With a prolific backcourt star who leads the ACC in scoring, a decided lack of depth, and a first-year head coach, Virginia Tech has the look of last year’s Maryland Terrapins.
On Saturday when Tech (9-4) travels to Maryland (12-1) for the ACC opener for both teams, the Terrapins will face a familiar team. In the role of last year’s ACC scoring leader Terrell Stoglin, will be Tech point guard Erick Green (Paul VI), who averages 24.4 points per game. In the role of Turgeon will be Hokies’ first-year coach James Johnson.
“They do look a lot like us [last year]. One guy dominates most of the shots,” Turgeon said. “Depth is about the same as we had last year. But they have a little more experience with their bigs and talent-wise.”
The starters in the frontcourt for Virginia Tech are 6-9 junior Cadarian Raines (6.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and 6-8 sophomore C.J. Barksdale (5.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg). But the bulk of the scoring comes from Green and wing players Jarell Eddie (14.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg), a 6-7 junior, and Robert Brown (10.6 ppg), a 6-5 sophomore.
It’s a long, athletic starting five, but there is little in reserve, especially with top bench scorer, 6-8 freshman Marshall Wood (5.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg), out with a broken foot. Maryland matches up well at each spot and will have an overwhelming edge off the bench.
“Our depth is our weapon,” Maryland sophomore Dez Wells said.
Johnson, a five-year assistant at Tech, briefly left the school last spring to take a similar position at Clemson. But two weeks later, Johnson returned to Blacksburg to succeed fired Seth Greenberg.
Johnson has already had an up-and-down debut season, winning his first seven games. But after upsetting No. 15 Oklahoma State on Dec. 1, the Hokies have lost four of six, including a humbling home defeat to Georgia Southern. That was followed by a fatiguing holiday travel schedule – two games on back-to-back nights before Christmas in the Las Vegas Classic, where Tech was swarmed in the championship game by Colorado State, 88-52. Then on Dec. 29, Tech made a return trip west to Brigham Young, where it fell 97-71.
“They’ve had a week to get fresh. They had a terrible schedule,” Turgeon said. “Those kids were tired, so I expect a fresh, ready Virginia Tech team tomorrow.”
After he was hailed for his work in his first month, Johnson has been second guessed for sticking with an up-tempo scheme, tough to play with a thin bench. Turgeon said the Terps will be prepared to play whatever style the Hokies employ.
“I don’t think they’ll play completely different because I think in transition they’re really good. Erick Green is fantastic in transition and it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on you. To take that away would really hurt their team,” Turgeon said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if they came in here and walked it up on makes and really tried to grind the clock. It wouldn’t shock me. They’ve been pressing. They’ve been running and jumping. They’ve been doubling ball screens. We’re prepared for all that. Whether they want to do that on our home floor, we’ll see.”
Whatever style the Hokies play, Green will be the target of the Maryland defense. Expect Maryland to rotate different players on the 6-4 senior who hits 49.3 percent from the floor.
“I don’t think we’ve played against one team that has just one player that just does basically everything for them,” Wells said. “So it’s going to be a team thing for us to slow down Erick Green. He’s a great player, but we pride ourselves, we think we have a great defense.”
Virginia Tech at Maryland
When: Saturday, noon
Where: Comcast Center, College Park
Radio: ESPN 980 AM