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March 6, 2013With just two regular season games remaining starting tonight in College Park against Maryland, the Tar Heels are making the transition from conference play to the postseason.
The journey for this team has definitely been a rocky one to say the least, as UNC has had its ups and downs all year. However, the Tar Heels are hitting the brightest spot so far in their journey right now, and they will look to continue it on the road Wednesday night.
UNC's last 'true' road game of the 2012-2013 season tips off at 7:00pm eastern time. The Tar Heels are on a five game winning streak, their longest of the season following a dismantling of Florida State last weekend 79-58, behind Reggie Bullock, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds in the game.
Maryland secured their own 20-win season last weekend in a hard fought victory over a pesky Wake Forest team, 67-57.
However, even with the 20-win season, some experts are saying that this is a ball club that could be left out of the Big Dance.
Maryland right now is on the cusp of making the tournament, but a win over North Carolina, would give them another quality win in the ACC, with the other being against Duke just a few weeks ago.
The Terrapins have been a team of contrasts all year, as they've been a great team at home, but have struggled all year long on the road. On the road, Maryland has a record of 3-6, with multiple losses being by double digits.
At home however, the Terrapins host a 16-2 record, averaging almost 72.6 points per game at home, which means the Tar Heels are going to have to come ready to play ball in order to win its sixth in a row.
The game will be a white out, literally, with the weather forecast predicting snow.
Furthermore, it will be Senior night for the Terrapins and they have elected to do a white out for the game, with Maryland wearing the white jerseys along with the fans Wednesday night.
The Terrapins will be looking to send James Padgett and Logan Aronhalt out with a bang in their last games at Maryland.
Terrapins coach Mark Turgeon didn't get the best out of his team the last time the Tar Heels faced the Terrapins.
Maryland struggled scoring all day and turned the ball over, as the Tar Heels were able to take advantage and put the game away in the first half. North Carolina led by 22 points at halftime and even though Maryland cut the lead down in the second half, the game was never in contention as UNC led throughout.
North Carolina held the Terrapins to 39.6 percent from the field, while not allowing but one three pointer to drop the whole game (Maryland shot 8.3 percent from behind the arc).
Surely the Terps will shoot a little better Wednesday evening, so the Tar Heels need to continue communicating along the perimeter and limiting as many open shot opportunities as they can.
Reggie Bullock had a career game last time out against Maryland, scoring 24 points (7 of 15 from the field and 4 of 7 from three) and adding five rebounds, while James Michael McAdoo also had one of his best games this season, pouring in 19 points along with 11 rebounds.
Bullock and McAdoo's performances came against one of the top athletic centers in not only the ACC, but in the nation, as Alex Len has moved up on many draft boards with his talent and versatility.
However, in January's game against UNC, Len only had 10 points and five rebounds, the second leading scorer in the game for the Terrapins.
The Terrapins will have Len and Dez Wells leading the way, as they are the top scorers for Maryland at 12 points apiece.
Wells had 23 points last game against Wake Forest to lead the way and 15 points in the loss to Georgia Tech, showing his ability to put points on the board for Turgeon.
While Roy Williams has shortened his bench to a solid six or seven players getting double-digit minutes, Turgeon continues to use 10 players in the rotation, with all of them averaging 13 or more minutes a game.
With so many players in the rotation, Maryland does pose a threat from the standpoint that anyone on the team could step up big on any given night. Multiple players have led the way in scoring this year in individual games, and there's no telling who it could be Wednesday evening.
If North Carolina can hold its own on the boards and possibly force Maryland into turning the ball over like it did in the last meeting, they're more than capable of continuing to build late-season momentum heading into Senior night Saturday night against Duke.
Maryland averages almost 41 rebounds a game, which is slightly above the 40 rebounds a game for North Carolina, so it won't be easy to dominate the boards.
But since the lineup change, UNC's capability to rebound the ball has fallen a little since the beginning of the year when they were a much larger team.
On the other hand, Maryland currently has a 1:1 ratio in assists to turnovers this year and since the Terrapins average almost 15 assists per game, applying pressure on the guards and forcing turnovers will be a key factor in the game plan for Carolina.
Two players will look to bounce back in this game against Maryland, as P.J. Hairston and Marcus Paige had two terrible games against the Terrapins last time around.
Combined, Hairston and Paige shot 2-of-15 from the field in that game, as Williams has mentioned quite a lot in the past.
If North Carolina can push the ball and drain the shots like it has in the past five games, while rebounding, look for the Tar Heels to pull out the victory tonight.
But one important stat is that every game Maryland has sold out this season, they have won all three.
If the sellout crowd is anywhere near pumped up as much as Coach Turgeon is to play the Tar Heels and his former boss Williams, UNC could be in a tough battle.
"We're fired up to play North Carolina because it's North Carolina. They're one of the hottest teams in the country," Turgeon said.