It's finally here.
After 13 consecutive non-conference games, Maryland prepares to play an Atlantic Coast Conference team for the first time this season. The Terrapins put their 12-game winning streak on the line today at noon when Virginia Tech comes to Comcast Center.
Maryland opened its season with a loss against Kentucky, at the time the nation's third-ranked team. The Terps (12-1) haven't lost since, racking up wins along the way against mid-major foes from Morehead State to IUPUI.
Now they face the Hokies (9-4), who started the year 7-0 but have lost three of four entering today's game.
"It's a good feeling," said Maryland sophomore guard Seth Allen. "Everybody's really anxious to start playing, start the ACC. You can see it in practice. Everybody's giving everything they've got, getting ready for Saturday."
Maryland's depth has been a big factor during its winning streak, with Terps coach Mark Turgeon getting 10 players to average 11 minutes or more of court time.
Sophomore guard Dez Wells leads the team at 25.2 minutes per game, which has translated into 12.3 points and 4.7 rebounds. And while the bulk of those numbers have come against smaller, less physical foes, Wells said the stretch has served Maryland well heading into ACC play.
"It's going to be a war," Wells said "You have to expect that every day going into conference play. We have two games a week for the next 10 weeks, so you've got to be ready for whatever's coming your way."
Senior guard Erick Green leads Virginia Tech and the conference with 24.4 points per game, and recently surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career. But Green the Hokies will be facing a Maryland squad that ranks as one of the country's top teams in field goal percentage defense.
The Terrapins have held their last nine opponents under 70 points after giving up more than 70 to three of the first four teams. Maryland's margin of victory is 17.2 points this season.
"I'm eager for conference [play] because we've gotten better," Turgeon said. "We've gotten a lot better the last three or four weeks. I feel good about going into the league because I think we're ready for it.
"We needed the games. We did what we had to do. A lot of teams around the country play the same type of schedule, and we handled it well."
Turgeon said he's most excited about Maryland's jelling over the last month, and depth has been a big reason why. Several players have had chances to showcase their skills, from freshmen forwards Charles Mitchell (6.8 rebounds per game) and Shaquille Cleare (5.6 ppg) to senior guard Logan Aronhalt and his 55.8 percent shooting from the 3-point line.
Sophomore center Alex Len leads the Terps at 13.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, but the team hasn't had to rely on just Len to get by.
Sophomore guard Nick Faust adds to the offense score (9.8 ppg) and junior guard Pe'Shon Howard sets it up (5.8 assists per game, second in the ACC).
"I'm excited about our chemistry. I'm excited about our guys' willingness to get better, as an individual and as a team," Turgeon said. "I think we're going to handle it fine. We'll be ready."
It's finally here.