Terps, Cavaliers both rely on four of them

When Maryland and Virginia meet Sunday, it will be a festival of freshmen. The only other team in the ACC with as many first-year players in the rotation is Wake Forest. The key difference, of course, is that the Terrapins and Cavaliers are winning with theirs.

With Maryland (17-6, 5-5) and Virginia (16-6, 6-3) squarely on the bubble for the NCAA tournament, Sunday is not only a game with postseason implications; it's a chance to measure the freshmen.

In 6-foot-9 Shaquille Cleare, 6-8 Charles Mitchell, 6-8 Jake Layman and 6-1 Seth Allen, the Maryland freshmen have more power, speed and athleticism than their counterparts from Virginia. But with 6-11 Mike Tobey, 6-8 Evan Nolte, 6-6 Justin Anderson and 6-0 Teven Jones, the freshmen of Virginia have an edge in polish and skill.

Up next
Virginia at Maryland
When » Sunday, 1 p.m.
Where » Comcast Center
TV » Ch. 5

Which team has a better freshman class? The stats are a wash. The four freshmen of Maryland have combined for more points (532-488) and rebounds (332-191), while Virginia's freshmen four have combined for more assists (113-89) and steals (56-29). While the Terps' freshmen shoot better from the floor (47.2 percent to 45.3 percent), the freshmen of the Cavaliers are superior marksmen from the free throw line (79.2 percent to 62.5 percent) and beyond the arc (36.8 percent to 34.9 percent).

All eight players have had the kinds of trials and tribulations expected of freshmen. All have been thrust into starting roles and lost them at least once. All have been in the doghouse, spending 30 or more minutes on the bench in at least one game. But as the season has progressed, so have all eight of the freshmen, though the advancement of Tobey was halted last week by mononucleosis. He is out indefinitely.

One interesting storyline Sunday surrounds Anderson, the Montrose Christian product who committed to play for Gary Williams at Maryland but changed his mind when the former Terps coach retired. The powerfully built wing player settled for his second choice 17 days after Maryland hired Mark Turgeon.

Among the freshmen on either team, Anderson was the most highly touted. He opened the year as a starter but struggled and quickly lost his job. Lately, however, Anderson is figuring it out. In his last six games he is averaging 10.2 points and 2.7 assists and hitting 57.5 percent of his shots. Against Clemson on Thursday, Anderson was rewarded with a start and responded with 14 points and three steals.

For Maryland, Layman has had a similar ascendance, rising after a fall. In his last five games, Layman has averaged 10.8 points and 3.0 rebounds, hitting 52.8 percent from the floor and 48 percent from beyond the arc.

On Sunday, it's likely Anderson and Layman will be matched up for at least part of the game, offering a glimpse of the future while also trying to take care of the present.