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Three things to watch: Perimeter defense, rebounding, turnovers

Later tonight the Maryland men's basketball team will take on Houston in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Cougars are riding a four-game winning streak and possess the nation's leading scorer. The Terrapins won a share of the ACC regular season title and offer one of the top scorers in Maryland program history. But aside from the play of Aubrey Coleman and Greivis Vasquez, here are a few other things to keep track of during tonight's contest:

1) Perimeter defense. Houston does not run many set plays. The Cougars' free-wheeling offense is centered largely on drive-and-kicks, with either Coleman or point guard Desmond Wade penetrating into the post and passing back out to Kelvin Lewis and a horde of other shooters along the perimeter. If Maryland can keep Houston from getting hot from beyond the three-point line early on, it's unlikely the Cougars will be able to keep up with the Terrapins' proficient offense. Maryland did not defend all that well against the three-point shot during the regular season, but that was because the Terrapins guards often had to sink back and help forwards Jordan Williams and Landon Milbourne defend against bigger, talented opponents in the post. But Houston does not offer that type of frontcourt presence, which should allow Maryland's guards to focus more on defending along the perimeter.

2) Rebounding. Again, Houston is not a team with a solid frontcourt, and the Cougars often get hammered on the boards. Perhaps the area in which Maryland can claim the largest advantage over Houston is in the rebounding department. Freshman forward Jordan Williams will need to have a big night on the glass. He'll likely match up against Houston's 6-7, 270-pound forward Kendrick Washington, but Williams is more than capable of winning that battle. If Maryland can fuel its transition game with defensive rebounds and keep possessions alive with offensive rebounds, Houston won't be able to keep up.

3) Turnovers. For as fast-paced as the Cougars like to operate on offense, they sure do control the ball well. Houston is averaging just 9.1 turnovers per game. And since they don't rebound well, the Cougars rely on creating turnovers to ignite their transition offense. Houston averages 9.5 steals per game and owns a turnover margin of plus-7.8. But Maryland is well equipped to force turnovers, as well, especially if the Terrapins operate their full-court pressure defense as vigorously as they did in the second half against Georgia Tech in the ACC quarterfinals. Maryland is averaging 7.9 steals per contest, and its turnover margin stands at plus-3.5.

By Steve Yanda  |  March 19, 2010; 1:42 PM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Next: NCAA tournament: Maryland-Houston Live Chat

Comments

ESPN is now showing the start at 10:20. Hope the guys have adjusted to Pacific time.

3 up (Wake, GA Tech, dook) and 2 down (Clemson, Florida State) for the ACC so far.

Posted by: booger1 | March 19, 2010 9:43 PM | Report abuse

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