No. 10 Maryland (16-3, 7-1 ACC) is going to have to wait awhile for their next challenge, and may only have a total of three more remaining on their regular season schedule.
Up next for them is arguably the easiest road test they will face all season: a date at Clemson (5-13, 1-6 ACC) on Sunday at 5 p.m.
Clemson’s six conference losses have come by an average of 20.8 points, though their 14-point loss to No. 4/5 Duke Thursday, during which they were tied with the Blue Devils at the half, and a seven-point loss to No. 11/16 UNC back on Dec. 30 have been promising signs of competitiveness.
None of the Tigers’ five wins have come against a current top-100 RPI team and they themselves are ranked No. 171 in the RPI. Their one ACC win came on the road at 114th RPI-ranked Wake Forest, 74-64, on Jan. 17. The Demon Deacons are 3-4 in the conference and have beaten a ranked Florida State team.
Clemson is a young team with no seniors and only two juniors on their roster. They are led in scoring by sophomore guard/forward Nikki Dixon at 14.4 points per game and have lost freshman Danaejah Grant, who averaged 13.4 points over seven games before transferring to St. John’s mid-season. The Tigers struggle offensively, averaging under 60 points per game. Their leading rebounder is junior forward/center Quinyotta Pettaway at 9.6 boards per game and their leader in assists is freshman guard Aisha Turner at 3.2 a game.
Clemson is dead last in the ACC in scoring margin (-4.6) and 3-point shooting percentage (.225). They are also dead last in turnover margin (-2) and second to last in rebounding margin (-1.9).
The Tigers’ weaknesses in a lot of areas spells trouble for them against a Terp team that is coming off the good vibes of blowing out a rival in a game where they couldn’t have played much better. They are 2-0 since Tierney Pfirman went down with what Gene Wang of The Washington Post has reported as “a dislocated right kneecap” and seem to be playing inspired basketball without their injured teammates. They seem to be capable of being effective with just six main contributors.
According to Daniel Gallen of The Diamondback, the University of Maryland’s student newspaper, Pfirman is expected to return for the game at Boston College on Feb. 21, which means the Terps will have to carry on without her for six more games. But it also means she will be available for the last four games of the regular season, as well as the ACC tournament and NCAA tournament.
Maryland will have to go on the road to Duke on Feb. 11 without Pfirman, but other than that it isn’t too much of a treacherous path for the Terps to get to Feb. 21. For example, Clemson is a team they will play twice during this stretch without Tierney and the Tigers are one of the weakest teams in the ACC.
The key to Maryland not getting upset by Clemson and having success throughout the next six games will be their six main contributors embracing the situation. Instead of worrying about the fatigue issue they have to think of it as potentially great players like Katie Rutan and Malina Howard getting to impact the game more with their increased minutes.