Maryland will face the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets tonight in desperate need of a road win.
The Terps (19-8, 7-7) presently sit on the outside of the NCAA Tournament bubble, mostly because of their lack of success away from College Park. Maryland performed poorly on the road throughout Atlantic Coast Conference play, but the team’s most damning loss came just last week at Boston College.
Losing to the Eagles gave Maryland the first blight on their NCAA resume; a loss against a school with an RPI over 100. The same formula exists tonight.
Georgia Tech (14-12, 4-10) ranks one spot higher than BC in the RPI at 133, and another bad loss for the Terps will crater any remaining NCAA hopes that exist in College Park. Short of a miracle run through the ACC Tournament that is.
Good signs do exist for the Terps. In last Saturday’s 72-59 win over Clemson, center Alex Len delivered a second straight subpar effort. Only against Clemson, unlike the BC loss, the rest of the Maryland team responded.
The Terps got balanced scoring from Jake Layman and Nick Faust while freshmen big men Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell provided great minutes playing together. That combination could reap big rewards for the Terps.
Mitchell may play with particular motivation in Atlanta, as the game will serve as a homecoming for the Georgia native. All week Mitchell has told anyone that will listen that he will have quite the cheering section against the Yellow Jackets with family and friends in the building.
Despite the lousy ACC record, the Yellow Jackets can present problems. Earlier this month they defeated Virginia, a team that soundly beat Maryland. And almost a year ago to the day, Maryland traveled to Atlanta under similar circumstances and lost. Terps coach Mark Turgeon understands how important a strong start is to this game.
To maintain hopes of an at-large bid to the tournament the Terps cannot have another letdown on the road. The Maryland faithful will learn tonight if the young Terrapin squad learned that lesson last week in Boston.