In one of the last chances for Maryland to land a crucial win, the Terps take on the North Carolina Tar Heels Wednesday night.
Maryland enters the game 20-9 on the season, with a 8-8 record in ACC play. In January, the Terps traveled to Chapel Hill to face the Heels, returning to College Park with a 10-point loss. For this game, Maryland's students will be in full force, with plans for a fan-made giant M to potentially distract any late game free throws for the Tar Heels.
The stakes are high for the Terps in this game, which will be the final home game of the season. The team will honor senior James Padgett in his last game at Comcast Center, but more importantly, the Terps need to beat the Heels for another quality win on their NCAA Tournament resume. North Carolina comes into College Park with a 20-8 record, the No. 19 RPI rank and No. 14 strength of schedule. Maryland's extended numbers look nowhere near as strong; an RPI of 68 and a SOS of 130. To add to the intrigue, Maryland will be wearing new "White Ops" uniforms, specifically designed by Under Armour for the game.
Carolina comes into the game on a five-game win streak. The Heels squad has performed much better since coach Roy Williams instituted a smaller lineup, emphasizing speed over size and increased 3-point shooting. Carolina's smaller lineup should contrast with Maryland, who typically plays a traditional front court with Alex Len at center and either Padgett, Shaquille Cleare or Charles MItchell at power forward. When Maryland faced a similar small lineup against Virginia, the Terps seemed out of sync for much of the game and suffered a deflating 80-69 home loss.
The Terps may catch the Heels looking ahead to Saturday's rivalry game against Duke. Duke-North Carolina is one of the oldest and most heated rivalries in the country, and the Heels players may be more focused on that matchup than with the Terps. While Maryland's struggles on the road have been well documented, the Terps have performed well at home, with wins over Duke and N.C. State.
A Senior Night crowd with a motivated Terps squad could prove too much for the Heels to handle. In their first game this season, Carolina guard Reggie Bullock buried the Terps four 3-pointers and 24 points. Limiting Bullock's shooting will go a long way for Maryland's chances at the win.