What UVA Basketball fans wish they needed to know about Maryland

uva basketball national champs

Photo by Chris Graham.

The AFP Tournament Coronavirus Edition has Virginia, the six seed in the East, in the Round of 32 facing off on Sunday in Greensboro against three seed Maryland.

Damn.

We’d get UVA-Maryland, a series that has produced so many memorable games, from Ralph making his last shot in U Hall in the final seconds of a one-point win, to the 1995 season-finale win in U Hall to earn a share of the ACC regular-season title.

Tony Bennett won eight of his last nine in the series, including a 76-71 win in last season’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge up in College Park, as difficult a place to play as anywhere in the country.

This one, down in Greensboro, probably on a Sunday night, given the heavyweight nature of the matchup – defending champs against a team that spent most of the season in the Top 10 – would be manic.

UVA fans would have turned the Greensboro Coliseum into a sea of orange.

Alas.

Getting to know: Maryland

What a one-two punch: 6’0” point guard Anthony Cowan (16.3 ppg, 4.7 assists/g, 39.0% FG, 32.2% 3FG) and 6’10” center Jalen Smith (15.5 ppg, 10.5 rebs/g, 53.8% FG, 36.8% 3FG).

Cowan is tough because he can get to the rim (32.9% of his shots are at the rim, and he shoots 55.6% at the rim, according to Hoop-Math.com), and to the line (6.8 free throw attempts per game).

Smith is tough because he shoots so well in the paint (72.2% at the rim, 60.4% overall on two-point shots) and because he can take opposing bigs outside.

That three-point percentage is actually based on a decent sample size: 2.8 attempts per game.

Sixth man Aaron Wiggins, a 6’6” three and stretch four, gets the third-most minutes on the roster (28.6) despite coming off the bench, and is quite productive (10.4 ppg, 4.9 rebs/g, 37.7% FG, 31.7% 3FG).

Three other players to watch in terms of production: 6’5” two guard Eric Ayala (8.5 ppg, 2.9 rebs/g, 2.5 assists/g), 6’5” three Darryl Morsell (8.5 ppg, 43.1% FG, 33.3% 3FG), and 6’7” stretch four Donta Scott (5.9 ppg, 43.9% FG, 31.6% 3FG).

That’s actually it in terms of guys on the roster averaging double-digit minutes per game, as coach Mark Turgeon went with a tight rotation.

A balanced team – 18th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency (1.135 points per possession) and 22nd in defensive efficiency (.924 points per possession) – numbers from KenPom.com.

The Terps came into tournament play on a bit of a slide, having lost three of their past five.

How Virginia would have matched up

You’d love to have seen how 6’9” senior Mamadi Diakite (13.7 ppg, 6.8 rebs/g, 47.8% FG, 36.4% 3FG) would have matched up with Smith.

Diakite is the rare guy who could challenge Smith in the way that Smith challenges opposing fives, in terms of having a balanced game, able to score in the post and on the perimeter.

The other key matchup would have been Kihei Clark (10.8 ppg, 5.9 assists/g, 4.2 rebs/g, 37.5% 3FG) on Cowan. The task would have been a big one – trying to keep Cowan out of the lane, and doing so without getting into foul trouble.

Looking back at last year’s game in College Park, it was one that saw Bennett use Clark as a starter in a four-guard lineup, and Clark got 35 minutes, matching up a good bit with Cowan, who had 15 points and four assists, but also four turnovers, and ultimately fouled out.

Story by Chris Graham



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