Quick Preview of Maryland-UNC-Wilmington: Terps Open Season with Seahawks

We might have to trudge through a football game first, but make no mistake: basketball season is back. You probably saw plenty of it last night, what with the Carrier Classic and Belmont's near-upset of Duke at Cameron.

Maryland, for their part, will kick things off when they host UNC-Wilmington tomorrow at 8:00 before heading off south to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. So, with some time to kill before the gridiron Terps face off with Notre Dame this evening, let's take a look at the Seahawks and see the challenges they're likely to pose.

Last year, Buzz Peterson's bunch went 13-18 and finished eighth in the CAA. They ended up losing a fair amount from that team, though, and were slotted at 10th in the CAA preseason poll. The biggest loss from last season comes in the form of 5-11 point guard Chad Tomko, who led the Seahawks in scoring last season with 17.6 ppg, and threw in 6 rebounds and 4 assists for good measure. (Does that give him the best all-around scoreline in the country for anyone 5-11?) It's a roughly Jordan Williams-sized hole in the statsheet, and we all know how that feels.

Also gone from that team is one of Tomko's backcourt-mates in Ahmad Grant, who averaged about 8 ppg. Their departures will put the onus on a mostly-young back-court, with sophomores Tanner Milson and Donte Morales expected to play major roles. They'll likely look to senior Trevor Deloach to be a leader at the 2 - he was third in the team in scoring last season with about 9 ppg, and will be expected to become the team's primary option on the perimeter.

If they're going to make up for Tomko's absence entirely, though, preseason All-CAA forward Keith Rendleman will have to take strides. A 6-7 power forward, Rendleman was the team's second-leading scorer last year at 11.2 ppg and leading rebounder at 7.8 rpg. He's strictly an inside threat (only attempted three 3-pointers last year) but was very efficient around the basket, leading the CAA in field goal percentage.

How well Rendleman makes the transition from secondary option to primary scorer is still as of yet unknown, but he should be a good challenge for Maryland's unproven big men and likely represents UNC-W's best shot at giving Maryland trouble. Matt Wilson, a 7-foot junior who started 13 games last season, is another potential problem area in the post. He doesn't have a lot of skill, but 7 feet is 7 feet. I'd feel a bit better if Turgeon had Alex Len in his back pocket to counter.

Elsewhere, the Seahawks are a particularly young squad that lacks quality, experienced depth. There are eight (yes, eight) freshman on this team - and as far as I can tell, they're all recruited (non walk-on) players. (So at least things aren't that bad for Maryland.) The best of the youngsters is likely Luke Hager, a 6-7 SF from Chicago who was ranked three-stars and 89 on ESPN - the same, FWIW, as current Terrapin commitment Seth Allen. But the number of freshmen should betray something about the quality of the team: they're very young, and seem to lack any quality and experienced depth.

The Terrapins, if I had to guess, will come out in the same lineup we saw against Northwood in the exhibition, with the one giant exception we learned of earlier: Nick Faust will be at the 1, with Terrell Stoglin starting as the shooting guard and Sean Mosley at the three. Then there'll be Ashton Pankey and James Padgett in the post. My biggest question before hearing the Faust news was who Rendleman would match up with - I'd love to see him and Pankey go at it.

Naturally, it's now all about Faust's intriguing debut. The Seahawks don't really have a set lineup right now, and we could see a few potential options at point guard, from Milsom to Deloach to one of the many, many freshmen. None of the options are experienced at the point, though, so I have to say it should be a good chance for Faust to get his feet wet before the tough games start.

Peterson's teams, for the record, have always had slow tempos, going all the way back to his Tennessee days. With the aforementioned lack of depth and a pretty defined talent deficiency, it's unlikely he'll change anything about that for this one. The good news in that regard: they're not really a three-point shooting team. This isn't an old-school Butler or William & Mary team that would grind the clock before somehow finding an opening in the corner. They're okay from deep, sure, but Milsom - statistically their best threat from deep - attempted fewer treys last season than Sean Mosley.

That, of course, has been Maryland's bugaboo against mid-majors in recent years, so it's good to hear that it shouldn't be a threat. (Naturally, sometimes Maryland's defense can help out there.) After seeing the Northwood exhibition be closer than it should've been, I don't think you can write off a single game as an easy win for the Terrapins this season, but this should be one of the safer non-conference games of the season.

Oh, and obligatory Drew Nicholas clip.

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