ACC Tournament Preview: Maryland meets FSU for third time
By By Pat Stoetzer Times Staff Writer
Mar 12, 2014 | 8:00 PM
Maryland's final appearance in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament begins Thursday at noon, with the eighth-seeded Terrapins taking on No. 9 Florida State for the right to face top-seeded Virginia in the quarterfinals.
It's that time of year when bubbles burst and postseason tournament berths are earned. The Terrapins (17-14) aren't headed to the NCAA tourney, barring a surprise run to the ACC title, but their season isn't finished just yet.
"It's a fun time of year," Terps coach Mark Turgeon said during Monday's ACC coaches teleconference. "Everybody's got a chance, again."
Maryland split with Florida State (18-12) during the regular season, with the Seminoles winning in Tallahassee and the Terps in College Park.
This matchup's X-factor could be Seth Allen, Maryland's sophomore guard, who missed his team's road game Jan. 12 at FSU, where the 'Noles connected on 16 3-pointers in their 85-61 win. But Allen had an answer when the teams met Feb. 8 at Comcast Center.
He went off for a career high 32 points, sinking 7 of 10 3-pointers, and Maryland cruised 83-71.
Allen then helped the Terps upset No. 5 Virginia Sunday by scoring five of his team-high 20 points in overtime, and leading Maryland to the 75-69 win after the Cavaliers came back to tie it at the regulation buzzer.
Allen missed the first 13 games of the year coming back from a preseason foot injury, but since then he's second on the team in scoring (13.2 points per game) and 3-pointers made (45) while averaging 3.0 assists.
"He's still learning how to play, learning the game, learning situations," Turgeon said about his young ball-handler. "Not only does he have to do that, but he has to run the team. ... It's been a process."
Allen's presence on the court has Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton's attention.
"Now that he's back, they seem to be jelling," Hamilton said during the teleconference. "They're playing as well as anybody in the league."
Florida State has its own standout sophomore guard in Aaron Thomas, who leads the Seminoles in scoring at 14.1 points per game (13th best in the ACC). FSU senior guard Ian Miller is close behind at 13.7, and he missed the Seminoles' second meeting with Maryland because of an injury.
Miller is third in the league in 3-point percentage (40.0) and makes 85.9 percent of his free throws, also third best in the ACC.
Allen and junior swingman Dez Wells (a team-high 14.8 points per game) fuel the Terrapins' offense, with Wells ranked 10th in the ACC in scoring and eighth in free-throw percentage (81.3).
Hamilton said he thinks Maryland has played one of the ACC's more challenging schedules - Pittsburgh twice, Virginia twice, at Duke, at North Carolina - which could have the Terps battle-tested in time for the tournament.
Their problem has been winning the close ones, until Sunday's victory in the program's final ACC regular-season game. Maryland was 0-6 this year against top 25 opponents before beating Virginia.
The Cavs (25-6) earned the ACC tourney's No. 1 seed by winning the regular-season crown, their first since 1981, and they earned a bye into the quarterfinals. Virginia is joined by Syracuse, Duke, and North Carolina as the top four seeds.