Maryland may have lost to Virginia Tech last year. But that was without Alyssa Thomas. - USA TODAY Sports
After playing three straight ranked ACC teams, Maryland will take on three straight unranked conference opponents, starting with Virginia Tech, the one team who beat them last year and really shouldn't have.
The No. 10(12-3, 3-1 ACC), who have won two in a row against ranked teams to bounce back from a loss to No. 11/20 North Carolina, will look to avenge a 75-69 home loss in their only meeting with Virginia Tech a year ago, as travel to Blacksburg, Va. on Sunday, Jan. 13 to take on the Hokies (7-8, 1-3 ACC), who have dropped three straight ACC games after opening with a 73-52 victory over Wake Forest on Dec. 22.
Last year when these two teams met, Virginia Tech guard Monet Tellier dropped 31 to lead all scorers. She is back this year as a junior and she and transfer Uju Ugoka are hoping to lead an upset of Maryland on Sunday. Ugoka, a 6-foot-1-inch forward, has only played in five games this season - five of the last six - but has been great when she has been in, averaging 20 points in the four of her five appearances that have been ACC contests.
Ugoka is not eligible to be ranked among the ACC leaders in individual statistics because she has played in well less than 75 percent of her team's games, but her 18 points per game would be good for second in the ACC behind only Maryland's Tianna Hawkins, and her 8.8 rebounds per game would put her fifth in the conference. She leads the Hokies in each of those categories, while Tellier is second in both, averaging 13.1 and 5.9.
Maryland and Virginia Tech have two common opponents: Virginia (10-5, 2-2 ACC) and UNC (16-1, 4-0 ACC). The Hokies lost, 52-48, at UVA, a team Maryland cruised past, 79-55, at home. But, on a more promising note for Virginia Tech fans, the Hokies lost to the Tarheels on the road by the same margin (3) that the Terps did.
Virginia Tech is 0-2 against ranked teams this year, losing to UNC and No. 8 Penn State by 19 at home. Despite the close margin against the Tarheels, Virginia Tech has to be considered a huge underdog as they host Maryland. They are No. 75 in the RPI, and the Terps should take care of them like they failed to do last year at Comcast Center when Alyssa Thomas was out with a thumb sprain.
Thomas was the ACC Player of the Year last season and it goes without saying that her presence is game-altering. She can have an impact in so many different areas, and the Terps dropping the Virginia Tech game last year even though without her they still had a team that was plenty talented enough to win shows you just how much Maryland loses in intangibles when Thomas is not on the floor.
Maryland has three freshman, Chloe Pavlech, Malina Howard and Tierney Pfirman, averaging over 20 minutes a game, while the Hokies have two in Lauren Evans and Taijah Campbell. They will make this year's matchup different than last year's, but ultimately the biggest changes from last season are Thomas' presence and Ugoka's addition.
Maryland hopes that with their star going for them this time they can erase the bad taste of falling to a team that went on to finish 2011-12 at 7-23 and ranked 216th in the RPI.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech hopes that with Ugoka they are better enough pull off a second straight stunner over a Maryland team that you can bet won't be sleeping on them this time.