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Posted at 11:07 AM ET, 01/14/2011

Maryland-Villanova - Gotta find the girlfriend

By Rick Nelligan

When it comes to the NCAA Tournament, the Terps are currently on the outside looking in. It’s kind of like they are the cool guy at the front of the line at the hottest club in D.C., but their good-looking girlfriend got lost and hasn’t arrived yet. The bouncer wants to let him in, but you know the rule – no girl, no go.

Luckily for the Terps, their girlfriend thinks she’s right around the corner. And goodness gracious does she look good.

This Saturday, Maryland travels to Philadelphia to challenge seventh-ranked Villanova. Last year at the Verizon Center, the Wildcats gave the Terps all they could handle and then some, beating the Terps 95-86 in a game that never seemed remotely as close as the final score may suggest. However, I expect Maryland to play a lot better than they did last year, even though this time it’s in hostile territory.

Thankfully, the Terps won’t have to contend with All-American guard Scottie Reynolds, who torched them for 25 points and eight assists last time around. However, Villanova’s senior guards Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher are as dangerous as ever.

Stokes has stepped up his game significantly this season, averaging 17 points compared to less than 10 last season. Furthermore, he’s been unconscious shooting the ball, knocking down 49 percent of his shots from the floor, 94 percent from the charity stripe (seventh in the country), and 47 percent from downtown (12th in the country.)

His running mate, Corey Fisher, has been excellent in his own right. Fisher is averaging career highs in points (15.3), assists (4.8), rebounds (3.4) and steals (1.7). Even though his shooting percentages are way down from last season, it’s pretty tough to discount a guy who reportedly scored 105 points in a NYC Summer League game.

Despite the Wildcats’ stellar guards, I expect the Terps to step up to the plate on Saturday and have possibly their best showing of the season for three reasons.

The Terps’ defensive intensity has improved tremendously over the past few weeks. They are rotating as well as they have all season, rarely surrendering an easy basket. More importantly, the Terps have been finishing their defensive possessions better than ever. In the beginning of the season, opposing teams grabbed offensive rebound after offensive rebound as the guards were in too much of a hurry to get out on a fast break. As a result, they depended on Jordan Williams to fight all alone on the glass. Maryland has really turned it around though and is an outstanding third in the nation in rebounds per game (42.4).

Additionally, Jordan Williams’ breakout performance came against the Wildcats last season when he posted 19 points and 12 boards. Even though Villanova’s frontcourt has improved this season, I still expect Williams to dominate the paint. Williams’ running mate, Dino Gregory, will also be extra motivated to show up against the Wildcats, as last year’s game against them was the last game he missed due to suspension. If anyone will have had this game circled on their schedule, it would be Gregory.

Perhaps the thing I look forward to most in this game is the performance of Sean Mosley. Not only will the Terps need his defensive presence against the guard heavy Wildcats, but they’ll need him to regain his offensive mojo as well. Fortunately, there’s a precedent for that to happen. Mosley played one of the better games of his career against Villanova last season, scoring a career-high 26 points.

If the Terps don’t beat Villanova, it could be two and a half long weeks before their girlfriend figures out her GPS system and shows up. After that, who knows if or when she will show? And it’s mighty cold outside.

Fortunately, the Terps have one of the best GPS systems in college basketball in Gary Williams. If anyone can get his team ready for a big time game after getting painfully close to a signature win within the last week, it’s Gary. I can’t see the Terps losing another close one to a quality opponent; not within the same week. I believe the Terps will overcome the hostile environment and return the favor for the beat down they suffered from the Wildcats last year. Can you hear the music? I can.

By Rick Nelligan  | January 14, 2011; 11:07 AM ET
Categories:  Rick Nelligan, Terps  | Tags:  Rick Nelligan, Terps  
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Comments

Hard to take this blog seriously with a headline like that.

Posted by: Barno1 | January 14, 2011 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Gary Williams will take this seriously. Terps are going to step up and get a signature win.

Posted by: Terps716bro | January 14, 2011 2:05 PM | Report abuse

I think it is time. Gary always seems to pull off at least one a season, and it would be great payback to the Wildcats.

I think they are starting a roll that's going to get them into the NCAA tourney. Whether it ends up being from winning the ACC tournament, or whatever.

This season is going to be fun. Between G'town (more to see if they save their year), West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virgina, and American (don't forget Mt. Saint Mary's), this region has some plenty good basketball to watch. Hard to say if any of them will go far, but so far it has been interesting. Erick Green at Va. Tech (from Winchester) is putting up some good numbers. He is going to be big time before it is all over.

Posted by: tojo45 | January 14, 2011 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Terps are my alma mater. I love em. Gary is terrific. But I just can't see 'em winning this game. This is a nice, scrappy Terps team with one very good player (JW). Unfortunately, they don't shoot the ball well, are miserable from the free throw line and, when clutch time comes, they don't have a guard who can take the game over. Until they find one more great player, they gonna lose these kinda games.

Posted by: dlyell001 | January 15, 2011 10:31 AM | Report abuse

I didn't see this post till today. Dagger.

Posted by: Matte | January 19, 2011 4:00 PM | Report abuse

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