Good news, everyone! Maryland basketball finally kicks off tomorrow, at 8 on CSN (I won't be used to watching Maryland sports on TV again), against...Charleston Southern? Who's Charleston Southern? Are they any good? Could Maryland face a real challenge here? Is there a Charleston Northern? (Actually, no. No there is not.)
The Buccaneers, as they happen to be monikered, shouldn't present too much of a problem for Maryland. They were 9-20 last year, and lost two starters to transfer, one of whom was a double digit scorer and nearly pulled down 8 rebounds per game. That's not a formula for success.
They really could've used those two guys for depth purposes, because they're very young and pretty thin at pretty much every position. Only six players have played a college game ever, and only one of those guys have averaged double-digits in scoring in a year. Their third highest returning scorer from last year averaged just 5.9 points a game, and they received no major incoming transfers or recruits. Yeah, they have some pretty prominent negatives.
Luckily for the Bucs, they do have some things going for them. The biggest positive is Jamarco Warren, the starting PG and returning leading scorer. He put up nearly 18 points per game last year, and was on the preseason All-Big South first team. This will be a good defensive test for Greivis Vasquez and Adrian Bowie - the dude can put up a ton of points, and holds the CSU record for made threes in one season. He shot a very respectable, if not amazing, 39% from deep, so whoever's checking him will definitely have to extend their defense. He's traditionally been a very offensively-focused player, though, so he might lock into trying to score and ignore the rest of his teammates and defense altogether.
They also return Kelvin Martin at SF, a sophomore who averaged 9 points and 6 rebounds per game last year. They'll need him to take a big step if they want to succeed next year.
The other positives aren't quite so large, but they're still there. Their starting SG, Jeremy Sexton, was Tennessee's Mr. Basketball runner-up, which is moderately impressive considering Tennessee put out some real talent last year. Even with that, he still didn't even have a Rivals or Scout profile. The other positive would be that they return center Billy Blackmon, who only played a few games before breaking his arm last year. The tall (6-10), lanky (just 205) big man is expected to start for the Bucs opposite whoever Maryland throws out there (guessing James Padgett).
To make it simple, they have one really big threat, Warren, who's a solid outside shooter, but ultimately short (5-11) and offensive-focused. They also have a somewhat reliable #2 option with Martin, on whose progress they will depend.
Other than that, they're young and inexperienced - basically one gigantic question mark. It's highly unlikely, to me at least, that a bunch of role players will be able to elevate their games in their first game - they simply aren't naturally talented enough. Vasquez should be able to have his way with Warren when getting to the hoop (too much height and strength), and CSU won't be able to exploit Maryland's lack of experience in the middle. Their positives are similar to Maryland's, but they just aren't nearly as good at them.
Don't be surprised if the Bucs are sticking around at the beginning - Warren's too good offensively for them not too - but like most mid-majors, they'll start to fail as the game gets later and their depth and inexperience are exposed. I'm calling a Maryland win, 91-73.