Maryland-North Carolina Preview

Before worrying about a likely showdown for the ACC title, North

Carolina will honor Tyler Zeller and its seniors.

Zeller will lead a senior class playing its final home game for

the sixth-ranked Tar Heels on Wednesday night when they look to

complete a season sweep of Maryland.

North Carolina (25-4, 12-2) visits No. 4 Duke on Saturday night.

That matchup is shaping up as a decisive game in the ACC race, and

the winner could gain a top seed in the NCAA tournament.

“I don’t know about everybody else,” coach Roy Williams said.

“But I think you want to put yourself in position to win the

conference championship the last week. And if you do that, you’ve

also put yourself in position to be in the NCAA tournament. You’ve

also put yourself in position to get a fairly good seed in the NCAA

tournament.”

Zeller is the most notable member of this senior class playing

in Chapel Hill for the final time. He’s the only Tar Heel to be an

Academic All-America first-team selection twice in his career.

On the court, Zeller is second on the team in scoring (15.7 ppg)

and rebounding (9.3).

“He doesn’t say much,” said Williams about Zeller. “But when he

does, the kids have a great deal of respect for him. I think they

had that at the start of the season. But the way he’s conducted

himself in practice every day, the way he’s played in the games,

everything has just been on a positive nature.”

The 7-footer is a major reason why the Tar Heels lead the nation

in rebounding margin at 11.4 – the best by an ACC team since South

Carolina’s 13.1 in 1969-70. John Henson has played an even bigger

role, leading the conference with 10.4 boards per game, and has

posted double-doubles in seven of the last eight games.

The Tar Heels have won their final scheduled home game in each

of the previous 10 seasons, including all eight under Williams. He

said the occasion means more to him than other coaches because he’s

“corny.”

“I think that playing in the Smith Center the last time in front

of those fans that supported you for four years is extremely

important,” Williams said. “The memories that you’re going to have

from those four years are going to be extremely important. The last

time you do it, you want it to be special.”

On the opposite bench from Williams will be his former assistant

at Kansas in first-year Maryland coach Mark Turgeon. Williams was

instrumental in helping Turgeon gain the job to replace Gary

Williams with the Terrapins (16-12, 6-8).

These coaches spoke of their mutual respect in the build-up to

North Carolina’s 83-74 road victory Feb. 4. Zeller had 22 points

and Kendall Marshall matched a career high with 16 assists.

Maryland point guard Pe’Shon Howard logged 32 minutes in that

contest, but he’s out for the season due to right ACL surgery.

Howard missed the start of the campaign with a broken left

foot.

Turgeon has used ACC scoring leader Terrell Stoglin and freshman

Nick Faust at point guard over the 2-3 stretch since Howard’s last

game.

“I know Terrell can play point, but it’s not his true position,”

Turgeon said. “It’s definitely not Nick’s. So no, I’ve never been

through this, lose a guy twice.”

The Terps, 1-7 on the road, have lost 13 straight to ranked

teams.