Maryland goes on the road to face No. 9 North Carolina on Tuesday night in Chapel Hill.
Here are 5 things you need to know about the matchup.
1) How Marcus Paige changes things
All-American candidate Marcus Paige will play for North Carolina on Tuesday night and, in the process, he completely changes how the Tar Heels operate offensively. He is an elite scorer who can stretch the defense out to the perimeter -- a major hole for UNC so far this season in his absence.
Don’t be surprised if you see Rasheed Sulaimon on him at times Tuesday to mix things up, with Sulaimon being Maryland’s best perimeter defender and the one most capable of neutralizing a player of his caliber.
Having Paige on the floor takes pressure off of younger guards like Joel Berry and Theo Pinson, while also making life on the interior easier for Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks.
2) First road test
Maryland played on a neutral floor in Cancun and played in an electric atmosphere against Georgetown, but this is the team’s first true road test. And what a first test it will be, being on national television against the nation’s No. 9 team in a rekindled old-conference rivalry.
The good thing is that Maryland has the benefit of veteran depth. Jake Layman has played in Chapel Hill before. Rasheed Sulaimon did the same at Duke. Robert Carter was there with Georgia Tech. Those players can help younger guys with less experience, added to the fact that point guard Melo Trimble rarely gets rattled.
3) Playing straight up
Maryland has had issues with smaller mid-majors who trot out lineups that shift 6-6 wing players down to the power forward spot and make the Terrapins chase them around the perimeter. Games end up looking like they did against Rider and Illinois State.
North Carolina will play straight-up power conference basketball -- two guards, a wing, and two bulky or long bigs. Maryland matches up exactly against that blueprint and then it just becomes an old school battle of which basketball team is better. Every player is playing within a common role and common space and it should be a high-level back-and-forth battle.
4) Does Mark Turgeon trust the bench?
“The bench” might be using too wide a brushstroke. Jared Nickens, Damonte Dodd, and Michal Cekovsky have clear roles and have been put in situations that reflect that. It’s whether Turgeon trusts junior college point guard transfer Jaylen Brantley.
We have seen progress from him, including against Rhode Island and Cleveland State, but in key stretches in a tough road environment against guards who have been game-tested because of Paige’s injury, will Turgeon choose to tax Melo Trimble and Sulaimon by giving them more minutes and hope for the best, or will Brantley see time on the floor?
This might be one where Trimble and Sulaimon play 38 minutes each and there’s not much of a way around it. There will be chances for Brantley to continue to develop before the start of conference play. Now might not be the time to see how far he has come. If things get dicey, my money is on Turgeon leaning on his stars.
5) What about Diamond?
Maryland freshman Diamond Stone has had his moments early this season. There are games that the Terrapins don’t win without him and there are games where foul trouble shifts him into the background.
Turgeon said on Monday that Stone will sit when he gets his first foul because he has a tendency to hang his head. The hope, then, would have to be that he does not foul because his offensive production and bulk against Meeks and Johnson in the post could be important.
Stone is an incredibly skilled offensive big man, especially for how young he is. Get him a touch around the rim and it seems like he finishes every time, even through contact.