Tonight in Charlottesville, somebody’s bubble will pop.
Both Maryland and Virginia come into the game with identical 20-10 records, and both limp into the contest after suffering bad defeats.
For Maryland, Wednesday night’s loss to North Carolina stings because the Terps needed a quality win for their NCAA Tournament resume. Virginia’s loss to Florida State on Thursday hurts in a different way; another bad loss for a team that’s record is littered with them.
While it is possible for both Maryland and Virginia to still make the NCAA Tournament, it is highly improbable. Maryland is bogged down with a weak non-conference schedule and is trying to reach a .500 mark in ACC play.
Virginia’s resume looks like A Tale of Two Cities: numerous quality wins contrasted by numerous bad losses. UVa. beat Duke, North Carolina and NC State this season, but has also lost to Old Dominion, Boston College and Delaware. Highs and lows indeed for the Cavaliers.
In the first matchup between these two teams, Virginia outclassed the Terps. Playing in College Park, the Cavs rode a hot-shooting day to an 80-69 victory. Junior Joe Harris did it all for the Wahoos, and to get a win today Maryland needs to figure out a way to slow him down.
Virginia plays a small lineup at a deliberate pace, something the Terps have struggled with all season. Maryland’s strength lies in its front court, with quality big men Alex Len, Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare, but against smaller guard-oriented lineups the Terps big fellas have been largely relegated to the bench.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon needs to design a defensive scheme that will allow his post players to remain on the court against the Cavs. If not, Virginia might again shoot their way to victory over the Terps.
While neither team may end up in the Big Dance, the winner of this regular season finale will improve their chances greatly.