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Previewing the Maryland Terrapins

This won’t be the first game FSU has played without Chris Singleton, but it’s their first serious challenge. The Noles (19-7, 9-3) travel to Maryland (17-10, 6-6) to play a team they haven’t beaten on the road in 10 years, and in an arena in which they’ve never won. The Terrapins are likely headed to the NIT, but they’re a talented team that has a pretty good offense combined with a great defense.

The Terps are coached by Gary Williams who’s in his 22nd year at the school, and his 33rd year as a head coach. Coach Williams has guided Maryland to the NCAA Tournament 14 times, made the Sweet-16 seven times, has twice made the Final-4, and won it all in 2001-02. He’s widely recognized as one of the best coaches in the country, and is a premier developer of talent. What he won’t do is play the recruiting game. Since the early to mid 1990’s the importance of high school coaches has virtually disappeared due to the summer leagues. Recruiting kids often means going through layers of AAU coaches, handlers and family members. AAU coaches star on the clinic circuit alongside D1 head coaches and assistants. These same AAU coaches run programs which depend on funding from various sources (including boosters of a school which has recently received a star commitment), and who operate in a network of street agents and shoe company executives. The top players are being heavily courted by the time they’re in 6th grade. And Gary Williams, for better or worse, refuses to play along. He openly criticizes the local powerhouse DC Assault, an AAU program that has put nearly 70 players into Division 1 schools since they were founded in ’93. This was the same program which Kansas State dipped into to hire coach Dalonte Hill, then proceeded to pay him $450K while just happening to land Michael Beasley and other DC Assault stars. Most Maryland fans are content that their coach takes the moral high road, but others point out that he also doesn’t recruit many local kids who aren’t entrenched in the system. And these are the fans pointing to the fact that Williams hasn’t made the Sweet-16 since 2003. Regardless, it will be interesting to see what happens as his contract nears its end in 2013.

This year’s Terps are led by sophomore F Jordan Williams who is probably the best big man in the ACC. He’s averaging 17.4 ppg, 11.5 rpg, and has amassed a remarkable 20 double-doubles this year. He plays with high energy and is extremely physical. Complementing him are guard Terrell Stoglin and wing Cliff Tucker. Stoglin, a freshman, has improved steadily throughout the season and in his last three games is averaging 21.3 points and 7.3 assists. Senior Cliff Tucker is the team’s 3-pt specialist, averaging 10.4 points per game.

Maryland plays a flex offense and does most of their damage from inside the arc. In fact only 4 of 345 D1 programs score a smaller percentage of their points on 3s. Only 1 school scores a higher percentage on 2s. They pound the paint, look for cutters, and excel in the mid-range game.

Vegas has the Terps favored by 6, and Pomeroy has Maryland -7. An FSU win would mark the third consecutive season with double-digit ACC wins, a program first, and would put them one win shy of being a tournament lock, assuming the Chris Singleton penalty isn't too severe.

The game is being broadcast on ESPN3 at 9:00pm.