Since fending off a second half rally from Florida State, No. 10 Maryland has been on a roll, making easy work of Miami (12-4, 3-2 ACC) and Virginia Tech (7-9, 1-4 ACC) to extend their winning streak to three games and improve to 13-3 overall and 4-1 in the ACC.
Meanwhile, their next opponent, 94th RPI-ranked N.C. State (8-9, 0-5 ACC), is currently on a four-game skid and, despite losing by respectable margins to Duke and UNC, is one of only two remaining winless teams in ACC play along with Clemson.
This should be an easy win for Maryland, especially since it is a home game at Comcast Center, where the Terps are 8-0 this season. The closest they’ve come to losing in that building was on Jan. 6 when they beat a ranked Seminoles team by seven.
The Wolfpack are 1-4 on the road and 1-2 on neutral sites, having endured a 26-point loss at Miami, a 13-point loss at Wake Forest (9-7, 2-2 ACC) and 19-point loss at Virginia (11-5, 3-2 ACC) in their three conference road games. Their two somewhat impressive ACC losses have both come at home, as they lost to No. 4 Duke (15-0, 5-0 ACC) by just 10 and No. 11/19 UNC (17-1, 5-0 ACC) by just four. No team has lost to Duke by a smaller margin this year than the Wolfpack.
N.C. State’s one road win has come at 181st RPI-ranked St. Bonaventure (7-9, 0-1 A-10) by a score of 70-66. That was also the team’s last win and it came on Dec. 30, making them winless in January thus far.
If the Wolfpack want to be competitive, they will have to rely on their leading scorer and rebounder, 6-foot-2-inch junior forward Kody Burke. Burke is seventh in the ACC with 15.4 points per game and ninth in the conference with 7.8 boards per game.
N.C. State’s second leading scorer, 5-foot-9-inch senior guard Marissa Kastanek drops in the third most 3-pointers per game in the ACC at just over 2.1 a contest. Meanwhile, the Terps’ sharpshooter Katie Rutan is eighth in that category at 1.75 threes per game. Rutan and Kastanek are shooting comparable percentages from beyond the arc at 38.4 and 37.9 percent respectively, good for eighth and ninth in the conference.
The Wolfpack have the fourth best scoring offense in the ACC, as well as the fourth best field goal percentage, fourth best 3-point shooting percentage as a team and third best rebounding margin. That last category – rebounding – is of course vital if you want to compete with Maryland, who has the second best rebounding margin in the nation as of this past Sunday.
All in all, N.C. State has what it takes to be successful in some areas, but don’t expect their first ACC win of the season to come at Comcast on Thursday. In contrast to their offense, their defense is toward the bottom of the conference and Maryland, the team with the ACC’s top two scorers in Tianna Hawkins (18.6 points per game) and Alyssa Thomas (16.1 points per game), is likely going to present quite a challenge if their stars play at their best.
For the Terps, they just have to take it game by game and treat this N.C. State matchup like they treated their game against Virginia Tech, a weaker ACC team they beat by 29. Undoubtedly they can’t wait for the opportunity to redeem themselves against UNC a week from Thursday, but they have to focus on taking care of business before then.