most Virginia Tech has allowed all year. Letting North Carolina get those second looks helped give the Tar Heels confidence and turned a close game into a blowout. Maryland has averaged 15 offensive rebounds in ACC home games (13 second-chance points) compared to 11 offensive boards in ACC road games (12.0 second-chance points). Duke ate Maryland alive on the interior, but the Hokies don’t have that kind of size or skill.

Most important players: Nick Faust, Maryland and Jarrell Eddie, Virginia Tech. Eddie was rather quiet in losses to Florida State and BC, but he appears to have reawakened just in time. The 6-7 sophomore has shot 12-of-29 (9-of-19 from three) in Virginia Tech’s last three games, averaging 9.0 points and a ridiculous 10.0 rebounds (he averaged 4.8 in the previous 17 games). He can be a matchup nightmare, and Virginia Tech really needs everything he’s giving them: three-point shooting, and now rebounding to go along with it – but he needs to provide it more consistently. Nick Faust had some nice moments against Duke but took a bad shot or two. Still, in ACC play his shooting is up to 40% (from 30% in the non-conference) and his two-point percentage is way up (46.2% compared to 36% out of conference). He’s gotten better ever since Pe’Shon Howard’s return allowed him to go back to his natural position at two-guard. Maryland really needs a complementary scorer for Terrell Stoglin to emerge. It may still be too early for Faust to do that, but he’s shown flashes of what made one ACC media member vote him Preseason Rookie of the Year at ACC: Operation Basketball in October.

Random stat: Virginia Tech has shot 51.1% from the floor in the second half of its home games this year but just 41.8% in the second half of its road games. The Hokies  went from 8-of-31 shooting against BYU in the first half to a blistering 16-of-25 (64%) in the second. Overall in ACC games though, they have shot a combined 39.4% in the second half of their four losses compared to a 47.4% second half at Virginia.

Prediction: Maryland 71, Virginia Tech 62

Last week: 7-5

Season: 84-31 (21-12 ACC)

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