Feb. 26, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
There is good and bad news to be found when looking ahead to Georgia Tech’s game tonight against Maryland.
Turnovers were a big problem in the Yellow Jackets’ back-to-back losses to North Carolina and Virginia. Maryland is, by far, the ACC’s worst team with regard to turnover differential in league games. It’s not even close.
The Jackets, though, also were walloped by the Tar Heels and Cavliers thanks to high-percentage shots. UNC outscored Tech 34-22 in the paint, and UVA outscored the Jackets 46-24 there. Oh, and Maryland has tremendous size as the only team in the league that can take the court against Miami and match the ‘Canes big for big.
Let’s work in reverse order, and first take an optimist’s view toward that bad news.
Background: The Terrapins (19-8, 7-7 ACC) are big, especially in Ukranian sophomore center Alex Len (7-feet-1, 255 pounds), freshman forward Charles Mitchell (6-8, 260) of Wheeler High and freshman forward Shaquille Cleare (6-9, 265) from the Bahamas.
For more size, there are guards Nick Faust (6-6) and Dez Wells (6-5), freshman swing man Jake Layman (6-8) and forward James Padgett (6-8, 235) of Brooklyn. Seriously, these guys are big and they all play along with guards Logan Aronholt (6-3), freshman Seth Allen (6-1) and Pe’Shon Howard (6-3).
“They’re very deep and what they do is whoever is playing the best gets the most playing time,” said Tech coach Brian Gregory.
The Terps don’t play much like North Carolina, which is to say at supersonic speed and by spreading the floor, or like Virginia, which also fans out and seeks to screen and cut an opponent into submission.
Maryland takes a more straight forward approach. They seek easy points, like the Tar Heels and the Cavs, but through an attack that the Jackets may be better staffed to slow. The Terps are going to try to go over and through the Jackets.
“That [points in the pain] is a skewed stat,” Gregory said. “North Carolina didn’t score off one post move. But they did on some drives and some drop-offs where we didn’t rotate or we didn’t get the second rotation. We got so stretched on defense.
“Maryland is a much different team. They’re big. I’m talking mammoth. WWF I think may be here for some scouting purposes. You throw those four guys out there with Daniel [Miller] and Robert [Carter Jr.] and . . . it’ll be a little different.”
Miller had fits chasing North Carolina’s James Michael McAdoo out into space only to have him back-cut to the basket. Len won’t do that. Miller will have more opportunities tonight to use his heft. The 6-11-plus junior goes about pound-for-pound with the Ukranian.
And while Carter has accomplished a great deal since graduating from high school to work himself into shape and become more agile, he’s not yet equipped to chase to the degree required against the Tar Heels. He’s better suited to face the Mitchells of the ACC, and Carter’s perimeters skills may actually afford him some mis-matches.
Gregory’s been beating the rebound drum for a while, and tonight the Jackets (14-12, 4-10) better make noise back. The Terps lead the ACC in rebounding margin by a wide margin. Their +6.9 number is well ahead of N.C. State and Miami (+3.6). Tech did not hit the boards well Sunday against Virginia, especially in the second half.
“They’re the best rebounding team in the league,” the coach said of Maryland. “They’re big. All their big guys have really good hands. Anything around them they come up with.”
Those bigs, though, tend to turn the ball over. All the Terps, in fact, struggle with ball control and they’re not so hot at forcing turnovers.
Their 215 turnovers are 19 more than Wake Forest and 20 more than Tech. More importantly, Maryland is -5.57 turnovers per ACC game because the Terps only gain 9.8 takeaways per game. By comparison, Georgia Tech – which is No. 10, or second-to-last, in the turnover margin in the ACC – is at -1.64.
Against the Tar Heels and the Cavs, Tech’s turnovers quite frequently ended up transition opportunities for the bad guys.
“We mentioned at the beginning of the year how important it was going to be to take care of the basketball,” Gregory said. “With a younger team, you’re going to have some possessions where you get good shots and maybe you’re not able to put them in so you can have empty possessions where you don’t even get shots.
“The sloppy ones are where you’re going maybe a little too fast, or trying to do too much. The casual ones are where you just maybe lose a little focus or concentration.”
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