#138 R.P.I. Virginia Tech @ #7o R.P.I. Maryland:
TV coverage: Saturday, high-noon, ACCNetwork
Vegas line: VT+12
Atlantic Coast Conference plays opens for real as Virginia Tech finished a slightly better than forecast 9-4 in out-of-conference (O.O.C.) play last week ostensibly out at Brigham Young University. Virginia Tech however has a 1 point come from behind life-n-death win vs. ho-hum Bradley, a 17.5 point stunning upset vs. a tomato can of a D-1 men’s basketball program, and then a blown out 36 point L that was promptly followed up by another blown out 26 point L. So things must be improving. That attempt at humor aside, the bloom has clearly come off of Coach J’s O&M hybrid rose. As the last 165 collective minutes of playing O.O.C. basketball have proved to be thorny indeed.
Now begins the A.c.c. docket which is much shinier than most –self included- had predicted at the 1/3rd mark. Check it out for yourself…
Yah I know, U.N.C. is a bit off and most of the A.c.c. has been on a sweet-tooth binge feasting upon a buncha out-of-conference cupcakes. Such of course includes A.c.c. game#1 opponent, the Maryland Terrapins, who have played nobody since opening up with a 3 point L to now #3 Kentucky. That’s all true, though it is also true that I am no longer wondering if our newfangled up-tempo style has been riddled out. I am however left wondering if I truly overestimated just how good this twenty-thirteen men’s hoops team really is?
Maryland at a glance:
- 2nd in defensive FG% allowed! (34.4%)
- 3rd in rebounding margin! (+13.4 boards)
- 4th in assists per game! (14.7)
- 8th in offensive rebounding!
- 12th in offensive FG% (50%)
- 322nd in Turnover Margin (-4.4)
N.B.A. pros= 1, (#25, Alex Len, a very jumpy true-Center)
Leading the way upfront and down-low is 7`2“ Alex Len. Alex is a second year 255 lb. Antratsit, Ukraine native who plays a much springier game than you might expect. This is not some plodding or so-called “project” caliber true Center, this is however a 13.3 ppg scorer who also leads the way with 8.8 boards and 2.3 blocks alike. 58% from the field does not suck; although Alex’s free-throwing is a little rough on the rim at 65%. Curiously enough, Alex grew up and literally out-grew becoming a professional gymnast. His leaping ability echo’s such and harkens one back to the levitation and gravity defying sideline leaps of one Lynn Swann of Pittsburgh Stiller fame who as an accomplished ballerina in his own right coming up. If you still think that this is a stiff looking Euro robot, just ask his signature warm-up cartwheel dunk routine. You don’t do that unless you can get major and I do mean major air folks. Alex missed 10 games last season due to NC2A suspension for “…violating amateur guidelines.” This had something to do with playing overseas collegiality for a year, which kinda sorta makes Alex more of a true r-sophomore sans the red. And yah; the next time I understand –much less care to read- the Ulysses ‘esque NCAA rulebook will be the first. That said, I do know that Alex was a bit late to the party last year, and that it took him a while to adjust to A.c.c. play. Though he did finish 2012 strong last spring and that Alex is funding the aforementioned team leading numbers in only 24 minutes of play! Imagine what this kid can do in another year or two if he keeps this up. Because if he does keep this up he’s a Pro, only question is where and at which level.
Charles Mitchell is a debut year 6`8“ 260 lb. big boy who is off to a fairly precocious College Park start. 7 points and 7 boards in a mere 16 minutes is about as tough as it gets. So is 57% from the floor and a rebounding ratio that is a highly offensive 1:1 as this kid simply inhales offensive caroms for a living. That’s’ a pretty decent start for Rival’s 12th ranked Center just last year who obviously has already deployed his scholastic reputation for rebounding and toughness to full effect. The real prep story here however was the Shaquille Cleare kid who was nearly everyone’s A.c.c. rookie of the year shoe-in pick and the most celebrated Terrapin recruit in at least a full decade. Rookie year Mr. Cleare is said to possess a ready N.B.A. body, as in most thought he was N.B.A. ready right now. 6`10“ 285 lbs. of a match-up nightmare if you are keeping score at home and he is a smart kid with a high basketball I.Q. and a relatively low B.M.I. (body mass index) or not much in the way of being a chub’ or overweight kid in search of Jenny Craig. The Bahamas native graded out as a 96th percentile ESPN.com prospect and that tells you all you need to know about his contemporary skill level. Well, other than the science-fact that his inaugural season has been underwhelming. Right now the all-world prospect is only netting you 6 points and change and about three-n-a-half boards off the Terps bench. 62% shooting is nifty enough; though that’s a lot less than most expected outta Mr. Cleare who was thought to be the first stud A.c.c. Center since the 1990’s by most recruiting services just a matter of a couple of months ago. Jamie Padgett is a 6`8“ 229 lb. senior from the streets of Brooklyn who was third in offensive rebounding in the whole entire A.c.c. last year! James has a game that is strength based and he found 10 extra lbs. of right-mass this off-season on top of that. James is also known to be a strong finisher around the rim and he will rock the same with more athleticism than you’d expect. James appears to have shaken off some bothersome ankle woes early on in his career and he now gives you 7.5 ppg and 5.4 rebounds off of a team leading 65% from the floor.
Association pros= 1, (#32, Dez Wells, pure slashing scorer 1o1)
Dez Well’s is something of a ‘tweener and although I will list Maryland’s second leading scorer (12.3 ppg) here. Dez is more of a lead-guard or pure scorer trapped in a bulky looking elongated Free-Safety of a body. That being said, in addition to having a kool-modine first-name, Dez was the A-10 freshman of the year last season at Xavier. That’s not half bad for the former 2-time state champion of North Carolina where Dez ran with some kid know as future #1 overall N.B.A. draft pick A.K.A. John Wall. Dez’s mum was a two-time all-American baller in her own right at Saint Augustine College. His sister’s both play college ball (softball and volleyball) so you know that athleticism is in his blood. The one thing I gathered from Dez’s Xavier profile is that he is fully capable of scoring punches in bunches or putting up points in a hurry. And Dez has been streaking of late, shooting 60%+ in all less one game since prior to Christmas. As this kid is a fearless driver to the hoop where he takes most of his shots; now mix in the fact that he is too strong for most 2-guards to cover, and too quick for most S/F’s to stay in front of, and suddenly you have a very tough cover over on the Wing. This makes Dez one of the better kept backcourt secrets right now in the A.c.c and presuming both Dez and Alex stick around; Maryland should enjoy a quality 1-2 punch for years.
Nick Faust and Pe’Shon Howard round out the Terrapin starting backcourt line-up for Coach Mark Turgeon and both guys can flat out play. Nick is a 6`6“ 2o5 lb. elongated 2-guard who somehow (cough-cough) managed to add a stunning 30 lbs, that’s thirty pounds of right-mass this off-season to his formerly stringbean frame. Nick is clearly the Terrapin marksman from downtown even though he has been a chilly 27% from beyond the arc this season. Nick gives you 9.8 ppg, 3.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game in his sophomore season. Nick like so many other Maryland recruits is yet another V.H.T. (very highly touted) kid who was only a 95th percentile ESPN.com recruit. And as good as Maryland is right now, if Nick every finds his range from the outside, this Terrapin team will be nearly unguardable if Nick every gets around to stretching the floor. Pe’Shon Howard is the 6` 3“ 19o lb. junior year point-guard from Los Angleles via the national basketball factory otherwise known as Oak Hill Academy. Pe’Shon gives you 4 points, 3 rebounds and a team leading 6 assists as a pure hooping quarterback. Not half bad for a kid playing on a broken foot and blow A.c.l., all within the last calendar year.
Maryland Bench: (5-deep)
In addition to Mr. Cleare and Mr. Padgent above, Logan Aronhalt, Seth Allen, and Jake Layman contribute game-to-game off of Coach Turgeon’s bench. Logan is the 6`3“ 210 lb. senior anchor and Albany transfer who only put up 14 ppg last year and already has a degree in human-biology firmly in hand. Logan is an academic all-conference former pick and he is the son of a Ohio State Championship winning high school coach. So you know he came up fundamentally sound and he clearly does not want for on -or more importantly- off-court smarts. Logan nets you 6 ppg on a sizzling 59% from 3-point land.
Seth is a fringe starter who plays 20 mpg and contributes with 7.3 ppg and adds in a couple of floor-burn boards and 3.3 dimes (assists) off the pine in relief at the one (pt.guard spot). That said, don’t sleep on this unselfish play-makers 6`2“ 180 lb. first-year athleticism. Seth is a Commonwealth kid (Woodbridge) who got away from Seth and Co. at Vah.Tech. This Seth was the 7th best play in the state of Virginia last year and his 40“ vertical will show itself before his current 39% shooting from beyond the arc is all said and done. Jake Layman is a 6`8“ 200 freshman year Forward who brings versatility and good shooting range to the court at all times. Although it can be said he is a year away from adjusting to the physical nature of the Atlantic Coast as he could stand to fill out a bit this off-season which should help him add to his 3.3 ppg next year.
Conclusion(s), illation, OPT digits:
Right now this is a very outta synch Virginia Tech men’s hoops team folks … and this just in: rain called, and said “I’m all wet.” No real surprise right there folks; though I do question why defense has gone so cold, and to a lesser extent rebounding as well. I question such -because unlike shooting- effort should never be streaky and we are opening up like the most user-friendly girl you knew back in high school and leaving everybody wide-open all night long. Now mix in the fact that shooters we gots, and setter-uppers we needs. Ditto getting run outta the gym at times in transition defense when we are the ones who are supposed to be the up-tempo basketball team that loves to run. See what I mean? I’ll say it again; this is a 2013 men’s hoops team that is currently all outta synch. Maryland prolly won’t help in that department either; as what this team really needs is a feel-good home-cooked win. Check it out…
- By the time this one ends; VT will not have played a home game in 25 days!
- And by the time we do get to our next home-game (vs. B.C.) VT will not have played a home game in over a moth!
- Click your O&M heels and repeat after me: “…there’s no place like home.”
No wonder this crew is so ka-flukie as any version of offensive crispness goes right about now. Right now we are 9 up and 4 down and the 298th best defensive team when it comes to points allowed and 3o9thbest squad when it comes to defensive rebounding. The rebounding foible(s) or outright flaw(s) are forgivable enough when you only court 53% of your players who are scholarship winners and the rest are walk-ons. I get that, such is made all the worse when your four legitimate Posts are currently staggering around at 75% strength. I however do not get anything less than a 100% effort on defense in the half-court and I surely do not get it when you simply loaf in lieu of getting back. This outta a hoops team that we were told was so brutally conditioned in pulmonary terms outta necessity just a month point five ago? I need to see more than that; though methinks this team really does need to simply get home.
With our one head-to-head common opponent (Ga.Southern) we do enjoy something of an impoverished man’s forum guide in this one. Maryland lit G.S.U. up by 17 whereas we got upset (by 5) as a 17 point home favorite. More telling to me however is the fact that Virginia Tech went +2 in rebounding margin terms vs. undersized G.S.U. whereas the Terps pwned G.S.U. by +22 on the glass while making the very same 27 total shots in a very efficacious 13 less attempts. Also of note is the fact that the Terrapins have held three of their last five opponents to 18 or less makes from the floor!
Now we see that Vah.Tech is shooting a chilly 38% from the floor and a downright arctic 20% from range in our last 26 days! That’s not a streak folks, that’s a trend. Now note that the Terps posses an aggregate 19% FG percentage margin edge over the last 5-games, a +12 rebounding margin advantage combined and the Terps are the very same 19% better from beyond the arc over the same time frame. Talk about two ships passing in the night as the Terrapins sure appear poised to sink our battleship on Saturday afternoon. I kan’t find a single reason to pick J.J.’s boys here … so I won’t.
Virginia Tech=66, Maryland=83