Maryland-North Carolina Preview

North Carolina took a big step toward securing a No. 1 seed in

the NCAA tournament by winning their second consecutive ACC

regular-season title.

An impressive showing in the conference tournament would likely

help them lock one up.

Coming off a first-round bye, the fourth-ranked and top-seeded

Tar Heels open tournament play Friday seeking a fourth straight win

over eighth-seeded Maryland.

North Carolina (27-4) concluded its regular-season schedule

Saturday with an impressive 88-70 rout of then-No. 4 Duke on the

road to claim the ACC title. All five starters scored in double

figures for the Tar Heels, who seem to be finally living up to

their No. 1 preseason ranking.

“In the beginning of the year, we kind of just expected it to

happen,” senior Tyler Zeller said. “We expected, not necessarily to

be where we were last year, but we knew how good we could be and we

weren’t making the necessary steps to completely get there.”

North Carolina has outscored opponents by an average of 15.1

points during a seven-game winning streak – including an 88-64

thumping of Maryland (17-14) on Feb. 29 behind Zeller’s 30

points.

Zeller, fellow big man John Henson and leading scorer Harrison

Barnes (17.4 points per game) all received first-team All-ACC

honors – marking the first time North Carolina has ever had three

players recognized.

“We are ecstatic about this announcement,” coach Roy Williams

told the school’s official website. “I have always felt the teams

that win should get the awards, but it’s driven by great player

performances and that’s what they have done. To go 14-2 in the

league against what proved to be the most demanding schedule is

really a great accomplishment for our players. I’m happy for them,

and hopefully they will be hungrier to do even more.”

The Tar Heels are surely looking to get off to a better start in

this year’s tournament after coming out sluggish last season.

After overcoming a 19-point, second-half deficit to defeat Miami

in the quarterfinals, North Carolina rallied from 14 down to beat

Clemson in overtime in the semifinals before ultimately losing to

Duke in the title game.

“I think you have to be able to pick up your focus, your

concentration, your effort, just your play in general,” Zeller

said. “You lose, you’re done. And for me, that’s the end of my

college career.”

The Terrapins ended the regular season in the midst of a

three-game skid but got back on track with Thursday’s 82-60

first-round win over Wake Forest. Sophomore Terrell Stoglin – the

ACC scoring leader (21.3 ppg) – had a game-high 25 points, seven

rebounds and four assists.

Stoglin wasn’t happy about only being an all-ACC second-team

selection.

“I’m always going to have a chip on my shoulder, but once the

voting came out I had a bigger one,” said Stoglin, who’s totaled 36

points on 30.8 percent (12 for 39) shooting in two meetings with

the Tar Heels this season.

In addition to Stoglin, freshman Nick Faust also came up big

Thursday with a season-best 19 points.

Maryland outrebounded the Demon Deacons 39-24 and shot a

season-high 54.4 percent from the field.

“That’s the best, most complete game we’ve played all year. We

defended. We rebounded. We executed. We shared the ball,” coach

Mark Turgeon said.

“We talked about just about dialing in and also having fun. I

think the guys tried to have fun (Thursday). More importantly, they

trusted their teammates on both ends of the floor. That’s been a

hard thing for us this year but (Thursday) we did it.”