On Saturday, my sister and her fiancé will be wearing t-shirts informing me that I ought to "fear the turtle." While I know those shirts will be broken out, I will not be seeing them -- family is a great thing, but I would never bring an away fan to the Wells Fargo Center.
The Terrapins are unranked at this point in the season, coming in to Philadelphia for a game against a highly-ranked Villanova team. Though few will pick a five-loss Maryland team to win this game, the Terps are more dangerous than their lack-of-ranking would suggest.
According to KenPom.com, Maryland has the top-rated defense in the country right now. Villanova is rated 21st in that category (perhaps higher if the 'Cats had played defense during both halves of the Louisville game). Maryland relies on their defense this season to get by after graduation left them without some of the scoring threats they had been used to in recent years. Offensively the Terps are ranked only 72nd.
They were nearly upset by the College of Charleston earlier this season, and were dealt narrow defeats by Pitt (9pts), Temple (3pts), Boston College (4pts) and Duke (7pts). Their near-upset of the Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor was perhaps their most impressive victory of the season. Their best win so far was likely the 62-39 blow-out of Penn State.
The Terps have two players who average double-digit points, Jordan Williams and Cliff Tucker. Williams is a sophomore forward who averages 17.7 points and leads the team in rebounding as well with 12.1 per game. Tucker is a senior swingman who averages 11.9 points, 2.9 assists, and 4.2 rebounds. He is also the team's best three-point threat, connecting on 37.9% of attempts from distance.
While Maryland turns the ball over around 14.5 times per game, they also generate 17.4 assists and cause their opponents to turn it over around 17 times per game as well. They have out-rebounded their opponents 45.9 to 38.6 on average this season, but the margin has been much smaller in their conference games and they have been notably weaker than their conference opponents on the defensive glass.
Maryland plays a high-tempo game (20th in the country in adjusted tempo -- Louisville is 61st), but Villanova has the athleticism to keep up defensively. The 'Cats as usual will need their point guards to show an ability to play smart and control the ball and the pace of the game while the ball is in their hands.
Maryland will work hard to keep Stokes off of the scoreboard, so it may be important for Yarou to have another strong performance in the paint in order to keep the Terps from focusing their defense on the perimeter. They have held their opponents to 30% from three-point range overall, but conference foes have connected on 35.5% of their triples.
There is no reason why Villanova shouldn't win this game on their home court. However, the Terps are still on the lookout for a few "resume" wins that could help their chances of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. With those sort of implications on the line, there is no reason to suspect that Maryland will be looking past Villanova to the rest of their conference schedule. The Terps will come out with a high level of intensity and it may be important for the 'Cats to set the tone early in this game to keep it under control.
The game will tip off on Saturday at 1:00PM from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Television coverage will be provided nationally on CBS.