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Posted at 11:24 AM ET, 01/19/2011

Maryland-Virginia Tech - renewing an unheralded rivalry

By Rick Nelligan

Thursday night, the Terps face off against who I would argue is their biggest rival in the ACC outside of Duke – Virginia Tech. Not only are the Hokies attempting to break into the basketball recruiting scene in the Maryland-D.C. area, but a lot of students in the area go to Virginia Tech and love talking about how much better their football program is than Maryland’s. Obviously there isn’t much of an argument to be had when comparing football programs (yet), so it’s pretty awesome when the Terps are able to stick it to the Hokies in basketball.

Last year’s double-overtime game in Blacksburg is one of the best sporting events I’ve ever been to. Between J.T. Thompson hitting only the second three-pointer of his career to help send the game into its first overtime and Grevis Vasquez erupting for 41 points, it had so many highs and lows I couldn’t sleep for at least a week. Being able to walk out of Cassell Coliseum with my head held high after that battle was an exhilarating feeling. Not to mention the fact that it immediately sent the price for the very few remaining tickets to the game against Duke way out of my price range (trust me, I checked as soon as I got back to my friend’s house at VT.)

While I don’t believe that this season’s game at Comcast will quite live up to the thriller in Blacksburg, I don’t expect it to be any less of a war. Maryland native Malcolm Delaney and D.C. native Jeff Allen are coming back for their last chance at a win in their backyard. Both teams are looking to compile good wins to put on their resumes come March. This is also arguably the biggest game at Comcast thus far this season, so I absolutely expect it to be as loud as it can be without a team wearing blue on the other side of the court.

In my opinion, the outcome of this game will come down to two matchups: VT all-ACC guard Malcolm Delaney vs. the so far non-existent/should be all-ACC guard Sean Mosley and Jordan Williams vs. the Hokies’ undersized frontcourt.

Delaney is one of the better offensive players in the ACC, and even though his numbers are down, I’d argue he’s a better player now than he’s ever been as he’s become a lot more efficient with major improvements in all of his shooting percentages. Conversely, Mosley has a reputation for being relentless defensively and one of the better lockdown defenders in the ACC.

I’d be ecstatic if Mosley picked this as his game to finally breakout this season, but I’d be just as content if he were able to slow down Delaney. The fact that Mosley and Delaney grew up playing each other in Baltimore should only add to the intensity level they will possess on Thursday night. If you slow down Delaney, you give yourself a great chance to beat the Hokies.

Jordan Williams should be able continue to cement his status as the ACC’s most dominant big man and add another double-double to his seemingly never-ending list of them. While the Hokies do possess a few talented big men, none are taller than 6 feet 8 or weigh more than 245 pounds. Williams is listed at 6 feet 10 and 260 pounds and is the third-leading rebounder in the nation, and first among all players from big-time conferences.

The Hokies' most talented big man, senior forward Jeff Allen, is only listed at 6 feet 7 and 230 pounds. However, he's had issues staying on the court after fouling out of five games this year and recording three or more fouls in 12 of 16 games. Beyond Allen and Victor Davila, the Hokies don’t really have anyone on their bench that is classified as a post player. So pair the lack of depth with lack of size, and Jordan should be in store for a field day against the Hokies.

A lot of blogs and articles have mentioned that it’s not time for the Terps to start panicking about their positioning for the NCAA Tournament after losing another heart-breaker to a quality team on Saturday. While I agree with that, the Terps really need to put together a solid winning streak during ACC play to be considered for an invitation.

Even though I’m officially out of the business of predicting the outcomes of the Terps’ basketball games since it seems like I’ve been wrong every time I’ve tried, I’d be extremely surprised if the Terps didn’t return from Saturday’s loss with a chip on their shoulder. A loss against an underachieving VT team at home could do serious damage to their prospects come March.

By Rick Nelligan  | January 19, 2011; 11:24 AM ET
Categories:  Rick Nelligan, Terps  | Tags:  Rick Nelligan, Terps  
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Comments

Good piece, Rick. Your best so far. I don't know if VTech is our second biggest rival yet, some would argue it's still UVA or UNC (obviously agree that Duke is number 1), but it's getting up there with them.

I expect the 9:00 pm Thursday night Comcast crowd to be as loud and intimidating as ever.

Posted by: Barno1 | January 19, 2011 4:24 PM | Report abuse

As a VT fan I'm upset I can't make this game tomorrow night.

We could be a better rival for each other but the problem is we don't play each other in bball x2 a year (consistently) and we rarely play in football. I'd much rather play umd then BC every year. But then the uva nancies will get upset cause they have to play bc (oh relax, I'm joking my brother's a hoo I can say these things).

In reality I see tomorrow nights game as two average teams. I don't know why umd isn't excelling this year (was Grevis the difference maker?) or is this the game umd decides to wake up and dominate the next 6 weeks of the season (I hope not). Cause this VT team has the talent, the heart but not the depth to compete (all our big bodies, not named Allen are hurt- and we only have ~8 scholarhsip guys).

Should be an entertaining game. I'd love to go, but I can't. Either way.... GO HOKIES!

Posted by: goskinsgo | January 19, 2011 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Jordan Williams will get his but someone else has to step up for this team to be successful. Jordan Williams dominated the smaller front court of Villanova but the team still fell apart because of inexperience and a little bad luck. Hopefully some of the other players like the aforementioned Mosley and the roaring crowd at comcast can give this team an added boost on Thursday or it will be time to panic in college park because I dont see this team going 12-2 down the stretch.

Posted by: Terps716bro | January 19, 2011 5:39 PM | Report abuse

The notion that VTec is a basketball rival to MD is, well.....hokum.
MD's rivals are those with a history, those that have been obstacles, those that have played in significant games, win or lose, fair, and sometimes not fair, playing for national rankings, for league titles, for revenge.

Playing for ACC titles vs NC State ("the greatest game ever played"), vs Duke, vs the four corners of Dean Smith, games that lead to national titles, games to knock off no. 1 rankings, games for prestige........V Tec does not even warrant a thought in the history of Terp basketball.

Are they not the little sister of VA? And, VA's primary claim to fame came with Ralph Sampson, and MD beat him, too. V Tec is in the league only because VA is in. Their admittance the cost of expansion.

Without MD, the ACC would be the Carolina league.

Rivalry? Hokum Hokies.

Posted by: richardj1 | January 19, 2011 9:25 PM | Report abuse

This game is a good gauge on how the rest of the season should go. Thanks in part to a weaker ACC this season, the regular season title could possibly be in the grabs, because you tell me who else in the ACC not named Duke is going to step up. A win against a good (not great but good) Va Tech team could be a confidence builder going into the rest of the season. A loss would mean a loss of confidence and put a big damper on postseason hopes.

My guess is that the Terp's defense and athletic superiority may prove too much for the Hokies. If Delaney can't score, don't look for Allen to step up as he will have all can handle with JW. But if the Hokies turn this into a shooting match, there might be some trouble...

Posted by: ecglotfelty | January 19, 2011 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Richard:

UMD isn't even on UNC's radar when it comes to basketball, or Duke's for that matter. Both those schools are basketball royalty, UMD is barely upper middle class. Not saying that VT even belongs in this conversation when it comes to basketball because that almost goes without saying. UMD belongs more with the likes of NC State, UVA, and GT when talking ACC basketball hierarchy. The fact that UMD fans see themselves to be the rivals or even peers to Duke or UNC has become a sad joke.

The ACC absolutely is a Carolina league with or without UMD. I can see why you would think that MD would belong with them, being the only Non-Carolina ACC team with a National Championship, but the reality is those Carolina teams have won 11 national championships between them without UMD. I'll definitely give them the due respect for the ship they did win, but that's too small a contribution to put them in the same class.

The rivalry Rick referred to has developed over the last 5 years. Both schools have been similar in ability level and the games have been close as a result.

Tomorrow night if VT can get 5 healthy guys on the floor, it should be a good game. Neither team has a quality win yet this year so someone will finally be forced to get one. The team that makes fewer mistakes will get the W. If Delaney plays well it will be the Hokies.


As for the little sister/cost of expansion comment, ACC football would not exist without VT. 4 of 7 years VT has been the ACC champ and 6 of the 7 has finished as the highest ranked team from the conference overall. Have fun with Ralph Friedgen 2.0 twerps.

Posted by: RollHokies | January 19, 2011 11:17 PM | Report abuse

From everything I've seen, you guys are making some really good points.

When it comes to the rivalry with teams like Duke, UNC, NC State, etc, I think the "rivalry" we perceive is more because they are usually highly ranked (except for NC State recently). So obviously, as Terps fans we make a big deal out of it because we strive to be great as well, and we are a great program. Beating teams like VT, GT, UVA, etc as of late isn't a big deal because they haven't been as good or carry the same name recognition. So yes, I hate Duke, I hate UNC, and I hate NC State (especially after what happened in football last season) but I don't really consider them rivals.

Granted, the rivalry I think of when I think of VT could have more to do with the fact I have a lot of friends that go to VT and love talking trash. I love beating VT, and HATE it when we lose to them in anything. With Maryland and VT being in neighboring states, and striving to be as good as the other in basketball and football, respectively, I think that Terps vs Hokies is a blossiming rivalry.

Especially if we continue to have basketball games like we have recently. And especially if our football program continues to build on the momentum from last season. And ESPECIALLY if Seth Greenberg and Malcolm Delaney and company continue to talk crap about Terrapin Nation.

So yeah, I love beating Duke and UNC, especially when they are good. But call me crazy, I get really fired up to beat VT just the same. There's been alot of talk about how Terrapin Nation is frustrated that we don't have a true rival in anything. I believe we should embrace and build on this one, it could be fun.

Posted by: gnelligan1 | January 19, 2011 11:52 PM | Report abuse

RollHokies,
Your comment was very welcome, but a bit off base, I believe. The point of the discussion was the status of a VT/MD rivalry. Not, a MD/Duke, NC or other rivalry, that would another conversation.

And, I thank you for affirming my point, that there is no significant history for these teams to call these games 'part of a rivalry'. A 5 year competitive history demonstrates the rise of VT basketball, which we can all be happy about. The ACC does not need patsies, especially those un-invited.

FYI, MD's basketball/ACC history goes well beyond the 2003 team. But, as you chose to belittle history, let me point out one simple, significant (to VT) game that is part of the MD vs the Carolinas long history, that is chronicled elsewhere. That is, NC State vs MD 1974, ACC Championship game, termed "the greatest game ever played"....#1 vs #5, overtime score 103-100, the winner going on to win the NCAA Championship, and the loser going home; and, which lead to the expansion of the NCAA tournament, which you might appreciate as it gives VT its hope of participating in the NCAA tournament. And, you are welcome.

Regards the non-existant ACC football, i.e. w/o VT, a quick google search shows a 58 year history of football, and four league teams winning five national championships, plus Miami, though not as a league member. Can you name those four teams?

Posted by: richardj1 | January 20, 2011 1:31 PM | Report abuse

As long as both of these schools produce good teams, there's no doubt that it will become a rivalry game.

There was plenty of excitement about this game, as it was important for both teams.

Posted by: postfan1 | January 23, 2011 11:05 AM | Report abuse

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