Preview: Maryland travels to UNC for final time in ACC

Preview: Maryland travels to UNC for final time in ACC
February 4, 2014, 5:00 am
(USA TODAY Sports)

VITALS

Date: 4 February 2014

Time: 8 p.m.

Location: Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Television: ESPN3

Spread: North Carolina (-9.0)

FAST BREAK PREVIEW

Two underachieving teams for one final time as members of the ACC in Chapel Hill, Maryland faces North Carolina at the Dean Dome on Tuesday night. Though underachieving, both are playing well of late with the Tar Heels winning their last three and Maryland winning their previous two.

Preview it all here.

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Maryland’s interior vs. North Carolina’s size

The Tar Heels rank ninth in the country in rebounding and there’s a simple explanation as to why: interior size. James Michael McAdoo is 6-9 and can play above the rim, Brice Johnson is 6-9 and has length for days, and 6-9, 290-pound freshman Kennedy Meeks is a space-eater inside.

All three of those players average more than six rebounds per game and present a problem for Shaquille Cleare, Evan Smotrycz, Jonathan Graham, Charles Mitchell, and Damonte Dodd (if he gets minutes) on the interior.  

Maryland’s bigs aren’t built to play above the rim and Graham is the only one of the four who gets regular minutes who also has length to match North Carolina. Dodd could, but his deficiencies offensively will keep him limited.

The more second-chance points Maryland gives up, the more lopsided this game could get.

MARYLAND PLAYER TO WATCH

Dez Wells, Maryland

Wells’ last three halves of basketball have been sensational. He ripped off 21 points in the final 20 minutes to help Maryland beat Miami, then 19 more in an 80-60 win over Virginia Tech. Over that span, he is shooting 13-of-16 from the floor and 13-of-14 from the line.

The Wells we saw in those games needs to be there for Maryland in the first half on Tuesday. Aggressiveness is most important. If his shot isn’t falling early, get to the basket and force UNC’s bigs to foul. The more cautious they need to be because of foul trouble, the better that bodes for the Maryland bigs who are overmatched to start.

An efficient and effective Dez Wells who scores in the mid-20s is Maryland’s best shot at getting the win they need on the road.

[RELATED: Best rivalries? Mark Turgeon has a surprising answer]

NORTH CAROLINA PLAYER TO WATCH

Marcus Paige, guard

Paige carried UNC to a few thrilling wins early in the season as suspended guard P.J. Hairston sat on the bench with NCAA eligibility issues. The thinking then was that these Tar Heels would only get better once Hairston returned. But the junior is now gone to the NBA D-League, meaning that the weight continues to fall on Paige’s shoulders.

If there is one major problem Maryland continues to have, it is containing scoring guards on the perimeter. It started early in the season against Roberto Nelson and Oregon State. It bit them again as recently as against Miami, when the Terrapins watched Rion Brown put up 25 points.

It starts on the perimeter defensively for Maryland and that means containing Marcus Paige.

INTANGIBLE TO CONSIDER

Sophomore guard Seth Allen says the Dean Dome is the toughest place he has played in his college career, even surpassing Cameron Indoor. Why, he was asked? Because the sheer level of noise.

If UNC is able to get off to an early run, the crowd will be into it and it makes Maryland’s task of running a fluid offense and communicating defensively that much more difficult. That’s why Wells is so key. His assertiveness early will set the pace, then hopefully for the Terrapins have a ripple effect outward to the rest of the offense.

Oh, and playing some perimeter defense wouldn’t hurt either.