Maryland Faces Virginia Tech in ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Len Bias Night!
Story By: Marc Goldstein
Photos By: Andrew Lang
The Maryland Terrapins, coming off an excursion to the Bahamas that saw them take second place in the Baha Mar Invitational, face their biggest test of the season to this point. This comes on Len Bias Night as XFINITY Center is gold and red tonight with most fans adorned in Bias throwback jerseys.
The Virginia Tech Hokies (5-2) have lost their last two outings at the Barclays Center against Memphis and Xavier, respectively. Dating back to their days in the ACC, the teams have met 42 times with the Terps taking eight of the past ten meetings including six straight wins. Both the Hokies and Terps made the NCAA Tournament last season, with both teams bowing out before the second weekend.
Virginia Tech Scouting Report:
Mike Young’s group, for better or worse, have quickly found their identity. They are an old school, defensive minded group that will play smart offense. This season, their numbers might be a little misleading as some lopsided games contribute to inflated stats. Nonetheless, in their loss to Memphis, a high powered offense led by Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren, to just 34% from the field. The Hokies feature a roster that is littered with experienced, poised veterans.
The majority of their scoring comes from their upperclassmen. Nahiem Alleyne leads the team with 13.1 PPG. He is an all around scorer for the Hokies and has been scoring at a high level in recent games. In the paint, Keve Aluma, their team captain and senior leader, holds down the fort. Although he only stands at a modest 6’9 for a big man, he will often find himself as the tallest Hokie on the floor. Aluma has averaged 12.6 PPG while pulling down 5.4 RPG.
As far as complimentary pieces to the two studs for Virginia Tech, the Hokies have an interesting mix. Storm Murphy, the former star at Wofford, transferred to Blacksburg and has facilitated the offense very effectively. With him, Justyn Mutts serves as a great defensive stopper; he sacrifices scoring stats in exchange for gritty play.
Putting the Hokies’ play style into perspective for Terps fans, they are similar to the 2020-21 Terrapins. A very tough defensive team that scores just enough to win games. The Hokies, though, are going to be challenged much more than the Terps were last season. The ACC is stronger than in previous seasons with Duke and Florida State ruling the conference. Obviously, the team will continue to evolve, but the game in College Park serves as a great test for them as well as for the Terps.
The Maryland Terrapins return from the Bahamas with a runner-up trophy. The Terps disappointed in the Baha Mar Invitational, surviving a scare from Richmond before squandering a lead against Louisville. In the game against Louisville, the Terps held a second half lead and had the Cardinals on the ropes. Maryland simply fell apart down the stretch, losing the game as a result. The Terps, though, get a decent break from games in order to reset and recuperate for the rest of the non conference schedule.
As for the individual players, the senior leaders have not stepped up to the desired level. Eric Ayala has led the team in scoring with 15.1 PPG, but has struggled with shooting. He is shooting to the tune of a 37%/30%/64% slash line. Ayala is a proven efficient scorer, making the early season struggles all the more concerning. However, the prevailing theory is that Ayala will break out of the early slump. The issue for Maryland, though, is that there has not been consistent play between games. It tends to be a one man show for Maryland with the leading scorer, regardless of who that might be on a given night, carrying the offensive burden for the entire team.
One of the players who has routinely carried that burden is Fatts Russell. He has been the second leading scorer thus far, averaging 12.9 PPG and leading the team in assists. That segways into another issue with the Maryland offense: the lack of ball movement. Like last season, the Terps are stuck playing isolation offense far too frequently. One way to remedy this would be to involve players like Qudus Wahab and Donta Scott, the two bigs Maryland uses, in the pick and roll game.
Defensively, the Terps have been a tough team to gauge. Wahab and freshman Julian Reese have provided solid interior protection, but the team has clearly missed Darryl Morsell’s perimeter defense. Potentially, Mark Turgeon and his staff will consider shifting to more of a 2-3 zone when Wahab sits in order to protect the paint more without forcing someone like Scott to play center.
The two biggest wildcards in their respective conferences meet Wednesday night in College Park the Hokies play using their balanced offensive attack and their physical defense. The Terps are hoping to jump start their offense while reinvigorating their defense in the process. Regardless of the result, both teams will exit Xfinity Center with a better idea of identity. Maryland, for all of their flaws, are being handed a golden chance to prove to themselves why they were given lofty expectations.