Both Virginia Tech and Maryland are in need of quality wins between now and selection Sunday and their two meetings against each other will both be prime opportunities.
The two teams will bring similar resumes into their first meeting Thursday night in College Park. Both have played quality non-conference opponents and lost to them. Both have put up good fight against the ACC's elite and came up short. Both are in need of wins away from their home court. Only the Hokies get a chance for a quality away win tonight and they need to take advantage.
Tech's chances for a quality win on an opponents' court are dwindling. It's 1-2 in true road games with the one win coming against UNC Greensboro. After Maryland, Tech has road games against Georgia Tech, NC State, BC, UVa, Wake Forest and Clemson left. That's not exactly murderer's row.
Then again, neither are the Terps, who are playing at home for the first time since Jan. 4 after a road trip that included close losses to Duke and Villanova and an easy win over Wake Forest. It would be nice for the Hokies if the Terps come into Thursday's game still suffering from a hangover from Saturday's choke job against Villanova.
The biggest challenge for the Hokies will be stopping 6-10 forward Jordan Williams. The guy does work underneath and at 260 pounds is much bigger than anyone the Hokies can throw at him. The Hokies might as well let the Terps make themselves one-dimensional since they pretty much already are. Over 60 percent of Maryland's points come on two-point shots, which is the highest in the country.
If the Hokies can box out and keep Williams from destroying them on the glass, they should have a chance. Williams can't out-score them by himself and if Tech's perimeter defense does well against Sean Mosley and Adrian Bowie, it should be in good position to win late.
The end-game is where the Hokies will have an advantage. Maryland is one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the country while the Hokies' opponents shoot the second-lowest free throw percentage in the country.
On offense, the Hokies will have to contend with the best defense in terms of efficiency in the nation. The Terps are No. 1 in defensive efficiency according to Ken Pomeroy and with the Hokies coming in at No. 17, points will he hard to come by in the halfcourt.
Where Maryland could have an advantage against the Hokies is in transition. Maryland's looked really good in transition against Villanova, but was horrendous in their halfcourt sets as they blew a big lead to the Wildcats. The don't turn the ball over a lot and they have to keep it up against Maryland to avoid easy buckets.
What the Terps do best on defense is force tough shots. Their opposition shoots just over 30 percent from behind the arc and just over 40 percent inside the arc. Ball movement will again be important for the Hokies to try and find open shooters. Tech plays best when it has a high assist-to-field goal percentage and when that number gets low, Tech tends to find itself on the wrong end of results.
In the end, this will have to be Jeff Allen's game. He played well and had a double-double there as a freshman, but his last trip to College Park was forgettable. He fouled out, flipped Terp fans the bird and was 3-for-9 from the floor. He needs to be effective on the defensive side and efficient on the offensive side, making good decisions with the ball and taking smarter shots.
Delaney may go off and have another big game like he did in Chapel Hill, but the Hokies aren't going to go anywhere unless Allen contributes. Even if it's Victor Davila (who played well against Purdue's athletic big man, JaJuan Johnson) guarding Williams, we need something from Allen on the offensive end to win this game.
A big game for both teams in terms of bubble position will come down to how well their big men play. The advantage in that category goes to the Terps and when you combine that with their homecourt advantage, I don't like the Hokies' chances.
The good news is the second meeting (and likely the more important in terms of who makes the tournament) will come in the Cassell. That's a game I think the Hokies will win. Unfortunately, their first true road win of any consequence is going to have to come elsewhere.
Final: Maryland 67, Virginia Tech 60