After a couple of road losses in the state of Virginia, the Tigers return home to South Carolina for a much needed home game. I think the biggest storyline in this game could be KJ McDaniels. His play has been great all season long, but his stellar play has been limited due to his limited playing time. Before his start against Virginia Tech, KJ hadn't seen many games where he was given significant minutes. He only played for double digit minutes in just five games all season long. But one doesn't have to look at the season as a whole to ascertain his limited role; you only have to look at the most recent games. In the Virginia game, he played for just eight minutes, and in the Wake game he actually didn't even see the court. Brownell has said that in-game play time for his guys is determined by their play in practice. Well, KJ must have had a slew of shitty practices, because he's looked really good every single time he's been out on the court. He's still just a freshmen, but he's got the potential to become a superstar in the weeks and years to come.
But what role will he have in tonight's game? I think his stellar performance against VT (14 points, 5 rebounds, 5 blocks) will finally be enough to earn him a big, big role on this team, especially since Milton's continued absence pretty much necessitates it.
KJ isn't the only guy whose minutes (and level of play) has increased recently. In the first four games of conference play, Bernard averaged just 2.75 mpg, but in the four games since, his mpg has jumped up to 8. He's shown an ability to drive to the hoop that could really help this team down the stretch.
But enough about the Tigers. What about the Terps?
Following a home loss to the Tar Heels, Maryland sits at 13-9, 3-5 under first year coach Mark Turgeon. The Terps are led by sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin, whose 21.7 ppg leads the conference and is the 6th highest in the entire country. He's hard to defend, to say the least. He loves to attack the basket, and drives into the paint often, and he can knock down some acrobatic off-balance jumpers when he's well defended. And even if you're able to adequately defend him inside the arc, he has the ability to take a step back and knock down the 3 (36.9% from 3). He's also very dangerous on the fast break, as his no look passes are basically impossible to defend.
Maryland's other big threat in the backcourt is Sean Mosley, who is 2nd on the team with 10.1 ppg. The senior is sure to reach a milestone tonight in Littlejohn, as he's just one point away from becoming the 50th player in Terps history to record 1,000 career points.
The froutcourt is led by James Padgett and Ashton Pankey. Both Padgett (5.8 rpg) and Pankey (5.0 rpg) are a force on the boards, and should start at the 4 and 5 spots. Look for freshmen Alex Len to come off the bench. The guy reminds me a lot of Bobo. Both are extremely tall (Len is 7-1, Bobo is 7-2) Eastern Europeans (Len is from Ukraine) that have struggled with playing with confidence. And both were suspended for the first few games of their careers by the NCAA because they played for professional teams in their native countries. But the difference is that Len seems to have more upside than Bobo. He's still just a freshman, but he's already averaging 7.5 ppg and 5.6 rpg, and he leads the team with 2.2 bpg.
The Tigers have played well at home (3-1 at home in the ACC), and the Terrapins have been awful on the road (0-4 in true road games this year). It'll be another close one, but the emerging play of KJ McDaniels will give the Tigers another home win, and the Terps another road loss.
Game tips at 7 on ESPNU.
Projected Starting Lineup for the Terps:
#12 Terrell Stoglin 6-1, 185 sophomore G
#14 Sean Mosley 6-4, 210 senior G
#35 James Padgett 6-8, 225 junior F
#21 Pe'Shon Howard 6-3, 195 sophomore G
#30 Ashton Pankey 6-9, 220 freshman F
Also Watch Out For:
#5 Nick Faust 6-6, 175 freshman G
#25 Alex Len 7-1, 225 freshman C